House Small Business Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., on Tuesday stepped up pressure on agencies to comply with new rules requiring them to elevate their Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization offices as a means for giving more businesses a leg up in competing for contracts.
In letters to the Defense Department and 34 other agencies, Graves said a recent hearing revealed that too many are ignoring new amendments to the Small Business Act enacted in January with passage of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. “It has come to my attention that some agencies were either unaware of recent changes . . . or had not yet implemented the changes,” Graves wrote. The requirements include new priorities in the small and disadvantaged business offices’ work, prohibitions on the offices’ leaders from holding other positions, and improvements to the reporting relationship between small business specialists and the offices.
The agency that triggered Graves’ interest was the Veterans Affairs Department, whose Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization director, Thomas Leney, while testifying March 19 on the VA’s efforts to verify eligibility of disabled veterans for preferred small business loans, acknowledged that he also directs the VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise. Leney, the committee noted, saw no conflict of interest.
A Veterans Affairs spokeswoman told Government Executive that Leney does not have two titles. He is executive director of the department’s OSDBU, which includes the Center for Veterans Enterprise, whose director is Michelle Gardner-Ince.
Agencies in the recent past have been spotty in complying with rules requiring an active OSDBU, the Government Accountability Office has found, despite a 2011 directive from Small Business Administrator Karen Mills that they do so.
Graves’ letter gives agencies until May 13 to provide information on how they plan to comply with the new rules.