Letters to the Editor

Small biz critical A recent letter to the editor of your publication ['Scrap SDB preference,' April 19] displayed an unfortunate misunderstanding of small, disadvantaged business (SDB) utilization programs in the federal government. Such misunderstanding was prompted by an editorial by FCW [March

Small biz critical

A recent letter to the editor of your publication ["Scrap SDB preference," April 19] displayed an unfortunate misunderstanding of small, disadvantaged business (SDB) utilization programs in the federal government. Such misunderstanding was prompt-ed by an editorial by FCW [March 15] in which you suggest that such programs were "social" in nature, thus having nothing to do with what the federal government was in business to do. To the contrary, SDBs are essential, if not critical, to the success of the technical missions of federal agencies.

At agencies such as the departments of Defense and Energy, NASA and the FAA, which have contracts for services in which human lives are often at stake, it would be reckless, if not grossly negligent, to depend on the ingenuity of just one race, one gender or one business size to complete and perform such essential missions. During NASA's successful Mars Path-finder mission, for example, it was an SDB that manufactured the batteries that allowed the spacecraft to transmit information about the planet back to Earth. The SDB not only produced the batteries on schedule and within budget, but the batteries lasted three times longer than the contract called for. In fact, the Mars Pathfinder program was filled with small

minority- and women-owned businesses performing the most high-tech of tasks, and all of them delivered high-quality products on time and within budget. In the words of the lead procurement team official on the project, "We could not have done it without [SDBs]."

Somewhere in outer space sits the Hubble Space Telescope, the most powerful observatory in existence. All servicing missions to the spacecraft must be first practiced on a replica of the complex facility on the ground. The replica was designed, built and is managed by an SDB. In addition, SDBs are delivering crucial hardware and performing sophisticated technical work on the International Space Station and, in many cases, outperforming the large businesses. And there are dozens of other examples. What is important to remember, however, is that none of those examples would exist without the vehicles provided to federal agencies under existing laws and regulations designed to facilitate the use of SDBs.

It is peculiar how one can complain about this when similar measures have traditionally been employed to stimulate the increased federal use of other business entities, almost routinely. For example, when Congress wanted to ensure that domestic products had an advantage over foreign markets in winning federal contracts, it passed the Buy American Act in 1933, in which domestic products still receive 6 to 12 percentage preference points in certain procurements, simply for being of domestic origin. This was done in large part to preserve our nation's domestic mobilization business base. Similarly, when Congress wanted to ensure that a "fair proportion" of federal contract dollars would go to small businesses, it created small-business set-asides in which certain contracts are set aside for competition among small businesses only. That practice has been with us since 1958, when 99.9 percent of the small businesses doing work for the federal government were nonminority.

It is also important to remember that initiatives designed to stimulate the increased federal use of SDBs are not a preference for SDBs. Rather, they are designed in part to overcome a historical pattern of preferences against SDBs. The present-day vestiges of such past discrimination have left SDBs disadvantaged as a group when competing with non-SDBs as a group. A few years ago, the Associated General Contractors of America, a predominately nonminority group, believed they were being discriminated against by Japan when competing for construction contracts there. What did they ask the Japanese government for as a remedy? Contract set-asides for American-owned companies. Was the AGC seeking a preference for such firms or a vehicle to show how well U.S. construction companies could perform?

Reality notwithstanding, past discrimination need not be the launch pad for the justification of affirmative procurement practices with respect to SDBs. After all, SDB utilization programs represent the bright outlook of the future rather than an evil specter of the past. SDBs, like other small businesses, midsize firms and large companies, are essential to the successful performance of our nation's federal missions and goals. All such entities benefit from government-backed "jump starts" in the form of proactive procurement practices that ensure their survival, growth and stability. The maximized utilization of SDBs ensures that the federal government is drawing from the full productive potential of our nation in seeking contractors who provide high-quality goods and services at the lowest reasonable cost. It is a practice that should be encouraged rather than bashed.

Ralph C. Thomas IIIAssociate administrator for Small and Disadvantaged Business UtilizationNASA

NEXT STORY: Popularity Problems

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.