Defense bill would boost small business contracting goal

The House Armed Services Committee has proposed raising the government’s annual small-business contracting goal and giving business advocates more authority throughout the acquisition process.

The fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4301) would have the government set the overall contracting goal at 25 percent of the total value of all prime contracts for each fiscal year, not 23 percent as it currently stands. The government would also have to strive to award 40 percent of its subcontracts to small businesses.

The goals for individual categories of businesses, such as companies owned by women or service-disabled veterans, would remain the same.

“Improving small business opportunities for federal contracts is a triple play,” Rep. Sam Graves, chairman of the Small Business Committee, told the committee in testimony in April. 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. He urged the committee to add small-business provisions into the bill.

In a recent report, a special panel of Armed Services Committee members 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 a result, the authorization bill would elevate the role of the small-business advocate within DOD. It would require officials to write up guidance to ensure the director of each of the small business programs participates in the requirements development phase of an acquisition and the decision-making process.

In addition, the bill would strengthen and clarify the role of DOD’s procurement center representatives, who advocate for small businesses within the department. The representatives would be able to review and make recommendations related to acquisition plans and procurement methods.

DOD would also have to designate an official in each defense audit agency to consider small business issues. They would advise their agency on small-business matters and be the primary point person for companies. Furthermore, they would develop ways for the agency to finish small companies’ audits faster.

The bill would expand the definition of a bundled contract and eliminate procedures related to contract consolidation. It would exclude contracts under $2 million dollars generally, or contracts under $5 million for construction, from the definition of a bundled contract. It would exclude contracts for major defense acquisition programs.

About the Author

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

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