The Small Business Administration (SBA) helps small businesses gain access to federal contracting opportunities and helps socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses, known as 8(a) firms, by providing management and contracting assistance. SBA negotiates agency-specific goals to ensure that the federal government meets the statutory goal of awarding 23 percent of contract dollars to small businesses. GAO was asked to (1) describe how SBA sets small business contracting goals and the extent to which federal agencies met these goals; (2) examine the role of SBA staff in supporting small business contracting at selected federal agencies; and (3) examine SBA's overall administration of the 8(a) program. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed SBA guidance and SBA Inspector General (IG) reports, interviewed SBA and other federal officials, and conducted site visits and file reviews at four SBA locations.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Small Business Administration||1. To improve its administration of the prime contracting, subcontracting, and 8(a) business development programs, the Administrator of SBA should assess resources allocated for procurement center representative and commercial market representative functions and develop a plan to better ensure that these staff can carry out their responsibilities.|
|Small Business Administration||2. To improve its administration of the prime contracting, subcontracting, and 8(a) business development programs, and to better educate prospective applicants for the 8(a) program and maximize limited SBA resources during program tenure of participants, the Administrator of SBA should take additional steps to ensure that firms applying for the program understand its requirements, and have realistic expectations for participation. Such steps could include an education requirement, such as a seminar or assessment tool.|
|Small Business Administration||3. To improve its administration of the prime contracting, subcontracting, and 8(a) business development programs, and in acknowledgment of the competing demands for business development specialists to complete required annual reviews of 8(a) firms and support the mission of the 8(a) program--that is, develop and prepare small disadvantaged firms for procurement and other business opportunities-- the Administrator of SBA should (1) assess the workload of business development specialists to ensure they can carry out their responsibilities. As part of such an assessment, SBA could review the size of the 8(a) portfolio for all business development specialists and determine what mechanisms can be used to prioritize or redistribute their workload; (2) in a timely manner, develop and implement its proposed plan for creating tools that would assist in the provision of business development assistance for 8(a) firms; and (3) develop a timetable for planned changes to the termination process to ensure that staff monitoring 8(a) participants can carry out terminations from the program in a timely manner.|
|Small Business Administration||4. To improve its administration of the prime contracting, subcontracting, and 8(a) business development programs, and to increase the usefulness of surveillance reviews for the 8(a) program, the Administrator of SBA should update its guidance to incorporate regular reviews of 8(a) contracting in the scope of the reviews.|