One week after proposing legislation to raise small firms’ allotment of federal spending, House lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a trio of bipartisan bills intended to further reform small business contracting.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Rep. Kurt Shrader (D-Ore.) put forth the Small Business Opportunity Act, which would give each federal agency’s small business advocates an earlier role in the federal procurement and acquisition planning processes. Currently, those assigned to represent small firms in each department do not take part in contract planning until a formal proposal or quote is needed, whereas under the new proposal, they would be required to ensure that all acquisition plans include small businesses right from the start.
The Small Business Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), also aims to deliver more federal dollars to small companies but does so by reworking the various definitions of “small” used by the federal government for various industries. Recent proposals by the Small Business Administration to lump industries together into fewer, larger classifications would lift the size standards for, say, small architecture firms to $19 million in revenue (as a result of architecture firms being lumped in with engineering firms). However, those parameters would include nearly all architecture companies, allowing some of the biggest players in the industry to compete for contracts meant for small businesses.
The legislation introduced on Wednesday would instead require that the size standard assigned to each new cluster of industries be appropriate for each individual industry in the group.
“Washington must not unfairly force small businesses to compete against much larger businesses with more resources and capital,” Walsh said in a statement. “Small businesses are the backbone of this country, a hallmark of the American dream.”
Rounding out the trio of legislation, Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) proposed the Building Better Business Partnerships Act to streamline the process of connecting small businesses with mentors to help them win and execute government contracts and subcontracts. Under the proposal, the SBA would oversee federal mentor-protégé programs and eliminate some of the duplicative paperwork currently required of small companies seeking a contracting mentor.
The bills are the latest step in the House Small Business Committee’s efforts to empower small business advocates and combat contracting fraud by large companies, ensuring that the nation’s smallest employers get their intended share of the government spending. Last week, Rep. Sam Graves, who chairs the committee, introduced legislation that would increase the small business contracting goals for federal agencies from 23 percent to 25 percent for primary contracts and from 35.9 percent to 40 percent for subcontracts.
The GET (Government Efficiency Through) Small Business Contracting Act would also penalize government officials whose agencies fall short of those contracting goals by withholding their annual bonuses. Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), who later co-sponsored Graves’ bill, two weeks earlier introduced similar legislation that would penalize those agencies by cutting their budgets 10 percent the following year, further demonstrating the rising level of bipartisan support for small business contracting reform.