OPINION: Small Businesses Need Greater Access to Federal Contracts - Southern Maryland Headline News

OPINION: Small Businesses Need Greater Access to Federal Contracts

By U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

Small business owners in Maryland are in a unique position. Because of our close proximity to the Nation’s Capital, many of them should have better opportunities for federal contracts. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Too many barriers exist for small, minority and women-owned businesses to do business with the federal government.

As a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I recently chaired a field hearing of the Committee at Bowie State University to highlight the problems small businesses have in obtaining federal contracts. Small business owners throughout the state attended the hearing, many testifying from personal experiences about the problems they encounter.

The problem of access is a serious one for small business owners. According to information released by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Bush Administration failed to meet any of its small business contracting goals for 2006. A recent analysis by the Senate Small Business Committee showed that at least six of the top 30 small business vendors doing business with the federal government in 2005 were actually large corporations. Last year, a House committee discovered that $12 billion in contracts that agencies claimed went to small businesses actually went to Fortune 500 companies.

I have co-sponsored the Small Business Revitalization Act, S. 2300, to create a friendlier business environment for small, minority and women-owned businesses. The Senate Small Business Committee recently voted unanimously for this measure. I am hopeful that the full Senate will consider it before the end of the year. The House also has passed a measure that would reform the small business contracting process.

Specifically, the Senate measure would:

-- Reduce the practice of contract bundling in which smaller contracts are “bundled” into larger deals, excluding small businesses;

-- Increase oversight and enforcement measures to ensure prime contractors are really using small and minority contractors;

-- Require that the net worth eligibility standard for the SBA’s small business development program be adjusted to inflation;

-- Require that the Government Accounting Office submit a report on the difficulties small businesses have in obtaining surety bonds; and,

-- Require that all federal agencies submit an annual report on the number and value of bundled contracts awarded to small businesses as prime contractors.

Small businesses are the economic engines that drive our economy. It is in our national interest to ensure they succeed. As a member of the Small Business Committee, I am committed to ensuring that many of the barriers preventing small, minority and women-owned businesses from accessing federal contracts are torn down.

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