Friday, April 20, 2012

Proposed Legislation to Provide More Opportunities for Small Businesses

Earlier this year, the Small Business Committee of the House of Representatives introduced a series of contracting reform bills that are designed to increase opportunities for small business, create protections to fight fraud and abuse, and empower advocates who fight for small business during the federal acquisition process. The legislation is the result of the findings of 10 contracting hearings during 2011.

Last Tuesday, the Chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, Sam Graves, testified before the House Armed Services Committee about including the Committee's contracting legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013.

The proposed legislation includes the following eight proposals:

1. GET Small Business Contracting (Government Efficiency Through Small Business Contracting) Act of 2012 (HR 3850)

The GET Small Business Contracting Act raises the small business contracting goal from 23% to 25%. Raising the goal by 2% means a substantial amount of new business for small businesses – about $11 billion worth. The Act also holds top agencies accountable for meeting the small business goals by withholding the senior agency officials’ bonuses if the small business goals aren’t met.  Finally, the Act ensures opportunities for small businesses as subcontractors, with a goal of awarding 40% of all subcontracted dollars to small businesses – an increase from the current goal of 35.9%.

2. Small Business Advocate (SBAA) Act of 2012 (HR 3851): 

The Small Business Advocate Act makes it easier for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) to advocate for small business contracts, focus on acquisition assistance, and fight insourcing and unjustified contract bundling. Acting as the OSDBU Director is often simply another assigned duty for a senior official that lacks the authority to challenge decisions made by the Chief Acquisition Officer or Senior Procurement Executive. The Small Business Advocate Act elevates their position to a senior acquisition leader in the agency and prohibits them from holding any other position so they can concentrate on their advocacy responsibilities. 

3. Subcontracting Transparency And Reliability (STAR) Act of 2012 (HR 3893): 

The STAR Act makes it easier to crack down on deceptive large businesses hiding behind small businesses, and simultaneously makes it easier for legitimate small businesses to comply with limitations by tracking price rather than cost. It also allows for more small businesses to team with other small businesses to compete for federal contracts. Finally, the Act adds transparency to insourcing by requiring agencies to publish their insourcing processes and gives small businesses contractors standing to challenge insourcing decisions in court.   

4. Small Business Opportunity Act of 2012 (HR 3980): 

The Small Business Opportunity Act will help provide more opportunities for small business contractors by requiring small business advocates to be part of federal procurement and acquisition planning processes. Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBUs) and Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs) are advocates for small business contractors, but are not included in the acquisition process until just before a Request for Proposal or Quotation is to be released.  The Small Business Opportunity Act would provide the OSDBUs and PCRs with access to those acquisition plans on the front end, and require that acquisition plans address how small businesses will be utilized.  

5 .Building Better Business Partnerships Act of 2012 (HR 3985): 

Mentor-Protégé programs are intended to partner small businesses with established mentors in order improve the small business’ ability to win and perform on contracts and subcontracts, but the 13 federal agency programs are duplicative (creating an unnecessary paperwork burden for participants) and lack standardized measures of success.  The Building Better Business Partnerships Act allows the Small Business Administration (SBA) to oversee civilian agency mentor-protégé programs in order to promote portability of agreements between the agencies, guarantee that the programs benefit the small businesses, and ensure that the mentor-protégé agreement doesn’t inadvertently harm the protégé’s small business status.   

6. Small Business Protection Act of 2012 (HR 3987): 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is creating new group size standards that will define what businesses qualify as “small.” By the SBA’s own analysis, these proposals that lump different industries together are excluding legitimate small businesses from the SBA contracting programs. The Small Business Protection Act protects legitimate small businesses by requiring that the size standard assigned to each common group is appropriate for each individual North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code that is put in the new group.

7. Contractor Opportunity Protection (COP) Act of 2012 (HR 4081): 

The Contractor Opportunity Protection Act provides a stronger process to appeal unjustified bundling through clarification of the statutory limits on bundling, the creation of a third party arbiter, and more transparency in the contracting process.  

8. Contracting Oversight for Small Business Jobs Act of 2012 (HR 4206):

The Contracting Oversight for Small Business Jobs Act addresses contracting fraud by helping small businesses comply with complicated contracting and size rules, and providing a safe harbor for small businesses making a good faith effort to comply with those rules. The bill also ensures that potential cases of fraud are properly and transparently dealt with through the suspension and debarment process, and provides a statutory framework for the Office of Hearings and Appeals – the office that decides who is truly a small business.  

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