White House establishes small business contracting task forces

The White House on Monday established a pair of interagency task forces to help federal agencies award more contracts to small businesses.

The first task force will focus on improving procurement opportunities for all small businesses and helping agencies meet statutory contracting goals. The second group will focus exclusively on improving contracting opportunities for small businesses owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans -- a subcategory that typically receives among the lowest percentage of set-aside contracts.

"In recent years, the federal government has not consistently reached its small business contracting goals," President Obama wrote in an April 26 memo to all federal agencies and departments. "Although we have made some progress -- particularly with respect to Recovery Act contracts -- more work can and should be done. I am committed to ensuring that small businesses, including firms owned by women, minorities, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and service-disabled veterans, have fair access to federal government contracting."

The new Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses will provide the White House with recommendations in the next 120 days for removing barriers to small business participation in the government marketplace. Those suggestions, according to the memo, could include unbundling large projects, improving the training of federal acquisition officials and using new technologies to enhance federal small business programs.

The memorandum calls for the group to use "innovative strategies, such as teaming, to increase opportunities for small business contractors and utilizing and expanding mentorship programs, such as the mentor-protégé program."

The task force also should expand outreach strategies to match small businesses with contracting and subcontracting opportunities, as well as revise or clarify existing legislation, regulations or policies, the memo directed. By late July, the White House's top technology leaders will develop a website that tracks the participation of small businesses in federal contracting, the directive said.

The Commerce Department secretary, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and administrator of the Small Business Administration will serve as co-chairs of the Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses. At least 15 other senior agency officials also will serve on the panel.

In a separate executive order, Obama established the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development. The group will focus on developing policies, such as expanded mentor-protégé relationships, which will help agencies meet the goal of awarding at least 3 percent of their contracts to small businesses owned by disabled veterans.

In recent years, only about 1 percent of all contracts have gone to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

The executive order directs the task force to develop proposals that would improve training and counseling to veteran-owned firms; reduce paperwork and administrative burdens; and enhance the company's access to capital.

The SBA administrator will run the task force, which will include seven other agencies and four representatives from a veterans' service or military organization or association.

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