It's good, but not good enough. Women-owned businesses won a record $9.1 billion in federal contracts last year, an increase of $814.6 million -- but that still left the government short of its goal of awarding 5 percent of federal contracting dollars to such firms.
About 3 percent of the $299.9 billion in federal prime contracts awarded in fiscal 2004 went to women-owned businesses, according to a report from the Federal Procurement Data Center, which tracks government spending.
The leader of Women Impacting Public Policy, a four-year-old women's business advocacy group, said the 5 percent goal is too low. "With nearly half of all privately-held businesses being women-owned and growing nearly twice as fast as other companies, this goal is dismally low and short-sighted," Barbara Kasoff, a co-founder of the group, said in a statement.
Businesses owned by veterans who were disabled during their military service fared even worse. Such businesses garnered $1.15 billion in federal contracts last year, or 0.38 percent of total dollars awarded. That was more than double the $550 million awarded to such businesses in 2003, but far short of the government's goal of 3 percent.
Former employees of the National Park Service are up in arms about an Interior Department rewrite of a "rulebook" guiding national parks. The nearly 200-page document, which is set to be released this fall, further eases restrictions on snowmobiling and jet-skiing activities in the parks.
Calling it an "astonishing attempt to hijack the management of the 388 areas of our nation's park system and convert them into vastly diminished areas where almost anything goes," Bill Wade of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and superintendent of the Shenandoah National Park from 1988 to 1997, said that "until recently, both political parties have viewed the management of our parks as an 'off limits area' where . . . decisions are made based on what is truly in the public's interest. These draft policies shatter that precedent in favor of smash-and-grab politics that would weaken the preservation and protection of the areas that previous generations have added to the system."
Interior spokesman John Wright suggested this was routine, noting that department had revised the Park Service's rulebook several times since the mid-1970s, and that Congress requested this update in September 2003. "It is a work in progress," he said.
-- Christopher Lee and Juliet Eilperin