Bush nominates SBA chief to head HUD

President Bush today nominated Steve Preston, administrator of the Small Business Administration, to head the Housing and Urban Development Department.

Bush said HUD needs stronger leadership at a time when the housing market is struggling.

“Steve is a strong executive with a quarter-century of management experience,” the president said at a press conference to announce Preston’s nomination. “He understands the free-enterprise system from every angle.”

Bush said Preston made many reforms at SBA. Since he was sworn in as administrator in July 2006, Preston streamlined the process of approving loans for small firms, especially firms caught in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and assigned a case manager to each loan applicant.

“He knows how to tackle a problem, devise a solution and get results,” Bush said.

SBA launched a Small Business Procurement Scorecard in August to grade agencies' attempts to send their contracting dollars to small businesses. SBA is working out a proposed acquisition rule intended to give woman-owned small businesses more opportunities in federal contracting. However, the agency’s rule was criticized by members of Congress and industry officials. Although it allow agencies to set aside contracts for women business-owners, the rule would limit the contracts to a select few industries, such as kitchen cabinet-making.

Preston will replace Alphonso Jackson, who resigned as HUD secretary amid controversy. The Senate still must confirm Bush’s nominee, but senators unanimously confirmed Preston for the SBA post, another reason the president said he chose Preston.

Members of Congress had a mixed reaction to Preston's nomination. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said Preston inherited SBA when it was in disarray.

“He’s worked hard to right its course and to improve relationships with Congress,” Kerry said.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Olympia Snowe of Maine, said she would work to get Preston confirmed quickly.

However, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Small Business Committee, said SBA has many major problems Preston has failed to correct.

“Large businesses continue getting small-business contracts, SBA’s Katrina disaster relief program is a failure and morale of the agency’s personnel is one of the lowest in the federal government,” Velázquez said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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