Styles pledges help for small firms

Proposed changes to A-76

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is pulling together two working groups to assess the effectiveness of vendors' subcontracting plans, OFPP Administrator Angela Styles said this morning.

Speaking to the Women Presidents' Organization, a group of female business owners and executives, Styles said her office is continuing its quest to open more federal work to businesses.

The working groups, drawn from agencies and industry, will look at how well large companies do at creating and adhering to plans for hiring small firms, and whether agencies are holding the firms accountable.

"There are a lot of [prime contractors] who are very concerned about this," she said. "They put a lot of time into their plans, and they're concerned that agencies don't even look at them, or just put in the statutory requirements" for the sake of form, she said.

OFPP still has not finalized proposed changes to the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76, which governs the decision to keep a function internal or outsource it. However, even in the absence of a final rule, companies can expect to see requests for proposals appearing on the FedBizOpps.gov Web site, Styles said.

Other OFPP efforts include proposed rules that would limit the practice of contract bundling, in which several small contracts that might have been suitable for small companies get bundled into one award for a large firm. Styles also intends to require small businesses to annually recertify their size and status; this would ensure that they don't continue to benefit from small business aid programs if they outgrow their eligibility.

Styles said she is intent on bringing more openness and accountability to the contracting process, as the Bush administration has directed. However, she encouraged the women in the audience to be patient and to understand what federal contracting officers have to contend with.

"They have got this morass of rules and regulations that they are expected to follow," she said. "These are people who don't have law degrees, good hard-working government people who have to figure out very complicated questions."

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