Last week I had the opportunity to meet David Hahn the new chairman of the NDIA Small Business Division. David presented his briefing on the plans for the Small Business Division for the coming year. There was also a lively discussion from other small business owners in the meeting as there are definitely some issues that small business owners have in the area of Government Contracting.
First of all I think it is worthwhile to summarize David's message. He started by stating what the NDIA Small Business Division goals and objectives are for this year. Quite simply they are:
- importance of Small Business
- To the Economy
- Job Creation
- Technology Issues & Drivers
- Value & Threats
- Manufacturing Support
- Size Standards Impacting Small Business
Certainly these items qualify as goals as they are somewhat over-reaching and cover a lot of ground. David also covered some of the key issues that NDIA wants to address for small business this year including:
- Streamline the Procurement Process
- Secure Critical Infrastructure from Cyber Threats
- Educate the National Security Workforce
- Make it Easier for Small Business to Compete
The last issue here, making it easier for small business to compete, sparked the most discussion in the presentation. Obviously many small business owners think that it is still difficult for small business to compete with large business in winning Federal Contracts. Several issues brought most of the discussion including the small business mandate and the use of IDIQ contracts.
The small business mandate (which currently calls for 23% of all contracts to be issued to small business) is perceived as not being enforced. Some of the small business owners say that the figures published by the government are misleading as they report contract awards and not payments. Even when reporting the contract awards, the figures show that for the last 10 years the government has not met the goal. The government is considering raising this goal to 25% but if there is no enforcement of this, will that really help?
The other main issue on this goal is that the government requires a large business to develop a small business subcontracting plan when the contract is issued. This doesn't mean that the large Prime follows that plan in implementation and there doesn't seem to be any enforcement to the Prime when they do not reach their goals. The government may give the Prime a "slap on the wrist" at contract completion but there is no real penalty that would force the Prime to monitor this more closely the next time.
The second topic of discussion focused on the Federal Government use of IDIQ contracts. It seems that small business can win the contracts but has a more difficult time in winning the task orders. In addition, a small business could win the IDIQ contract as a small business but if they are very successful in winning task orders it could change their small business status and then invalidate their contract as they are no longer a small business.Several small businesses in the room said they pursue full and open competition contracts rather than small business set-asides to fuel their growth without so much worry from these issues. It is interesting to note that the NDIA focus on making it easier for small business to compete is where ReliAscent is involved. Russ Farmer of ReliAscent is the chairman of the committee working with the DCAA to resolve issues related to small business. If you have some issues, we would like to hear from you and Russ can take them to the committee and then to the DCAA for resolution. Let me know if you have some issues that you would like to see addressed. It is the mission of the NDIA, and a mission of ReliAscent.