Two bills look to give small business an edge in contracting

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.

House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., has two new bills to boost small businesses' chances to compete for federal contracts.

Missouri Republican Sam Graves, chairman of the House Small Business Committee, is introducing a pair of bills Feb. 26 designed to increase small firms’ participation in federal contracting and improve the quality of contracting data.

The Greater Opportunities for Small Business Act would raise the percentage of small businesses among prime federal contract recipients from 23 percent to 25 percent, and the percentage of subcontract recipients to not less than 40 percent of the total. The two-percentage-point increase in prime contracts could mean as much as $10 billion more for small businesses if the targets are met.

In fiscal 2012, the government edged close to the goal, but missed by half a percentage point, awarding $89.9 billion in contracts to small businesses. The government last hit the 23 percent target in 2005.

The Contract Data and Bundling Accountability Act would update the way data is reported on bundled and consolidated contracts.

Small businesses have a harder time competing for bundled contracts because the work requirements can range over separate business functions or be distributed over a larger geographic area than a small business can cover. At the same time, 1997 updates to the Small Business Act require that agencies justify their decisions to consolidate or bundle contracts by conducting market research and identifying cost savings. Additionally, the Small Business Administration is responsible for maintaining a database on bundled and consolidated contracts and notifying Congress about the impact of such contracts on small business.

The Government Accountability Office found in November 2013 that data on bundled and consolidated contracts in federal procurement data systems are inaccurate, and that SBA has not reported to Congress on bundling since fiscal 2010. The new bill would direct the head of the SBA and other procurement officials across government to establish a plan to report on bundling and consolidation and monitor the quality of the data, with consequences -- unspecified in the bill itself -- "for failure to properly identify contracts as bundled or consolidated."

Graves hopes that putting teeth in data reporting requirements will give small businesses the ability to compete for more federal contracts.

"The federal government spends nearly half a trillion dollars on contracted goods and services, therefore, we must ensure that the money is being spent efficiently, and small businesses have proven that they can do quality work cheaper and often faster," Graves said in a statement.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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Fri, Feb 28, 2014

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