In FY14, Uncle Sam Breaks Record for Small Business Contracting

This past Friday at the Pentagon, SBA released its annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard, and I was delighted to report that in Fiscal Year 2014 the federal government awarded the highest percentage of contracting dollars to small businesses since we started keeping score nearly two decades ago.

Back in 1997, Congress set a 23 percent statutory goal for federal contracts awarded to small firms. In FY14, 24.99 percent of federal contracts were awarded to small businesses totaling $91.7 billion. The record achievement supported more than 550,000 jobs in our economy.

While there were a lot of heroes in this scorecard, it was the Department of Defense's outstanding progress that allowed us to reach this plateau. DoD is, by far, the most important federal agency when it comes to meeting our overall small business procurement goals. In FY14, the department accounted for about 2 out of every 3 dollars deemed small business-eligible. DoD awarded 23.5 percent of its prime contracts to small firms - the highest percentage in its history - earning its first-ever "A" in the scorecard.

Special credit goes to Undersecretary Frank Kendall and leadership up and down the chain of command. DoD set a new standard in identifying small business defense acquisition opportunities through market research, competition and subcontracting. And DoD contracting officers conducted unprecedented outreach through initiatives such as "Better Buying Power."

The entire federal acquisition workforce deserves credit for raising their game, including contracting officers, procurement executives, and employees in agencies' Offices of Small Business Programs. They worked hard and smart to lift small businesses in communities across America.

For FY14, SBA awarded 3 grades of A+ to the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Agency for International Development. Additionally, five agencies met or exceeded all of their small business prime goals in every category: DHS, USDA, Treasury, Transportation, and SBA.

In addition to the overall achievement, the federal government also broke three other records in FY14:

• Small disadvantaged businesses (goal: 5 percent) - Agencies awarded 9.5 percent of federal contracts to economically and social disadvantaged underserved small businesses - nearly doubling our goal.

• Small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans (goal: 3 percent) - Agencies awarded 3.7 percent of federal contracts to firms owned by these heroes.

• Women-owned businesses (5 percent) - Agencies awarded nearly 4.7 percent of federal contracts to firms owned by women. While this record-breaking performance fell just shy of the goal, next year I believe we'll meet it because of new tools like sole-source authority currently being implemented by SBA.

These achievements are also the result of tougher accountability for agencies to meet their goals. President Obama, Vice President Biden and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett have all convened high-level meetings to emphasize the importance of small business procurement to our recovery. Their engagement paid enormous dividends.

Friday's announcement was a red-letter day for our government and underscores our ongoing commitment to use procurement to help small businesses hire and grow.