The Washington Post

The government needs to act like a small business

Our software firm partners closely with the federal government, so we will feel the lasting effects of the recent election on a number of levels.

Mackey says the threat of the tax cliff and sequestraion show that lawmakers lack some important business skills. (LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)

Our company, Beacon Interactive Systems, has spent the last 10 years working with the Department of Defense to develop software that makes key functions more efficient. These efforts, which stem from the hugely successful Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, will net between $30 million and $40 million in savings for the government. And we are just getting started. Our story is a great example of the private sector and government working together to create solutions through federal investment that leverages the agility of small business.

Unless Congress addresses the fiscal cliff, the next generation of entrepreneurs may not have the same opportunities. Sequestration, which is bad public policy and reflects a totally non-strategic approach to budgeting, would devastate small businesses. The uncertainty of pending government actions around sequestration chills growth at a time when growth is precisely what our economy needs.

It is reality that the United States must reduce spending, reduce waste and trim the federal budget. Simply cutting budgets at the top line, eliminating staff and slashing programs is not the purposeful and pragmatic approach we need. Sequestration concerns me most because I believe the “new normal” of less money and fewer contract personnel will limit opportunity and support for small business subcontractors.

As such, the system will be less efficient and processes will cost more. It’s the wrong direction. Small businesses are agile, efficient, responsive and save the government money. Contracting officers should be incentivized and supported to work with more of us.

A number of national leaders talked last week about working with the other side to address these types of issues now. It has happened before to no effect. This time, they must act for the good of the country. If they do, you can bet that the small business community will be in a better position to succeed in the future.

When the stakes are this high, winning at all costs is not winning. There is virtue in collaborative compromise and decisive action. I know that many of our leaders in Congress do care more about policy and governing than they do about their next fundraiser or their primary opponent. I have the privilege of working with good people in the government every day. It’s time they show the American people that Congress can rise above petulance and do its job.

Our country is great because we know that working together with respect is the best way to succeed. It’s time to reinforce that and remember the government is, in many respects, like a business. At a small business, if you don’t deliver, you’re done. Period.

We don’t have the luxury of calling a press conference to blame someone else or to procrastinate until it is expedient to act. That doesn’t work in the private economy. It’s not how a 21st century American government should function either.

ML Mackey is co-founder and chief executive of Beacon Interactive Systems, a Cambridge, Mass.-based software company.



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