Bipartisan Lawmakers Launch Caucus to Simplify and Strengthen Federal Construction Procurement
“Our federal contractors need members of Congress to promote sensible reforms,” said the co-chairs.
A pair of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle launched a construction procurement caucus on Thursday for the 117th Congress to advance “sensible reforms” for federal contractors.
Reps. Scott Peters, D-Calif., and Peter Stauber, R-Minn., founded the Construction Procurement Caucus last year, but Thursday was the formal launch due to pandemic delays. The federal government’s annual spending on procurement has increased steadily in recent years and it spends “tens of billions of dollars” on construction related procurements, the event moderator said.
“The federal government is the largest customer in the world and relies heavily on private businesses of all sizes when procuring goods and services,” the lawmakers, who will co-chair the caucus, said in a letter to their colleagues. “Doing so ensures a competitive marketplace, supports small businesses as engines of economic growth, and enhances the use of innovative ideas, products, and services. However, navigating the process to begin identifying, bidding, and winning federal opportunities is complex...Our federal contractors need members of Congress to promote sensible reforms.”
The goals of the caucus are to simplify the process for federal construction procurement, foster a competitive market for businesses of all sizes, support better opportunities for businesses in the federal marketplace and advance procurement-related legislation.
“One of the silver linings of the past year has been the opportunity for construction to continue amid an onslaught of closures,” said Peters, at the event. “As we begin to emerge from the dual public health and economic challenges of COVID, investing in our infrastructure will be a key for job maintenance and creation. And moreover, we’ll finally be able to address the huge backlog of deferred maintenance on roads, transit, bridges and buildings.”
The launch of the caucus comes about a month after President Biden released his roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which has several proposals involving procurement. “Whatever you think of President Biden from a political standpoint it’s so welcomed to have an ambitious list of things to work on,” Peters said.
He and Stauber said they hope lawmakers and the president can come to a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure improvements, even if it is not the full $2 trillion. They also see this as an opportunity to address “red tape” issues in the contracting process, as Stauber put it.
“When we talk about using federal money, one of the ways you close the gap is you make sure you’re not spending too much money on processing and permitting and you want to do reform to make things more efficient,” Peters said. “That’s, I think, where we have a real opportunity.”
Stauber said that the Small Business Administration needs to be a “help not a hindrance” to small business for capital, infrastructure and education, so they can reach their maximum potential.
The governmentwide and individual agency goal for awarding contracts to small disadvantaged businesses is currently 5%, but the president said in his fiscal 2022 budget preview that he would like to increase that to 15% by 2025.
The other members of the caucus have not been announced yet. Stauber said they expect to have open meetings to hear from business leaders and stakeholders to work on legislation.
In a related matter, on Thursday morning the White House announced that by 2030 it seeks to reach a 50%-52% reduction of greenhouse gas pollution from 2005 levels and procurement is one of the ways it will work to achieve that.
‘The United States can address carbon pollution from industrial processes by supporting carbon capture as well as new sources of hydrogen—produced from renewable energy, nuclear energy, or waste—to power industrial facilities,” said a fact-sheet from the White House. “The government can use its procurement power to support early markets for these very low- and zero-carbon industrial goods.”