Clinton order boosts women's businesses
- By Dan Caterinicchia, Dan Caterinicchia, Natasha Haubold
- May 29, 2000
President Clinton signed an executive order last week ordering agencies
to meet specific goals in awarding contracts to small businesses owned by
women, but the mandate alone may not encourage compliance, according to
federal information technology experts.
Clinton's executive order reconfirms the governmentwide goals established
last year by the Office of Management and Budget requiring agencies to award
5 percent of all their contracts to woman-owned small businesses. The order
also calls for developing a new governmentwide World Wide Web site to provide
procurement information about woman-owned small businesses and for developing
an e-commerce database in which small businesses can register and list their
capabilities as potential contractors.
The order requires agencies to develop plans for how they will meet
the goal and to designate a senior acquisition official to promote awarding
contracts to woman-owned businesses, among other requirements (see related story).
"The executive order provides the federal agencies with a clear action plan
for meeting and exceeding the statutory 5 percent goal," said Kay Koplovitz,
chairwoman of the National Women's Business Council.
But the action plan does not provide incentives to meet the goal, and
the order does not threaten agencies with penalties for not meeting the
goal, said Valerie Perlowitz, president and CEO of Reliable Integration
Services Inc. and chairwoman of the Industry Advisory Council's small-,
minority- and woman-owned business committee.
"Outreach is fine and good, but there's still no teeth in it," Perlowitz
said. "I applaud the effort, but in 1996 the goal was 5 percent, and we're
lucky if we're at 2 percent four years later. Until there's a contracting
vehicle for agencies to find woman-owned small businesses, it's just pushing
more paper around."
"It should give agencies the extra push that's needed to assist us in
meeting our goals," said James Ballentine, associate deputy administrator
for government contracting and minority enterprise development at SBA. "And
those that don't meet the 5 percent goal in a given year must have a plan
in place, which they should have already, to help them forecast what they
need to change and where they need to go to meet their goals."
The executive order also includes additional responsibilities for the Small
Business Administration to ensure agencies meet the 5 percent goal. SBA
will establish an office and Web site to promote procurement opportunities
from woman- owned businesses, according to the order. SBA also will develop
an interactive database containing information about procurement opportunities
and woman-owned businesses.
"There has to be a pool of woman-owned small businesses that represent
a low risk to the federal agencies," said Chip Mather, principal at Acquisition
Solutions Inc., adding that the Commerce Department's Commerce Information
Technology Solutions program is a good example of a project that has that
Mather said federal agencies are driven by a company's proven track
record and that the government must want to do business with a woman-owned
business based on the company's merits, not because the agency has been
forced to do so. "Agencies must want to use a company because they do good
work, and isn't it fortuitous that they would also get credit if it's a
woman-owned small business," he said. "It can't be the other way around
or it won't work."
Meanwhile, the Senate passed a resolution, sponsored by Sen. Christopher
"Kit" Bond (R-Mo.), urging Clinton to adopt a policy encouraging agencies
to meet the 5 percent goal the same day Clinton issued the executive order.
"Basically, [the resolution and executive order] say the same thing because
this is a directive that's already there in the law, and federal agencies
have failed to follow the intent of Congress," said Craig Orfield, communications
director for the Senate Small Business Committee, of which Bond is the chairman.
The number of woman-owned small businesses is expanding rapidly in the
United States. The Senate Small Business Committee estimates that woman-owned
businesses will make up 50 percent of all businesses by 2010.