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SBA leader to step down

Karen Mills

SBA's Karen Mills plans to step down as soon as her successor is confirmed.

President Barack Obama thanked Karen Mills on Feb. 11 for her tenure as administrator of the Small Business Administration and her efforts to make it easier for firms to contract with the government. Mills has announced that she will step down from her position, but will stay on until a successor is confirmed.

"I asked Karen to lead the Small Business Administration because I knew she had the skills and experience to help America’s small businesses recover from the worst economic crisis in generations—and that’s exactly what she’s done," Obama said in a statement.

He added that in the last four years Mills has reduced paperwork and cut the red tape for small businesses to enter the federal marketplace. In 2012, the president raised SBA to a Cabinet-level agency.

Along with Obama's statement, SBA released an announcement Feb. 11 about Mills' departure. In a letter to agency employees, Mills complimented their efforts to help companies.

"Together, we rolled up our sleeves and went to work," Mills wrote. "And from day one, each of you stepped up and fulfilled the mission of what the agency was created to do. And you should be proud because our accomplishments are significant."

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the Small Business Committee, said Mills was a help to the committee in getting the Small Business Innovative Research program fully reauthorized for the first time in a decade.

In testifying before Graves' committee, Mills "brought experience to an important position and the profile of the Small Business Administration was elevated on her watch," he said, adding that he hopes the next SBA administrator nominee will be as energetic and experienced.

Obama said Mills was instrumental in the passage of the Small Business Jobs Act, which became law in 2010. The law, for instance, gives contracting officers more flexibility to award contracts and limit bundled contracts. It also includes provisions related to improved procurement data and allows contracting officers to consider as a contract elevation factor whether a prime contractor pays its subcontractors on time.

SBA began the Women-Owned Small Business Program in 2011. She also issued a memo in 2012 the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Joe Jordan, a former SBA official, telling agencies to consider small businesses first for procurements under the simplified acquisition threshold.

Mills pointed out the increases in small-business contracting. In the last three years of reporting, small businesses have accessed more than $286.3 billion dollars in federal contracts. That is $32 billion more than the previous three years, even as overall contract spending decreased during those years.

In fiscal 2011, SBA earned an A in its small business procurement goal score card. It exceeded most of its specific contracting for goals, such as goals for woman-owned companies and small disadvantaged businesses. In fiscal 2010, the agency only received B on its score card.

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