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WASHINGTON – Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3867 “The Small Business Contracting Program Improvements Act,” by a margin of 334 to 80. Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez gave the following opening statement.
In recent years, the federal marketplace has seen phenomenal growth. However, while procurement opportunities are increasing, agencies are failing to meet their small business, women, service disabled veterans, minority and low income contracting goals. This has not only cost small businesses billions in lost opportunities but deprives the government of a valuable supplier.
Our nation’s entrepreneurs play an important role in the procurement system, providing diversity, competition and ensuring we get the best value for the taxpayer dollar. To help them get a start, there is an array of contracting programs offering technical assistance, purchasing flexibility, and targeted benefits.
Unfortunately, due to legislative neglect, under funding and mismanagement by several administrations, the programs have fallen far short of their full potential, leaving many small businesses outside of the federal marketplace. The Small Business Contracting Program Improvements Act, introduced by myself and Representative Mary Fallin, will change that by making important improvements to women, minority, HUB ZONE and service disabled veteran contracting programs.
H.R. 3867 will immediately implement the Women’s Procurement Program that has languished in the current administration’s endless delays. It also updates the economic criteria for the 8(a) program, reflecting current fiscal realities. The last time Congress addressed the 8(a) program was almost 20 years ago when a gallon of gas was 90 cents and the average cost of a home was less than 90,000 dollars. For too long we have forced minority businesses to operate under antiquated financial standards that, in many cases, were simply setting them up to fail.
Most importantly this legislation will give our service disabled veterans top priority when it comes to contracting opportunities. For those men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many with life altering injuries, this bill will provide the tools to start a new endeavor and begin a new life. These changes will go a long way to addressing many of the program shortcomings that have frustrated our nation’s small business owners.
H.R. 3867 also fights fraud in the federal marketplace. Contracting opportunities are a privilege not a right – the Small Business Contracting Improvements Act makes that clear. For the first time we are imposing a business code of conduct on all participants, requiring the federal government to verify that individuals are who they claim, and empower small firms to police their own programs. This will restore integrity to these critical programs.
Through modernizing programs and increasing accountability, H.R. 3867 brings SBA’s contracting programs into the 21st century. It is for this reason that this legislation has attracted remarkably broad support including the National Federation of Independent Business, Associated General Contractors, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans to U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Black Chamber of Commerce, Women Chamber of Commerce, International Franchise Association as well as the National Defense Industrial Association and then Aerospace Industry Association.
This is a measured approach that balances the need to give program flexibility within the realities of current agency buying strategies. It is good for small business, good for the agency and most importantly good for the taxpayers.