Race-Based Contracts to Fall

May 7, 1997

Race-Based Contracts to Fall

Affirmative action programs for federal contractors will be scaled back under a White House proposal to limit racial quotas to industries that have a statistical record of discrimination, The Washington Times reported today.

Under the plan, which the Justice Department will publish on Friday, a process will be set up "that will determine the level of minority contracting that would exist in a given industry absent the effects of discrimination," a Justice Department statement said.

Only when minority contracting falls below that level would race be permitted to be a factor in contract decisions.

The change stems from a 1995 Supreme Court decision, Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Pena, in which the court ruled that race cannot be a factor in awarding contracts unless there is statistical evidence of discrimination in an industry.

The administration said the plan is consistent with President Clinton's policy to "mend" affirmative action but not end it.

Minority-owned businesses currently receive $11 billion of the $200 billion in contracts the federal government awards each year.

While one analyst said the proposal "should be an ominous sign" for minority contractors, several Republican members of Congress said it does not go far enough to eliminate racial preferences.

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