Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) hailed the inclusion of her amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (S. 1390) to correct disparities among the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) small business contracting programs.

"The essence of true parity is where each program has an equal chance of competing and being selected for an award," said Ranking Member Snowe. "During these difficult economic times, it is imperative that small business contractors possess an equal opportunity to compete for federal contracts on the same playing field with each other. I thank Armed Services Committee Chair Levin and Ranking Member McCain for working so closely with me to ensure the adoption of this vital amendment."

The Snowe amendment makes clear that contracts to service-disabled veterans, 8(a), Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone), or women-owned firms may be awarded with equal deference to each program. This provision was also included in a previously adopted amendment that Senator Snowe offered with Senate Small Business Committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.). Another key provision in Senator Snowe’s amendment provides HUBZones – the only small business contracting program without a subcontracting goal – such a target. Finally, the measure authorizes mentor protégé programs modeled after those used in the 8(a) program for service-disabled veteran, HUBZone, and women-owned firms.

Notably, Senator Snowe has long championed efforts to bring true parity to the SBA’s contracting programs. In May, Senator Snowe filed an amendment to establish parity as part of the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 (S. 454). Unfortunately, that amendment was not adopted. Subsequently, on July 21, Senator Snowe introduced the Small Business Contracting Programs Parity Act (S. 1489) that mirrors her amendment the Senate adopted today.

Two GAO decisions released in September 2008 and May 2009 contradicted a long-standing SBA interpretation that the Agency’s procurement programs should be treated equally when it comes to awarding contracts. The decisions stated that the HUBZone program had preference over all other small business contracting programs. While the GAO’s rulings benefit HUBZone businesses, they come at the expense of other vital small business contracting programs. Accordingly, the amendment that was included today would provide equity for the SBA’s small business contracting programs.