A series of bills have been introduced in the House during the last month that aim to increase and strengthen small business participation in government contracting – an important goal that CompTIA has always supported. Development of this legislation follows over a year of hearings held by the Small Business Committee on various contracting issues. This group of bills will help to direct more government contracting dollars to small businesses and should be enacted.
So, while we believe this legislation will promote small business procurement opportunities, there some additional provisions that should be considered.
Federal agencies do not always have the time or expertise to sort out exactly which applicants qualify as a small business. We believe more can (and should) be done to properly train and incent procurement officers to meet their small business contacting goals. While H.R. 3850 would deny certain benefits, including bonuses, to senior officials who fail their meet their goals, a broader approach should be taken to hold more procurement staff responsible for small business contracting failures.
We also are concerned with a severe limitation of the Women-Owned Small Business (“WOSB”) Federal Contract program. This program authorizes five percent of Federal prime and subcontracts to be set aside for women-owned small businesses. However, an agency is allowed to invoke this set-aside for WOSB only in situations in which the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs will submit offers. We note that this “two ore more” business requirement does not apply to other related programs, such as section 8(a) Business Development Participants, HUBZone small businesses and Service Disabled Veteran Owned small businesses. We believe this unequal treatment of the WOSB program is an unnecessary roadblock to those WOSB’s that provide goods and services in an underrepresented industry.
But even with these reservations, we believe the above-noted legislation definitely moves us in the right direction, and we support passage. For too long, small businesses have been improperly nudged out of federal contracting opportunities by larger, non-qualifying businesses. We must be ever vigilant in protecting the rightful share of procurement dollars for small businesses, and this legislation will certainly help to achieve that goal.