House subpoenas four agencies for small-business noncompliance

October 26, 2011 by

Four federal agencies were issued subpoenas by the House Small Business Committee on Oct. 20 for not complying with the Small Business Act’s procurement policies, according to a committee staffer.

The departments of Justice, Agriculture, Treasury and State were summoned to appear before the the Small Business subcommittee on contracting and workforce on Nov. 1 to testify why they are in noncompliance.

At issue is the “structure” of these agencies’ Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Offices (OSDBU) and “the fact that they are not reporting to the agency head or deputy head,” wrote Darrell Jordon, house committee spokesman, in an e-mail to Washington Technology.

OSDBUs were conceived in 1978 with the purpose of having federal agencies set aside contracts for small and disadvantaged businesses. The Small Business Act also has requirements that agencies report their procurement activities with small and disadvantaged businesses.

Justice, Agriculture, Treasury and State were warned of their missteps and given a chance to remedy the situation after a June Government Accountability Office small business contracting report found seven agencies not in compliance.

Following that report, letters to agencies were sent by subcommittee Chairman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC). As a result, the Interior Department and Social Security Administration are now in compliance, and a third, the Commerce Department, was pardoned due to an administrative issue.

In September, agencies were reminded of their noncompliance by memo and a hearing was held on Sept. 15 by the subcommittee to examine the GAO report and the economic impact of noncompliance.

As part of the subpoena procedure, the four agencies must produce a number of documents, including paperwork relating to their small business procurement programs, attainment of small business goals or challenges to decisions not to restrict competition to small business between Jan. 20, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2011.

About the Author: Alysha Sideman is an online content producer with 1105 Government Information Group.  Published by Washington Technology – Oct. 21, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/10/21/small-biz-committee-subpoenas.aspx

HUBZone changes could affect your business

October 6, 2011 by

The Small Business Administration’s HUBZone program helps small businesses gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities, both prime contracts and subcontracts.  If your business is located in a HUBZone — a Historically Underutilized Business Zoneyou could benefit.

Whether you are familiar with the HUBZone program or this is the first time you’ve heard of it, you need to know there are changes that have just taken place potentially affecting your eligibility.

On October 1, 2011, the areas of the country designated as HUBZones changed.  These changes are based on census tracts and the 2010 census data recently issued by the Commerce Department.  Contracting preferences can go to small businesses that maintain their “principal office” in one of these specially designated areas and employ people who live in a HUBZone.  After meeting these and other standards, a firm must apply for and be granted formal HUBZone certification by the SBA.

The SBA used to maintain a web site where businesses could view a map that displayed HUBZone locations across the country.  However, since census-based HUBZone designated areas just changed on October 1st, the on-line maps are not presently available.  Instead, a new on-line tool has been put in place where businesses can look up addresses to see if they are in a HUBZone.  The new look-up tool is located at: http://map0.sba.gov:82/gis/esri/hubzone/index.html.

With changes in the geographic areas that are and are not HUBZone eligible, many firms no longer qualify while presumably others will now qualify.  Whether you were previously HUBZone qualified or not, you should use the look-up tool in the previous paragraph to determine whether you potentially qualify.  Remember, a business address located within a designated HUBZone is only one step toward qualifying for HUBZone certification.  In order to qualify, at least 35 percent of a company’s employees also must live within HUBZones.  Thus, businesses should use the look-up tool to check employee home addresses as well.  A full description of all HUBZone certification requirements can be found at http://www.sba.gov/content/applying-hubzone-program.

The SBA currently is in the process of sending out letters to all HUBZone-certified companies asking them to re-verify their eligibility.  The SBA is telling these firms to use the look-up link and check addresses to determine whether they still qualify for the program.

Results from using the on-line look-up tool can be confusing.  For instance, if the look-up result shows that an address will be qualified “at least until June 1, 2011″ then the address is in a HUBZone that expired on October 1, 2011.  The reason for this is that the SBA originally projected the U.S. Census data release date to be June 1, 2011 and this date still appears within SBA’s HUBZone look-up tool.

While complex, participation in the HUBZone program could be worth your while.  If your business qualifies for the program, and you pursue SBA’s certification for HUBZone status, you could be the beneficiary of a restricted-competition HUBZone set-aside contract.

More information about all this is at http://www.sba.gov/content/notice-expiration-redesignated-hubzones-october-1-2011.  As always , if you need assistance at any point along the way, please contact the GTPAC Procurement Counselor nearest you; all contact information can be found at http://gtpac.org/team-directory.

– Compiled by the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center from information available through several SBA sources.

White House to buy office supplies in bulk to cut costs

September 27, 2011 by

The same week President Obama will unveil his proposal to cut the national deficit, his White House will begin its own efficiency efforts — starting with office supplies.

Hoping to trim $600 million in the next four years, several federal agencies and departments will start pooling their purchases of office printers, copiers, and scanners, administration officials told The Washington Post.   Starting this week, the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice,  and Treasury, as well as the Social Security Administration, are slated to begin  buying these items in bulk from 11 firms. The supplier list includes both larger companies like Canon and Lexmark, and some smaller, veteran- or  minority-owned suppliers, The Post reports.

This plan will also force departments to closely scrutinize their equipment stocks. “One of the things we’ve discovered is that agencies don’t have a clue what they have,” Dan Gordon, the Obama administration’s top federal contracting official, told The Post. “They don’t realize how many cellphones and BlackBerrys they have.”

Up next on the White House’s bulk-buying campaign: reining in spending on wireless service contracts. An additional $170 million could be saved annually if departments renegotiate their deals or merge several plans, according to Jeffrey Zients, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

– by Sara Sorcher - National Journal – September 19, 2011 – http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=48826&dcn=e_tma

Four departments resist call to comply with Small Business Act

September 23, 2011 by

Conflicting interpretations of agency internal reporting requirements in the Small Business Act have prompted a stalemate between four departments and congressional overseers examining the performance of programs designed to assure that small businesses get a fair share of federal contracting.

The Government Accountability Office in a report had found that seven agencies were not complying with the law’s requirement that the Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization in every department except Defense must report directly to the agency.

At a hearing Thursday with the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce, a GAO specialist reported that the State, Commerce, Treasury and Justice departments recently had declined requests that they comply.

Subcommittee Chairman Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., told the hearing that a failure to comply presents a clear conflict of interest and is “completely unacceptable . . .  President Obama says that ‘small business contracting should always be a high priority in the procurement process,’ but his administration disregards the basic protections for small business contractors,” Mulvaney said. “Instead of just lip service, he should make sure his administration is following the law in regards to small business requirements.”

OSDBUs were created in 1978 to help reserve some federal contracts for for-profit small business concerns in which socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least a 51 percent interest and manage and control daily business operations. Concretely, they seek to make sure that the tendency of contracting officers to bundle contracts for larger contractors does not exclude the disadvantaged. Reporting directly to an agency’s leader rather than only to its contracting officers is considered essential to fair consideration of contract awards, and more than half the agencies GAO surveyed said their OSDBUs report only to the agency head.

On Sept. 9, Small Business Administrator Karen Mills sent a memo to all agency heads asking them to comply. “Open and direct communication between the OSDBU director and the secretary, deputy secretary or their equivalent is paramount to ensure that small businesses receive the maximum practicable opportunity to compete for and win federal contracts that allow them to grow their businesses and create jobs,” she wrote.

GAO’s June report said seven noncomplying agencies also were out of compliance in 2003. They include Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Justice, State, Treasury and the Social Security Administration. In August, Mulvaney sent letters to the noncomplying agencies asking them to respond by Aug. 31 about how they “intend to rectify the reporting relationship.”

William Shear, director of financial markets and community investments at GAO, explained at the hearing that Commerce and Justice disagreed that they’re not in compliance, while State and Treasury made a legal argument that they are free to delegate the authority for how OSDBUs report.

Shear told Government Executive that Agriculture didn’t reply, Interior sent a letter saying it will comply, and SSA promised to comply but hasn’t followed up with documentation.

Claims by Commerce and Justice that they are in compliance, Shear said at the hearing, “don’t fit the fact pattern” obtained when auditors interviewed the OSDBUs about interaction with agency heads. He said GAO found evidence of tension and frustration at  OSDBUs in agencies that were not complying because contracting offices are not always fulfilling their needs. “But some tension is healthy,” Shear said. He noted that there are no sanctions for noncomplying agencies.

Ranking member Judy Chu, D-Calif., agreed with the call for compliance at the hearing, which also dealt with mentor-protégé programs and SBA’s performance on data on its procurement center representatives. “Failure to comply with this requirement not only shows a callous disregard for the law, but also shortchanges small businesses that end up suffering the consequences of OSDBU’s diminished agency standing,” she said.

A spokesman for Commerce, Kevin Griffis, told Government Executive that “the department is in compliance with the law, and both its record and the progress being made to continue to improve its performance speak for themselves. In 2010, the Small Business Administration, in its Small Business procurement score card, awarded the department a grade of ‘A’ for its procurement practices — up from the previous year’s ‘C.’

Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona said in an email that the department “fully supports the mission of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. Consistent with the Small Business Act, department regulations provide that the director report directly to the deputy attorney general. Although OSDBU is located within the department’s Justice management division for administrative purposes, the director still reports to the deputy attorney general on substantive matters.”

Mulvaney said he plans to hold another hearing on OSDBUs and invite agency heads or senior officials from noncomplying agencies, adding, “They won’t enjoy it.”

– by  Charles S. Clark - Government Executive – September 16, 2011 at http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=48818&dcn=e_gvet

Georgia Tech wins cooperative agreement to operate MBDA Business Center

May 6, 2011 by

We are pleased to announce that the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute has been awarded the U.S. Department of Commerce’s cooperative agreement to operate the MBDA Business Center, representing the third consecutive funding cycle for this program.

Georgia Tech has been operating the Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) Minority Business Enterprise Center (MBEC) since 2004 when it competed and won the first cooperative agreement.  Since its establishment, the Center has helped minority businesses in Georgia create more than 3,200 jobs and generate over $400 million in finance, contracts and sales.

Under this new award, the Center’s name has been changed to the MBDA Business Center (MBC).  The MBC’s location and contact information remain the same.  However, please note the change in the website address below:

MBDA Business Center (MBC)
75 5th Street, NW, Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30308
Telephone:   404-894-2096
Fax:  404.894-9184
Website: www.georgiambc.org

Want to meet government buyers? Albany, GA is the place to be on Feb. 22nd!

February 15, 2011 by

Ever heard of “speed dating” where couples are matched for short periods of time to see if the chemistry is right?

Well, through a unique event on February 22, the same principle is being applied – EXCEPT it involves matches between local businesses, government agencies, and prime contractors.

If you want the opportunity to meet with buyers from local, state and federal agencies, you can’t afford to miss this event!

On Tuesday, February 22nd, the Albany (GA) Civic Center is the place to put your best marketing techniques to work.  You’ll get a chance to meet with — and present your capabilities to — decision-makers and buyers from representatives of local, state, and federal government agencies, including the State of Georgia, the University System of Georgia, the Georgia Dept. of Corrections, the City of Albany, the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, the Marine Corps Command, the IRS, the General Services Administration, and the federal departments of Commerce, Interior, and Juvenile Justice – among others scheduled to be in attendance.

Along with 15-minute one-on-one meetings with buyers and contracting officials, attendees will have a chance to attend briefings on each of these topics:

  • Business Communications, Elevator Pitches and Capability Statements
  • Reading and Responding to Bid Solicitations
  • The Do’s and Don’ts of Government Contracting
  • Government Market Research
  • SBA’s New Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification Program

The featured luncheon speaker for this very special day is Ms. Pat Hanes, Regional Director of the Atlanta National Enterprise Center with the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Coffee and informal networking begins at 8:00 am.  The day’s program begins at 9:00 am and runs until 3:00 pm.

This event is completely free, so register now!  Simply click here to register and then hit the “Sign Up” button.

Minority business lands multimillion dollar grant with Georgia Tech’s assistance

January 18, 2011 by

With assistance from the Georgia Minority Business Enterprise Center (GMBEC), a team of African American-owned telecommunication businesses in Atlanta partnered to win a highly competitive $59 million Department of Commerce grant to provide a broadband communication network to a substantial portion of a rural, eight-county region in central Alabama.

The team, made up of primary partners Trillion Communications Corporation, A2D Inc. and A-Plus Community Solutions, won a contract that will not only create jobs, but expand access to broadband in underserved communities. Through construction of a 2,200-mile network to augment existing facilities, the project will ultimately enhance the communities’ ability to bring high-speed telemedicine, distance learning, access to web-based legal assistance, and better 911 services to residents in this region, among other benefits.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency and operated by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, GMBEC helps emerging and existing minority businesses experience significant growth and sustainability and generate long-term economic impact through the creation of jobs and revenue. Along with the Minority Business Development Agency and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, GMBEC held a vendor fare for minority business enterprises that included a technical workshop and information on how to put a proposal package together.

Donna Ennis, GMBEC project director, worked with Trillion to develop and edit the proposal, assist with marketing and procurement, and implement the project. At GMBEC, Ennis is responsible for the strategic direction, marketing and outreach, and operations of the GMBEC and assists clients with strategic, business and market planning; marketing research and communications; public and private procurement, finance and operations; and business process improvement.

“I am thankful for Donna Ennis and the Georgia Minority Business Enterprise Center. They are admired and respected for their work ethic and professionalism. I am indebted to them for their support and counsel provided during the preparation of Trillion’s Infrastructure application,” noted Ralph E. Brown, CEO of Trillion Communications Corporation. “They successfully hosted the region-wide Vendor Workshop where Trillion secured corporate and community partnerships that helped us assemble and fortify a winning project. I could not have succeeded in our endeavor without Donna’s willingness to review our proposals, provide guidance and resources, as well as counsel and advice during the project implementation phase.”

Trillion Communications will serve as the grant awardee, fiduciary and program manager for the grant released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (RUS). An extra $25 million will come from private investors. In addition to creating broadband access, the MBDA projects the award opportunity will extend to 25 additional MBEs and service the impacted communities for the next 20 years.

“This will make a difference in the community,” said Brown. “It impacts eight counties, 1,000 businesses and community anchors including public libraries and institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 80,000 households, as well as the Poarch Creek Tribal Nation..”

The Trillion team will design, construct and install a next generation broadband infrastructure which will then be transferred to the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC), where it will eventually be expanded across the region. A2D Inc. will serve as SCABC’s long-term operator of the eCommunity Broadband Network.

The e-Community Broadband Network will link anchor institutions such as schools, libraries, and health care facilities together, as well as provide the means for small businesses to expand their markets and help stimulate new business development. It will also enhance public safety services by creating an interoperable network among public safety agencies. For those who can’t afford fee-based broadband services from commercial providers, eCommunity will also enable community organizations, anchor institutions and governmental agencies to offer free or subsidized intranet-based broadband access directly to vulnerable populations they already serve.

Funding for the project is made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed in 2009 by President Obama, which included approximately $7.2 billion to expand broadband access and adoption in communities across the United States. It also means an increase in jobs, more investments in technology and infrastructure and long-term economic benefits.

For more information on GMBEC services offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, contact Donna Ennis (404-894-2096); E-mail: (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@sinne.annod); Web site: (http://www.georgiambec.org/).

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contacts: Nancy Fullbright (912-963-2509 ); E-mail: (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@thgirblluf.ycnan) or John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright – Jan. 7, 2011

SETAAC helps Brunswick manufacturer improve marketing and customer relations

November 19, 2010 by

Dave Erickson, president and CEO of Haven Manufacturing, says the metal tube processing machines that his company makes is ubiquitous to manufacturers in a number of industries – automotive, furniture, construction and exercise equipment, to name a few. However, the widespread need for Haven’s products put the Brunswick, Ga. manufacturer’s customers squarely in the bull’s eye for foreign competitors.

“If you start thinking about everything you’ve seen with tubes in it – automotive airbags and seat frames, indoor and outdoor furniture, construction equipment and scaffolding, bicycles and scooters – you realize how expansive it is,” Erickson explained. “There’s really quite a variety to our customer base. And even though we were not directly affected by foreign trade, many of our customers were and still are.”

Haven manufactures tube processing machines, including the dual-blade shear cutoff, supported shear cutoff, secondary finishing machines and a new flying shear tube cutting machine that delivers high-quality, dimple-free cuts for tube forming mills. The company was founded in 1956 in New Haven, Mich., and moved to coastal Georgia in 1971, where it currently employs 29 people.

To address the issue of foreign competition, Erickson applied for support from the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), a program based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute that helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to better compete with imports. SETAAC director Marla Gorges conducted an initial review of Haven and helped the company prepare an application for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Once the company was approved for funding, she developed an adjustment plan that detailed projects to receive funding support, including assistance in marketing and sales, web site development and customer relationship management.

“Our number one challenge was figuring out what to do and what would be the biggest bang for our buck,” recalled Erickson. “One of the first things we thought of was building up our brand. We used a creative team in Atlanta to develop a new eye-catching, yet simple, logo. That started the whole brand imaging concept, from logo to web site to search engine optimization.”

Haven has also increased the effectiveness of its web site, taking into account the company’s sales and conversion rates, lead generation, landing page effectiveness and the amount of time customers spend on the site. According to Erickson, this is a major improvement over Haven’s prior web site, which was not designed to be optimized for searching.

“Being in a global market – and Haven is very involved in international trade – it is very important to have exposure. If you don’t have the exposure, you don’t get the inquiries,” he said. “Our international inquiries and even our domestic opportunities have increased substantially over the last couple of years.”

Last year Haven formed a strategic alliance with SOCO Machinery Co., Ltd. of Taiwan to sell and service each company’s respective lines of tube cutting equipment. Erickson said the partnership provides Haven an outstanding opportunity to grow within the Asian markets, while SOCO’s growth in the U.S. market is enhanced through Haven’s broad market knowledge and reputation. Haven will have exclusive U.S. rights to sell SOCO’s line of automated tube saws, solid bar saws and tube and bar machining centers, while SOCO will represent Haven in China and Southeast Asia for its line of dual-blade and supported shear tube cutting machines.

To increase sales, the SETAAC plan also focused on launching a new prototype, updating factory sales support communications and designing a new product process for end-finishing equipment.

“In general, this has opened us up to new companies and industries that we had not worked with before. That alone says that our customer base is expanding,” Erickson said.

Firms that are accepted into the SETAAC program pay for 25 percent of the initial diagnostic visit and adjustment plan. The Department of Commerce generally pays half of the cost of project implementation for activities to benefit the company. Private sector consultants submit quotes for implementing the identified projects and the company chooses which consultant to hire to execute the outlined changes.

“With Marla’s guidance and input, we were approved for the SETAAC funding, something we wouldn’t have been able to do without her,” Erickson said. “This has been a great experience and I would recommend Georgia Tech to anyone.”

About the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center:

The Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta, helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to compete better with imports. Last year, SETAAC helped more than 30 companies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. On average, these companies received $42,000 in matching funds. In the last three years, SETAAC’s clients have increased sales by 26 percent and improved productivity by 28 percent. Over the past five years, 49 SETAAC clients reported sales increases of more than $39 million and productivity improvements of more than 43 percent.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contacts: Nancy Fullbright (912-963-2509 ); E-mail: (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@thgirblluf.ycnan) or John Toon (404-894-6986 ); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

White House boosts effort to keep fake products out of procurement

October 4, 2010 by

The White House has created an interagency working group to stop counterfeit goods from entering the supply chains that support Defense Department weapons systems and private sector electronic goods, the nation’s first intellectual property czar said on Tuesday.

“The implications of DoD procuring counterfeit goods are negative and obvious,” said Victoria Espinel, the U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator at the Office of Management and Budget. “Our understanding is that this is a problem that a number of our agencies are struggling with.”

Espinel made her comments at an event hosted by the nonpartisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, before the start of a panel discussion on strengthening enforcement of IP rights in countries that systematically extort intellectual property. Congress created the IP coordinator position in 2008, to respond to concerns that government agencies responsible for protecting intellectual property were not coordinating.

This summer, the White House issued a joint strategic plan to combat IP theft that called for establishing a governmentwide working group to study how to reduce the risk of agencies procuring counterfeit parts. The framework stated the task force should include representatives from the National Security Council, Defense, NASA, General Services Administration, Commerce Department, Small Business Administration and Homeland Security Department.

A January 2010 Commerce survey found that nearly 40 percent of entities across the procurement supply chain discovered counterfeit electronics between 2005 and 2008. The semiconductor industry has aired concerns that counterfeit chips mislabeled as military-grade can lead to fatal malfunction in military and aerospace parts, according to the White House’s strategic plan.

On Tuesday, Espinel observed the IP problem is one issue where there is consensus in Congress. “I feel very lucky to be working in an area where there is great bipartisan support,” she said. Democratic Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Sherrod Brown of Ohio in an Aug. 6 letter to Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, expressed fear about the potential for counterfeit parts to delay military missions and seriously affect the integrity of weapons systems.

The senators’ letter referenced the Commerce study and a March Government Accountability Office report that found Defense did not have specific procedures for detecting and preventing counterfeit parts from infiltrating the supply chain.

China, the country most frequently identified as the source of counterfeit items, should be treated with “a carrot-and-stick approach,” Espinel said. “China is both an economically sensitive issue and a political sensitive issue.”



– by Aliya Sternstein - 09/28/10 – NextGov.com – © 2010  NATIONAL JOURNAL GROUP, INC., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BP oil spill proves fertile ground for procurement

September 15, 2010 by

The oil has stopped seeping into the Gulf of Mexico, but federal spending in response to Deepwater Horizon disaster still is flowing.

As of Aug. 31, federal agencies have spent nearly $126 million in contracts to respond and recover from the April 20 BP oil spill, according to governmentwide procurement data.

Those figures are an estimate, as several federal procurement offices have relocated to the Gulf Coast and do not have access to their normal contract writing systems, making it difficult to populate the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation with updated contract information, according to a note attached to the data.

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been the largest federal spender, issuing more than $55 million in contracts. The spending includes contracts for the lease of small ships; commercial fishing equipment and electronic measuring instruments to check oil content.

The Environmental Protection Agency was the second biggest customer, with $23 million in contracts, generally for supplies and services to remove and dispose of oil.

The Homeland Security Department, meanwhile, has issued $21 million in contracts — almost exclusively on behalf of the Coast Guard — for a host of needs, including laundry trailers, waste treatment and helicopter flights. Among the contracts FEMA issued was a $129,000 award for armed guard services in Louisiana to Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. of Pasadena, Calif. A supervisor at the private security company said the contract was to guard a trailer, but she did not have any additional details.

BP likely will pick up the bill for the contract spending. In July, the White House issued a governmentwide memo directing agencies to document all costs and spending “that can be reasonably related to the oil spill.” The memo, which applies to past and future costs, urged agencies to categorize all spending to “preserve options for cost recovery and reimbursement.”

“The government has billed us already for some of its spending and we have reimbursed the amount,” a BP spokesperson told Government Executive. The company said it did not have a running tally for the entire amount in contracting costs that it has repaid the government.

In total, 11 federal departments have issued contracts in response to the oil spill. But it is not clear yet if taxpayer funds were well spent. More than 19 percent of the contracts — more than $24 million — either were not competed or were not available for competition, according to the procurement data. Agencies typically cited the urgency of the contract or the uniqueness of the source.

Small businesses have played a significant role in the contracting efforts, receiving close to $35 million in Gulf Coast contracts, or 27.6 percent of the total costs. The annual federal small business contracting goal, which the government has repeatedly missed, is 23 percent.

Service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses have earned the most in Gulf Coast-related contracts among the socioeconomic subcategories, taking in $4.4 million in contracts. On the other hand, small businesses located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones have been a virtual nonfactor, with only $426,000 in contracts — or 0.3 percent of the total contract spending.

The government has a history of responding to significant domestic and international incidents through investments in federal contracting. Agencies issued nearly $19 billion in contracts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to procurement data. Most recently, the government spent $141 million on recovery and relief contracts in Haiti following the devastating earthquake last January.

A new threat arose on Thursday when an offshore oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico caught fire, forcing 13 workers to jump into the water. Mariner Energy, the oil and gas producer which owns the platform, said all the employees were safe and uninjured. It is not yet clear if oil from the platform is leaking into the gulf.

– by Robert Brodsky – GovExec.com – September 2, 2010