House passes VA small business bill

The House passed the Veterans Small Business and Memorial Affairs Act of 2006 Monday, establishing new annual contracting goals for the Department of Veterans Affairs that will involve a greater number of veteran-owned small businesses.

For veterans with small businesses, H.R. 3082, as amended:

• Provides incentives for the VA to award more contracts to veteran- and disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

• Clarifies veteran small business competition rules for contracts worth less than $5 million.

• Authorizes continued status as a veteran- or disabled veteran-owned small business to a surviving spouse for 10 years following the veteran’s or disabled veteran’s death.

• Requires annual performance reviews of senior VA procurement officials that assess their efforts to meet veteran contracting goals and ban performance bonuses to those officials whose organizations within the VA do not meet veteran or disabled veteran-owned business contracting goals.

“Future American economic competitiveness depends on a strong workforce which these returning veterans can do much to strengthen, while this bill will also assist veteran and disabled veteran business owners to improve their competitive position regarding VA contracts,” said Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Buyer (R- Ind.) in a statement.

“This bill will enable the department to easily meet its set aside goals for veteran businesses and I fully expect senior managers to meet those goals. If the VA fails to meet the set aside goals for veteran and disabled veteran business, I will be happy to provide additional legislative incentives for the department,” Buyer said.

The committee statement noted that several years ago, Congress passed P.L. 106-50 and P.L. 108-183 to improve the ability of veteran and disabled-veteran businesses to compete for federal contracts. According to the statement, the federal government has not reached the requirements of those laws.

The committee noted that data from fiscal 2005 indicated the VA “did barely over half of what the President asked — and public law required” to meet those requirements. The provisions in the new bill are designed to give veteran business owners more opportunity to compete for contracts, according to the statement.

The bill also authorizes the Labor Department to identify at least 10 military occupational specialties that could lead to civilian credentialing in an industry that has a critical shortage of employees or that is a high growth industry. As part of that project, Labor would work with the states to reduce the barriers for service members who want to enter those fields.

The legislation appropriates $1 million for each of the fiscal years 2007 through 2009 for the project, which would end Sept. 30, 2009.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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