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Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 3867, the Small Business Contracting Program Improvements Act.
This bill expands procurement opportunities for small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans, women entrepreneurs, and socially disadvantaged business owners. These firms remain under-represented in the Federal contracting marketplace and have yet to receive their fair share of Federal Government contracts.
H.R. 3867 assists small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans by requiring agencies to award sole-source contracts to these firms if they are identified as being capable of performing the contracts. These businesses currently receive less than one percent of Federal Government contracting dollars. Authorizing agencies to enter into sole-source contracts with service-disabled veteran-owned firms will raise the likelihood of these firms obtaining Federal contracts. Moreover, H.R. 3867 provides an inflationary adjustment to the limitation on contracts by increasing the size of available contracts awarded without competition to $5.1 million.
This bill directs the Small Business Administration, SBA, to comply with an Executive Order requiring the SBA to provide service-disabled veteran-owned companies with information and assistance on Federal contracting as well as assist other agencies in their strategies to expand contracting opportunities for them.
Passage of this bill is also important for our women-owned businesses. In 2000, Congress enacted the Women's Procurement Program to expand opportunities for Federal contracts to women business owners within industries in which they have been significantly under-represented. On behalf of women-owned businesses, the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce sued the SBA over the delay in implementing the program and won their lawsuit in 2005. Seven years after the Women's Procurement Program was enacted into law, however, the SBA has yet to establish regulations that would implement this vital program. I share Chairwoman VELÁZQUEZ's frustration with this delay and her admonishment to the SBA to remedy the situation.
H.R. 3867 requires the SBA to implement the Women's Procurement Program immediately. The bill makes economically disadvantaged women entrepreneurs eligible for restricted competition contracts and gives the SBA the authority to waive this requirement in industries that are substantially under-represented by women-owned businesses. Today, women-owned small businesses capture only about 3 percent of Federal small-business contracting dollars. We need this legislation to encourage women entrepreneurs to participate in the Federal contract marketplace.
H.R. 3867 expands and modernizes the 8(a) Business Development Program, which has not been amended since 1988. The 8(a) program currently assists over 9,000 small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, including about 200 firms in my State of Hawaii. H.R. 3867 makes two main improvements to this program: it provides for an inflationary increase in net worth limitations to a maximum of $550,000 for program participants and extends the duration of program participation from 9 to 10 years. Increasing the net worth ceiling will bring stronger firms into the 8(a) program.
Finally, I support this bill because it addresses contracting problems and increases oversight over unqualified businesses by setting standards that protect the integrity and consistency in application of contract assistance programs. H.R. 3867 mandates government-wide goals for procurement contracts awarded to small businesses. In addition, it requires the SBA to perform the necessary checks on program applicants and participants to confirm their business integrity and qualifications. This is important given recent findings by the SBA Inspector General of fraud and abuse in the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program.
Chairwoman VELÁZQUEZ has noted that the Federal Government failed to meet its small and minority business goals for a 6th year in a row, costing entrepreneurs $4.5 billion in lost opportunities. H.R. 3867 is another step in the right direction to help our small businesses, and I thank Chairwoman VELÁZQUEZ for her commitment and strong leadership in sponsoring this important legislation.
I urge my colleagues to support this measure.