Policy

At Long Last, the Government Is Poised to Meet Its Small Business Contracting Goal


Mazel tov, federal contracting officers: For the first time since 2005, the government appears set to reach its goal of awarding 23 percent of federal contracts to small businesses. According to the Small Business Dashboard posted at data.gov, the government gave $83.2 billion in contracts to small businesses in the year ended September 2013, good for 23.4 percent of total contracting dollars, up from 22.3 percent a year earlier.

Small business advocates have criticized the federal government for the way it crunches these numbers. The government excludes the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration from calculations, as well as contracts for goods sold overseas. When the Small Business Administration released its report card last year, Representative Sam Graves, the Missouri Republican who chairs the House Committee on Small Business, said small businesses actually won only 19.4 percent of federal contracts. “The alleged goal attainment is the product of some creative accounting which excludes many categories of federal spend,” says Albert Krachman, a lawyer who represents federal contractors at Blank Rome in Washington, D.C.

The current results on the Small Business Dashboard don’t guarantee that the government will beat its 23 percent target when the SBA publishes its annual score card later this year. The dashboard could be updated again before the SBA releases its assessment. An SBA spokeswoman didn’t immediately have a comment on the numbers.

Still, let’s give credit where credit is due: The SBA’s contracting report card has become an annual occasion for bashing the government for missing its small business goal. This year it seems like federal agencies, at least those included in small business contracting calculations, hit the collective mark. That won’t quiet the critics—for one thing, it looks like the government missed its goals for awarding contracts to women-owned small businesses. But topping 23 percent is an accomplishment worth acknowledging. After all, it’s been eight years since the government managed that much.

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek covering small business and entrepreneurship.

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