Small business, hazing top NDAA wishlist for lawmakers

Lawmakers appealed to the House Armed Services Committee for a bill to help small business contractors in hopes it could tag along to the traditional success of the Defense authorization bill.

Six lawmakers testified before the committee March 1 to urge members to fold the Defending America’s Small Contractors bill of 2016 into the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2017 (NDAA).

The inclusion of the small business bill into the defense authorization bill would dramatically increase its chances of passage, considering the NDAA has been passed 55 years in a row.

The testimony was part of the committee’s member day, which lets other representatives make requests for provisions in the NDAA.

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The Armed Services Committee wrapped some of the small business 2015 recommendations in the 2016 NDAA.

The committee is expected to release the 2017 NDAA bill in April.

The small business legislation, reported out of the House Small Business Committee in January, is aimed at helping these firms compete in the federal bid process.

“It modernizes the Small Business Act to ensure that the language used is clear and consistent across federal procurement programs … It strengthens the small business advocates in [the Small Business Administration], DoD and other federal agencies to promote competition and ensure the laws on the books including the NDAA are followed,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).

Chabot said the bill also improves opportunity for small businesses to compete for subcontracts and improves coordination between SBA and DoD mentorship-protégé programs.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), the Small Business Committee’s ranking member, also spoke in favor of the bill and stated that it increased transparency and competition while eliminating barriers to the marketplace.

Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) seemed open to the idea of using at least some parts of the bill in the NDAA.

“I think the sense we have, just as the both of you have testified, is it’s getting harder and harder especially for small businesses to do business with the Department of Defense and that’s why our committee on a bipartisan basis is so focused on trying to improve the way the Department of Defense acquires goods and services, and the bill that you all have introduced and passed out of committee is certainly something we want to take a serious look at,” Thornberry said.

DoD’s most recent Small Business Procurement Scorecard, which rates fiscal 2014, gives the department an “A” for its contracting with small businesses.

The scorecard stated 23.5 percent of prime contracts, about $54.3 billion worth, were with small businesses, which is above the department goal of 21.35 percent.

DoD did not meet its goal of using small businesses for 36.7 percent of subcontracts and only mustered 33.2 percent for 2014.

SBA is expected to release the fiscal 2015 small business scorecard on March 2.

Other lawmakers lobbied the Armed Services Committee for specific provisions in the bill.

Del. Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa) asked for the Government Accountability Office to examine the extent to which SBA personnel report to the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development.

Radewagen hopes GAO can investigate if efficiencies can be found in the certification of procurement and business development programs by creating a single unit for certification processes.

Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) was in favor of a provision for a higher threshold for farms and ranches to be considered small businesses. Since farming is a thin margin industry, some family farms have conglomerated into multi-family farms, making them ineligible for small business perks, Bost said.

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of the small business bill becoming law.

The American Small Business League sent out a Feb. 24 release that stated “Fortune 500 firms and many of the largest firms in the world will continue to be allowed to receive billions in federal small business contracts” if the bill was passed.

The release points to GAO studies and SBA reports where large businesses have used loopholes to take advantage of small business programs.

ASBL said the bill does not take any action to close the loopholes or discourage abuse.

Hazing

While small business talk took up a majority of the time during the hearing, other issues found their way into the fray.

The House Armed Services Committee has added provisions to the NDAA about hazing in the military for the past four years, Thornberry said.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), whose son committed suicide after being hazed in the military, urged the committee to include language to ensure anti-hazing policies are implemented, require better training to identify and respond to hazing and to evaluate the presence of hazing in the services.

Chu advocated for previous hazing legislation before the committee.

Thornberry said the committee would “certainly consider” her recommendations.