Senate passes bill with HUBZone change

Bill deals with small-business equality issue

The Senate has passed its fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1390) with a provision that would remove the “shall” in the law that some government attorneys say gives small businesses in historically underutilized business zones (HUBZones) first preference when a contracting officer considers setting aside a contract for small businesses.

The mandatory “shall” would become a “may,” which would give the officers more discretion in awarding the contracts.

Since May, the Government Accountability Office, the Small Business Administration and the Office of Management and Budget have been debating whether HUBZone businesses should get priority over service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and firms in SBA's 8(a) program. Read the story. The Senate passed the legislation July 23.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), co-chairman of the HUBZone Caucus, today said he supports the statutory change.

“Small-business owners from these three categories endure different types of disadvantages, but they all create invaluable opportunities and magnified benefits in our communities. They deserve equal priority consideration for federal government small-business contracts,” he said.

Also regarding acquisition reforms, the bill would require a Defense Department contracting officer to justify why a contract worth more than $20 million should be awarded on a sole-source basis. For example, the officer would have to show that the anticipated costs are fair and reasonable. The bill would also tighten restrictions on public/private competitions for government work. The competitions pit the two sectors against each other to see who can do the work best for the lowest price.

The House passed its version of the bill in June. A conference committee of senators and House members will work out the differences before sending the legislation to the president.

About the Author

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

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