Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Small Business Ombudsman

The Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) recently announced the appointment of small business ombudsmen in the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA).

According to the plan, these DCAA and DCMA Agency Small Business focal points, will

  • advise their respective Directors on policy issues related to small business concerns, and
  • serve as the agencies' primary point of contract and source of information.

The DCAA small business ombudsman has also been tasked to collect and monitor relevant data regarding the defense audit agency's conduct of audits. We don't know from where the ombudsman will collect this data - perhaps from angry callers.

DCAA has to be real careful with this position so as not to impact the independence of the auditor. To this end, the duties of the ombudsman well be segregated from ongoing audits in the field. The ombudsman will not be allowed to engage in any activities with regard to particular audits that could compromise the independence of the Agency or undermine compliance with applicable audit standards. So, if you're a small business and have complaints about an on-going audit, don't complain to the ombudsman, you will not get any sympathy. And that makes us wonder whether the ombudsman is a true ombudsman or just another flack compiling data.

We'll just have to wait and see how this program works out and whether there's any tangible benefits to the small business. You can reach the DCAA small business ombudsman at 937-255-7789 (curiously, an Ohio area code).

The DCMA small business ombudsman will not have the same constraints as DCAA however the tasking given it by DoD's Office of Small Business Programs does not sound like it will be someone who investigates small businesses' complaints against the government or its functionaries. According to DoD OSBP, the ombudsman will be evaluating and analyzing how well prime contractors ensure small businesses receive maximum practicable opportunity" to participate in prime contractors' subcontractors. DCMA already does this to a certain extent by monitoring prime contractor progress in meeting small business subcontracting goals so we're not sure what this adds to the program. Whatever is going on there, DCMA has not made a contract phone number public like DCAA has.

The DoD OSBP Director stated, "These appointments are another example of DoD working to reduce barriers for small businesses and will strengthen the partnership between DCAA, DCMA and industry." Pardon our skepticism but its going to take more than a press release to convince us that anything is operating differently.

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