Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC) President Chuck Spence appeared before the U.S. House Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce last week, testifying as part of the Hearing, “Hotline Truths: Issues Raised by Recent Audits of Defense Contracting.” Spence is Deputy Director of the Utah Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).
The hearing focused on Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (DoD OIG) reports that two key Marine Corps commands failed to meet their legally-mandated requirements for small business subcontracting plans, as part of the subcommittees efforts to help small firms better compete for contracts with DoD, providing value to the taxpayer and quality to the warfighter.
“The Small Business Act contains important protections for small companies that provide services to our men and women in uniform,” said Subcommittee Chairman Richard Hanna (R-NY). “Existing law ensures that we have a vibrant community of small contractors ready to provide innovative and cost effective solutions. However, if the statutory provisions of the Small Business Act are not observed, those benefits are lost.”
“The Marine Corps’ documented failure to comply with statutory requirements concerning the approval and oversight of small business subcontracting plans has resulted in significant harm to the small business community. Continued failure to provide mandatory oversight of small business subcontracting plans has real consequences,” Hanna added.
In his testimony, Spence confirmed that such oversight failures present a real problem. “We are not surprised by the OIG findings in response to Defense Hotline allegations. On the contrary, we suspect that the problems identified – lack of adequate policies for requiring subcontracting plan submissions and reports, insufficient training for contracting officials regarding their responsibilities for evaluating and administering subcontracting plans, and failure to monitor compliance with subcontracting plans – are common across all federal agencies, because the root causes are not unique.” He cited an unrealistic overreliance on contracting officers with insufficient resources to effectively enforce subcontracting compliance, as well as an inadequate disincentives for prime contractors, noting that no firm has been penalized for failure to comply in many years.
However, Spence went on to commend the House Small Business Committee for their efforts to tackle the problems, stating “We applaud Chairman Chabot, Ranking Member Velázquez, and the House Small Business Committee for the ambitious effort to address these issues through HR. 4341, The Defending America’s Small Contractors Act of 2016. The bill’s comprehensive approach to clarifying the language and definitions of contracting provisions in the Small Business Act – as well as promoting greater transparency in goaling and accountability in execution – is much needed.”
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) are deeply engaged with subcontracting issues, helping small businesses identify subcontracting opportunities, connect with and market to prime contractors, and generally become responsible, “procurement ready” subcontractors, as well as assisting large prime contractors with developing subcontracting plans and locating small business vendors that can meet their requirements. In 2014, PTACs helped over 57,000 small businesses win government contracts and subcontracts valued at over $12 billion. APTAC is the professional organization of the 98 PTACs nationwide.