Bill would end HUBZone primacy

The Senate has approved legislation that would eliminate the advantages that small businesses in economically depressed areas have over some firms, and the House also might approve that change.

Government Accountability Office (GAO) attorneys say the existing law puts businesses in Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) ahead of other categories of disadvantaged businesses in gaining access to some contracts. The HUBZone businesses have first crack at those contracts — ahead of companies owned by service-disabled veterans and those in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) business development program.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, proposed the legislation as an amendment to the fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1390). The amendment approved on July 23 would replace the word “shall” with the word “may” in the law, a small change that could make a big difference in the contracting landscape.

The House version of the bill did not include such language. However, as lawmakers meet to resolve differences between the House and Senate measures, the change in wording might not meet any resistance. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), co-chairman of the HUBZone Caucus and among those considered likely to oppose such a measure, said he supports the statutory change.

“Small-business owners from these three categories endure different types of disadvantages, but they all create invaluable opportunities and magnified benefits in our communities,” Bartlett said. “They deserve equal priority consideration for federal government small-business contracts.”

Landrieu drafted the amendment in response to recent GAO rulings on bid protests that said agencies had to consider HUBZone businesses first in awarding set-aside contracts. Only if there were not enough HUBZone businesses to compete for the work could agency officials open it to other categories of disadvantaged businesses, according to GAO.

GAO, the Small Business Administration and the Office of Management and Budget have disagreed over the interpretation of the law and regulations. But Landrieu’s amendment seeks to quiet the disagreement by supporting SBA’s interpretation.

“All small businesses should be given an equal opportunity to succeed,” Landrieu said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above