House Committee Passes Bipartisan Federal Contractor Changes

By: Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations

 

In its first major action of 2016, the House Small Business Committee approved changes to federal contracting which affect small companies who do business with the federal government. Acting in a bipartisan manner is relatively rare in Congress these days, but the Committee unanimously adopted the legislation, The Defending America’s Small Contractors Act of 2016, with over two-thirds of the Committee contributing content to the bill.

 

For the last three years, the House Small Business Committee has pushed for changes to the government’s buying rules and this week’s legislation was no exception. In our view, the following changes in the bill will prove to be significant to small contractors. One attacks an age-old problem – showing past performance without a government contract. The bill establishes a pilot program that enables contractors to receive a past performance rating by submitting a request to the contracting officer and/or prime contractor.  Second, the bill strengthens agency small business offices to recommend which small business set-aside programs should be used for each contract at their agency.

Anne CrossmanThird, WIPP’s recommendations were incorporated in the legislation, including one made by Anne Crossman, a member of WIPP’s Leadership Advisory Council, in her testimony before the Committee. Anne took the opportunity to highlight WIPP’s “if you list us, use us” policy for prime contractors’ subcontracting plans. This bill incorporates WIPP’s recommendations to clarify the role of commercial market representatives (CMRs) in encouraging prime contractors to work with small businesses. Lastly, the bill takes the first step toward getting a better handle on the actual amount set aside for small businesses by requiring agencies to divulge awards counted toward multiple small business goals.

An amendment offered by Rep. Takai scored a victory for women entrepreneurs by allowing Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) to provide procurement assistance to women participating in the DOD mentor-protégé program. Rep. Takai’s statement on the amendment is available here and includes WIPP’s statement of support.

These improvements set the stage for a productive year of improvements for small contractors. The bill, which passed unanimously, will now be considered by the full House of Representatives. The House Small Business Committee is off to a great start. We can’t wait to see what they do next.

From the Hill: Small Contractors Make Big Gains in New Legislation

By: Jake Clabaugh WIPP Government Relations

 

ChabotThe House Small Business Committee is leading off 2016 by continuing its
efforts to make federal contracting more accessible to small businesses. Committee Chair Steve Chabot’s (R-OH) legislation, Defending America’s Small Contractors Act of 2016, makes an array of changes to procurement policy.

Although impossible to summarize all of the changes in a few paragraphs, which is why we have the link to the bill above, here are the highlights. The bill tackles transparency by rewriting – in plain English – the requirements for small business procurements. Since getting past performance is an obstacle for contractors getting started in federal contracting, the bill establishes a pilot program that enables them to get a past performance rating by submitting a request to the contracting officer and prime contractor. Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBUs) will now have increased authority to recommend which small business set-aside programs are most appropriate for each contract at their agency. The Act even touches the Department of Defense (DOD) by requiring that Mentor-Protégé plans in DOD’s program be approved by SBA – an update aimed at adding consistency to Mentor-Protégé Programs government-wide – but controversial since the last time we looked the Defense Department does not generally defer to SBA.

If some of these changes sound familiar, it’s because Anne Crossman, a member of WIPP’s Leadership Advisory Council, proposed several of these improvements during a Subcommittee hearing last fall.  Specifically, Anne noted WIPP’s “if you list us, use us” policy for prime contractors’ subcontracting plans and in her testimony she advocated for prime contractors to be accountable to the subcontractors listed on their plans. This bill incorporates Anne’s recommendations by requiring commercial market representatives (CMRs) assist prime contractors in identifying small business subcontractors and assess the prime’s compliance with their subcontracting plans.

The intent of the legislation is to assist federal agencies in meeting their small business contracting goals. The goal for women owned companies of 5% has never been met. A continued push for data transparency surfaces in the bill as well, requiring agencies to do a better job of reporting the contracting dollars awarded to small businesses.

The Committee is expected to hold a markup to consider this legislation during the week of January 11.  The WIPP Government Relations team will continue to provide updates as the bill moves through Congress.

WIPP Testifies to Congress on Challenges Facing Small Contractors

Anne Crossman

The House Small Business Committee hearing last week focused on one of WIPP’s key priorities: ongoing issues affecting small companies trying to do work with the federal government. Anne Crossman, a member of WIPP’s Leadership Advisory Council, used her expertise in subcontracting to testify before the Committee regarding the challenges faced by small subcontractors.

 

In particular, many WIPP members have questioned to what extent subcontracting plans are enforced. WIPP has long advocated for a policy of “if you list us, use us” and it is still unclear if prime contractors are being held to these plans.

 

Subcontracting is a staple of many small contractors and facilitates the flow of federal contract dollars into small businesses, which provide jobs and boosts local economies. Agencies have subcontracting goals to ensure that small firms get a fair shot at contracting dollars.

 

The Committee delved into these and many other challenges facing small subcontractors. The hearing can be found in full here.