WashingtonExec recently conducted a survey with Small Business CEOs asking what they thought needed fixing in regards to federal acquisition and procurement reform. First in the series is Moe Jafari, founder, president and CEO of HumanTouch, LLC. Jafari also previously interviewed with WashingtonExec.
Jafari told WashingtonExec he hopes acquisition reform leaders will:
1. Provide/Improve Guidance in Using Small Business Contracting Programs
2. Identify where focused efforts will likely have the most positive effect on increasing small business utilization in prime contracting: Bundling
Our current administration has made it clear that supporting small business is a primary goal. Reports show that small businesses are responsible for 65% to 75% of all new jobs. President Obama rightly seeks to ensure these job-providing entities are given the appropriate consideration in the federal contracting process.
Yet while there is common acknowledgement that the federal government is actively seeking to promote small business through contracting, the need still remains for improved training for small businesses and for acquisition workforce on small business contracting.
Small business need to understand the system, and contracting officers need guidance and training to ensure they are utilizing small business reservations for order against multiple award IDIQ contracts. Agencies can assist by explicitly limiting competition for these orders to small business. Doing so is effective in allowing small business prime contracting opportunities. Training is necessary to ensure that everyone has a common understanding of the expectations and how-to when it comes contracting with small business. Procurement had continued to require stricter paperwork requirements, creating an additional cost that small contractors cannot always tolerate. It is the responsibility of the contractor to understand federal regulations – that is a reasonable responsibility. However, rather than increasing administrative requirements, better training on both sides might provide a better solution.
The goal is to promote small business in selling goods and services in the government. Small business needs to be aware of opportunities in federal government and understand the rules and regulations so they can realistically capture these opportunities. If the government is going to open the door to small business, it must be done in a way that truly invites small business to enter.
There are two issues currently on the table that are contraindicative of encouraging small business participation in the Federal government. Bundling contracts can hurt small business. Federal contractors may see bundling as an opportunity to save costs and reduce workloads by seeking a bid that covers all parts of a project. However, unbundled contracts – breaking down the project into smaller parts so that more small companies can bid—creates more opportunity and encourages more competition—and competition is good. The government seeks the participation of small business to capture the creativity, innovation and technical expertise that we have to offer. Contracts need to be held to a reasonable size in order to generate more opportunities for small companies. By unbundling government contracts, it allows small business to have a chance for a successful bid. Contracting officials need to be aware of strategies to unbundle contracts and thereby mitigate the negative effects of contract bundling on small business.
Insourcing is another initiative that will harm small business. Insourcing seems at odds with the effort to encourage small business contracting and the creation thereof of new jobs. While in some cases insourcing may prove more cost-effective, as it stands, it may take more business and employees from small contractors that from large ones. It may also preclude the participation of emerging, promising small businesses and their promise of new job creation. Insourcing may be the right option for some tasks, but as an across-the-board policy, it is an obstacle to small business. The government could mitigate this by excluding small business from the insourcing policy.