On April 27 President Obama announced the formation of an Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses. In a memorandum issued by the White House, the President outlined steps the Administration will take to help make federal agency spending fairer to small-business contractors, make the contracting process more transparent and encourage more federal agencies to spend money with small companies.
Will the task force make a difference? The National Association of Small Business Contractors, analyzing the announcement, notes,
“This announcement most likely comes as an early warning of sub-par FY 2009 achievement of small business federal contracting goals [this data has not yet been publicly released].”
A February 2010 report by the SBA Inspector General found numerous serious inaccuracies in the data the SBA used to report on the achievement of small business contracting goals. Trade associations including NASBC had complained that data was flawed and that many contracts intended for small businesses were still being awarded to big corporations.
On the plus side, NASBC notes, “We can be heartened by the seriousness of President Obama’s response” to the pressure small businesses have long been applying in an attempt to level the playing field of federal contracting. The president is creating a senior level task force, chaired by the Secretary of Commerce, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration, that will pull from a wide range of federal agencies and policy leaders, including NASA, Homeland Security, Treasury, Defense and Veterans Affairs.
Within 120 days, the group is tasked with setting forth proposals and recommendations for, among other things:
- Using innovative strategies to increase opportunities for small business contractors
- Removing barriers to participation by small businesses by unbundling large projects, improving training of federal acquisition officials with respect to strategies for increasing small business contracting opportunities, utilizing new technologies to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of federal program managers, acquisition officials, and the Directors of Offices of Small Business Programs (and OSDBUs), their managers, procurement center representatives in identifying and providing access to opportunities; and
- Expanding outreach strategies to match small businesses with contracting and subcontracting opportunities.
Within 90 days, the task force will also establish a website that will enable greater accountability and transparency to the federal government’s progress in small business contracting, and will improve the collection, verification and availability of data about federal procurement.
NASBC has set up a group to track the task force’s progress and allow small business owners to have input into the process as NASBC reaches out to Washington. To register for the group, go to the Small Business Contractors’ Forum.