The House Small Business Committee has marked up and approved a six-pack of contracting reform bills, including legislation that would raise the current agency goals for steering work to small businesses.
The package approved Wednesday would particularly affect the construction industry, women, and disabled veterans. It includes a plan to raise agencies’ small-business prime contracting goal from 23 percent to 25 percent and establish a 40 percent goal for small-business subcontractors.
“Greater small business involvement in federal contracting benefits companies and taxpayers alike,” said panel Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., who sponsored the bill outlining the new contracting goals. “Small firms are innovative, and increased competition often leads to savings for the taxpayers.”
A second Grave bill would “improve transparency and accountability” by discouraging bundling of contracts to give an advantage to large companies over small businesses. Bills sponsored by Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., would restrict the government’s use of reverse auctions in awarding construction contracts and increase construction companies’ access to surety bonds for use in federal procurement work.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., would transfer responsibility for verifying the status of disabled veteran-owned small businesses from the Veterans Affairs Department to the Small Business Administration. And two bills sponsored by Ranking Member Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., would boost the training and education services delivered by Small Business Development Centers and promote parity for women-owned small businesses by standardizing sole-source authorities in SBA’s procurement operations.
The bill to raise the agency small-business procurement goals drew criticism from the Professional Services Council, a contractors group. “Prior to raising any of the contracting goals, it is important for federal agencies and policymakers to understand the total small business participation in federal contacting,” said the group’s President and CEO Stan Soloway in a statement. “To do so, clear and accurate data is needed of not just prime contracting dollars flowing to small businesses, but also federal dollars flowing to small businesses via subcontracts. However, such subcontracting data still does not exist in any meaningful or accurate form.”
Though his association supports greater contract opportunities for small business, Soloway added, too little attention is being paid to “many questionable acquisition strategies we see implemented today without regard to the impacts of those strategies on the broader industrial base (particularly small, mid-tier firms), performance risks, and more,” he said. “We see an increasing number of procurements set aside for small business not because it is the right strategy for that procurement but, rather, because it is a convenient way to meet agency goals.”