By Beth Fitzgerald
August 30, 2010
U.S. small businesses received a record $96.8 billion in federal prime contracts in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2009, or 21.89 percent of federal contracts — falling short of the government’s goal to award 23 percent of its contracts to small business, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The $3.6 billion increase for small business in 2009 “represents real progress, but not enough — we must reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that the 23 percent goal is met and exceeded,” said Karen Mills, SBA administrator. The percentage was up slightly from 21.5 percent in fiscal 2008.
The SBA also released its annual scorecard of how well individual federal agencies did toward meeting their small-business contracting goals. The federal government got a grade of B overall; on an individual basis, several agencies outdid others: Department of Defense, B; Energy, A; NASA, C; Interior, A; Justice, D; and the General Services Administration, C. The grade of A was awarded to Transportation, Agriculture, EPA, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, SBA and Veterans Affairs. The following agencies got a B: Treasury, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, State, and the Social Security Administration.
“The good news is that the percentage and the dollars went up,” said Jim Kocsi, SBA district director for New Jersey. He said publicizing the scores of agencies “has shined a light a little more on individual agencies and gives them a bit more of a stimulus to do better — and Congress is watching this, too.”
Kocsi said total contract spending by federal agencies was $442.2 billion in fiscal 2009. Figures were not broken out by state.
Dolcey Chaplin, who heads the Procurement Technical Assistance Center at New Jersey Institute of Technology, in Newark, said there is a trend for the federal government to do more work in-house, which she said reduces the contract opportunities for small business to provide. In the 2009 fiscal year, she said the PTAC, which helps businesses statewide land government contracts, advised about 1,000 New Jersey businesses that received about $200 million in contracts.
From her dealings with the federal government, Chaplin said, “they really want to make their small-business contract goals, and they work very hard at it.” She said the government’s 21.89 percent of small-business contracting “is very good in this environment.”
Lidija Erazo, small-business specialist for the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurt, said the base “buys anything and everything: construction, engineering, design, uniforms, products — everything we need to do our jobs.” She said the base is required to purchase from small businesses, and she encouraged small businesses to get into the online procurement system, at www.fbo.gov, to find opportunities to sell to the government.
The American Small Business League said its analysis shows the federal government continues to incorrectly identify large businesses as small-business contractors, thus inflating the small-business numbers.
“Every year, billions of dollars in federal contracts are diverted to Fortune 500 corporations and other large businesses,” said ASBL President Lloyd Chapman,
The government has said the miscoding of contracts is a significant problem that it is addressing.
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