|Recommendations to the 111th Congress and the Presidential Transition Team|
There have been many challenges set before minority owned businesses who seek to do business with the federal government. The first of recent challenges began in the mid-1990’s with the “Reinventing Government” campaign that shifted much procurement activity to bundled packages. This brought in an atmosphere where small, especially minority businesses, could no longer compete for prime contracts and were excluded from subcontracting.
There were some federal agencies such as Defense and Treasury that no longer put emphasis on Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDB’s) and 8a firms. Treasury Secretary Rubin told me to my face that he did not approve of affirmative action. Secretary Summers, his successor, felt the same and attempted a race neutral concept known as BusinessLinc. It was a disaster as all race neutral programs are.
Transportation Secretary Slater gutted the civil rights staffing for the Federal Highway Administration beginning in the late 1990’s. He changed rigid goals for waivers and the state recipients of highway funds were able to downgrade any minority business programs such as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. Fraud with the DBE program became rampant with the Federal Aviation Authority via store ownership at airports. The Federal Highway Administration even canceled Executive Order 11246 (attached) which was the start of affirmative action initiated by President John F. Kennedy. How this was legally done is still beyond me. One thing is certain: Black business participation and the hiring of Black workers within the authority of the Federal Highway Administration have been all but eliminated.
8a volume with the federal government started dropping at the rate of $1 billion per year beginning with FY1996. If you pull Alaska Native Corporations from those numbers you will find that the decline has not stopped.
The Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) has become for the most part a “joke” in terms of effectiveness and authority (with the exception of HUD). There was such a lack of oversight that the widely publicized “Mentor/Protégé Program” became a criminal operation. The DOD OSDBU who was in charge of this program is now serving a 24 year prison term in maximum security for soliciting major bribes.
The Office of Management and Budget has become no friend of minority business. Every time there is an “emergency” such as 9/11, Iraq War, Katrina, Bailout, etc. the first thing OMB does is declare a waiver from the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and eliminates affirmative action. There is lip service but no true effort at diversity.
When the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc. was formed the SBA had an annual budget of about $900 million. Today, that budget is about $470 million. It has been emaciated and there is no viable operation out in the field. We embedded our activity in the Gulf Coast Rebuilding for the last three years. We have yet to see an employee of the SBA in the state of
A Model to Emulate –
There has been one “shining star” amongst this mass of neglect and discrimination. The US Department of HUD under Secretary Alphonso Jackson has shown that success in diversity is quite possible with just a true commitment. In just one administration, this large federal agency became the leader in contractual performance with small, minority business (SDB and 8a). How did he do it?
The first thing was to remove the career employee at the OSDBU office and replace him with a political hire. One whose commitment to the mission and loyalty to management was apparent. He then empowered this new OSDBU with direct access to the Secretary himself. All (ALL!) contracts had to be reviewed by the OSDBU for compliance. The OSDBU had veto power on any contract that did not meet the commitment level of the Secretary. Only the Secretary himself could override the OSDBU veto. It did not take the procurement department long to realize that a commitment to diversity was a requirement for all working at HUD. HUD began to scrub the 8a portfolio and communicate with these businesses.
It was beautiful to see on the HUD website procurement opportunities that were populated with SDB set asides and 8a set asides particularly in the Request for Proposal (RFP) category. This was perfectly legal with professional service contracts. NBCC members were totally invigorated in this new pool of opportunity and actively participated.
In addition, HUD orchestrated many procurement fairs and workshops around the nation in its outreach to minority business. The results were amazing. HUD now leads the federal government in small business participation, SDB business participation and 8a business participation. All it takes is an organized commitment and courage from the top.
Recommendations for Change –
I could go on and on but the above would be a fantastic start to the Change we all look forward to. The NBCC has 151 chapters throughout the