Alaska U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich today asked the Obama administration to clarify that a recent federal circuit court ruling on the Small Disadvantaged Business program at the Defense Department does not apply to Alaska Native Corporations, 8a and other such small business set-aside categories.
In November 2008 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the Small Disadvantaged Business program at the Department of Defense is unconstitutional, and the case resulted in an injunction on the statute governing the program.
In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, Murkowski and Begich asked the administration to issue "government-wide guidance" to clarify that the federal court ruling has no effect on programs that benefit small businesses owned by Alaska Natives, Native Americans, veterans, handicapped individuals or businesses operated in HUBZones, which provide federal contracting opportunities for qualified small businesses located in distressed areas. These programs are governed by different federal statutes than the law that governs the Small Disadvantaged Business program at the Defense Department.
"Confusion among federal contracting agencies regarding the applicability of the (court) ruling has adversely affected the small business contracting programs mentioned above," the senators wrote.
In March, the Army Corps of Engineers issued guidance to its contracting personnel clarifying that the federal ruling doesn't apply to the small businesses owned by Alaska Natives and the other groups mentioned above.
Murkowski and Begich said that the type of guidance issued by the Army Corps is required for all federal agencies to ensure that the court decision is not erroneously applied to socioeconomic programs not affected by the case.