U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Aida Alvarez May 6 took a major step to make the 8(a) business development program stronger and better for the 21st century by signing "delegation of authority" agreements with 25 federal agencies that will substantially streamline the program's contracting process, according to a release from the SBA.
SBA's 8(a) program helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete for federal contracts. Up to now, SBA has acted as "middle man" when federal agencies contracted with 8(a) firms for goods and services.
Now, following a successful pilot project between the Department of Transportation and SBA, the agencies will work more directly with 8(a) firms, the release stated.
"Today's action makes good sense and will help our small businesses grow," stated Vice President Al Gore in the May 6 release. "These are the kinds of straightforward, easy-to-use government services the American people want."
"This agreement represents 'reinventing government' at its best," said SBA's Alvarez. "It makes 8(a) contracting easier, and it will make the 8(a) program stronger and better. SBA can now devote more time and resources to business-development services for 8(a) firms. It's a big win-win for the 8(a) business community and for the federal government."
Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said the SBA-DOT pilot program has worked well. "The immediate and most visible benefit has been a major reduction in the time required to award these contracts," Slater said in the release. "DOT obligated $28 million in FY97 using the streamlined contracting process. The face value of the contracts was significantly higher. Approval time for agency offers for sole-source awards has generally been reduced from several weeks to five days."
In a related announcement, SBA reported that the 8(a) program accounted for $6.4 billion in federal contracting for fiscal year 1997, or nearly 3.5 percent of overall federal procurement.
"This is the third consecutive year that 8(a) contracting has achieved this level. That's a significant achievement at a time when the federal government is getting smaller and buying less," Administrator Alvarez said.
The SBA's 8(a) program, named for a section of the Small Business Act, is a business development initiative that helps socially and economically disadvantaged American citizens gain access to the economic mainstream.
More than 6,000 firms currently participate, and they employ nearly 179,000 workers. By law, the SBA must function as an intermediary for 8(a) contracts, but can delegate its authority through special agreements.
The agencies signing delegation of authority agreements with the SBA are:
Agency for International Development
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Defense
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of the Interior
Department of Justice
Department of Labor
Department of State
Department of Treasury
Department of Veterans Affairs
Environmental Protection Agency
Executive Office of the President
Federal Emergency Management Agency
General Services Administration
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Archives and Records Administration
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Office of Personnel Management
Social Security Administration
United States Information Agency