Contracting reforms could come in the next defense authorization bill

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the Small Business Committee, today said he would like several small-business contracting reforms, including a proposal to boost the annual small business contracting goal, in the new defense authorization bill.

The measures he would like to see, embodied in eight bills that his own committee approved in March, complement those that the Armed Services Committee’s own Panel on Business Challenges has recommended, he said.

He made the recommendation to the Armed Services Committee in a hearing in which several House members asked the committee to include their suggested language in the Fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. The committee is expected to release its language for the bill May 7.

“Improving small business opportunities for federal contracts is a triple play,” Graves told the committee in testimony. Small companies win more contracts, which create jobs. The companies also bring more competition and innovation to the market. The government saves money through competition and the industrial base stays healthy.

The panel concluded that small businesses face particular challenges in contracting with the Defense Department. DOD lacks a culture that fosters small business participation. More broadly, DOD has a confusing acquisition rulebook that constantly changes.

As for small-business reforms, one bill would raise the governmentwide small business contracting goal from 23 percent to 25 percent with budgetary consequences for missing the mark. Others would increase the level of responsibility for small-business advocates inside each agency, improve mentor-protégé programs and tackle unjustified contract bundling.

Another bill would address a deceptive contracting practice called pass-throughs. In a pass-through, a small company wins a contract set aside just for certain companies and then passes the majority of the work onto a large company.

About the Author

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

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