House Small Biz Committee introduces more contracting reform legislation

Wednesday - 2/8/2012, 3:17pm EST

Lawmakers on the House Small Business Committee introduced three bipartisan bills Wednesday aimed at contracting reform.

The bills are part of a larger effort by the committee to increase small business contracting opportunities, boost transparency and give more power to small business advocates in the acquisition process, according to the committee website.

Size standards

Reps. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced the Protect American Small Businesses, which aims to ensure size standards for what defines a small business are appropriate to an industry.

The Small Business Administration has proposed to increase small business size standards for 20 industries, according to the SBA website.

Walsh gave one example how this proposal could make it more difficult for small businesses to compete with larger contractors. SBA has proposed increasing the size standard for architectural firms from $4.5 million to $7 million. "However, because SBA chose to group architects with engineers for the purposes of the size standards definition, SBA proposed increasing the standard to $19 million — a number which would have included 97.8 percent of all architecture firms, thereby allowing large businesses to compete as if they were small businesses."

Small business advocates

Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) introduced the Small Business Opportunity Act of 2012. The bill requires small business advocates to be part of the federal procurement and acquisition planning processes, according to the committee.

The bill would direct the SBA to assign a procurement center representative to attend meetings about a procurement. This person would have at least a Level III Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting or the equivalent in the Defense Department.

Also, no later than a year after enacting the bill, the Defense Acquisition University and Federal Acquisition Institute should each start providing a course on contracting requirements under the Small Business Act.

Mentor-Protege program

Reps. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced the Building Better Business Partnerships Act to allow the SBA to over mentor-protege programs for small businesses and "established mentors," according to the committee. The current program requires "unnecessary paperwork" due to duplication across 13 agency programs, according to the committee.

The bills were introduced within days of other contracting reform legislation. Last week, committee chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced a bill that would increase agencies' small contracting goal from 23 percent to 25 percent. Also, it would withhold the bonuses of senior officials of an agency that fails to reach its goals. Also, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has introduced a bill to increase subcontractor transparency.

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