WASHINGTON – Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates demanding details on the agency's continual shortfalls in meeting federally mandated procurement goals for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.

"America's service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs have selflessly sacrificed for our nation," said Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. "The very least their government can do is ensure a level playing field exists for them to compete for lucrative federal contracts, especially with the Department of Defense. Secretary Gates needs to clear the air and affirm once and for all the Defense Department is accountable to federal law."

Despite a 1999 law establishing the government-wide three percent contracting goal with service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, the Defense Department has never met this standard. In 2005 alone, the Department awarded an abysmally low 0.499 percent of contracts to service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. The agency accounts for roughly 70 percent of all government procurement spending, yet its repeated inability to meet service-disabled veteran contracting goals makes it all but impossible for the federal government as a whole to meet the three percent goal.

Kerry expressed concern about reports that Defense Department personnel are telling veterans that the agency is not beholden to the three percent contracting goal, and called on Gates to shed immediate light on the situation.

To read the letter Kerry sent to Secretary Gates, please click here.