The Small Business Administration and the General Services Administration have launched an initiative to improve the identification of minority-owned contractors. The aim is to simplify the process for federal procurement officials to connect with small, disadvantaged businesses across sectors. As part of President Biden’s goal to direct $100 billion in expanded contracting opportunities to historically marginalized firms by 2025, the initiative focuses on increasing federal contracting opportunities for small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs). (Nextgov May 30, 2023)
In the announcement released on May 25th, the General Services Administration and the Small Business Administration will establish a pool of SDBs participating in the 8(a) Business Development Program. This program will assist selected firms in gaining better access to federal contracts under the GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule Program. The SBA’s 8(a) program has proven successful in fostering partnerships between the government and SDBs while providing support to minority-owned businesses seeking federal contracts. (ibid)
The establishment of the pool of 8(a) firms aims to make it easier for procurement officials to locate and contract with small, disadvantaged businesses across industries. Historically, this has been a challenge due to a lack of centralized resources for identifying and engaging SDBs throughout the federal government. However, the May 25th announcement lacks details on acceptance requirements and the process for directing solicitations and contracting opportunities to the selected firms. Further information is yet to be provided by the SBA and GSA. (ibid)
The success of the initiative will depend on specific factors, according to Courtney Fairchild, president of the government contracting consulting company Global Services. Fairchild suggests that analyzing individual awards and the dollar value of aggregate awards through the pool will help determine the effectiveness of the effort. If successful, similar MAS Pools for Woman-Owned, HubZone, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses could be implemented to increase opportunities across all SBA-certified socio-economic groups. (ibid)
Experts recommend additional metrics for measuring the program’s effectiveness, such as the size and scope of available opportunities, the length of engagement, and the relevance of North American Industry Classification System codes. These metrics can help determine if the pool successfully recruits firms from a wide array of sectors. (ibid)
Whichever approach is taken to evaluate its success, the new program provides an opportunity to showcase the strengths, diversity of thoughts, and varied technological capabilities within the SDB community, according to Earl Stafford, CEO of Aperio Global, an SDB specializing in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence solutions. (ibid)
President Biden announced the plan in June 2021 to allocate $100 billion in federal contracting opportunities to SDBs over a five-year period, representing an almost 50% increase in set-asides for minority-owned businesses. Federal agencies seem on track to meet this goal after awarding $62.4 billion in federal contracts to SDBs last year, accounting for at least 11% of all federal contracting opportunities. The Office of Management and Budget has since raised contracting goals for all agencies and directed the SBA to award at least 12% of all federal contracts to SDBs in fiscal year 2023. (ibid)
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