Washington, D.C. – In response to last week’s United States Court of Federal Claims ruling that codified a Government Accountability Office (GAO) decision giving the HUBZone program preference over all other small business contracting programs, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) today reiterated her call for the Senate to pass legislation she introduced last year enacting true parity for all small business contractors.

“The essence of true parity is where firms within each program have 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.  Last week’s ruling highlights the critical need to enact small business contracting parity once and for all.”

Senator Snowe introduced the Small Business Contracting Programs Parity Act (S. 1489) on July 21, 2009, to make 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.  The bill also provides HUBZones – the only small business contracting program without a subcontracting goal – such a target, as well as authorizes mentor protégé programs modeled after those used in the 8(a) program for service-disabled veteran, HUBZone, and women-owned firms. 

In May 2009, 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.  A similar amendment was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (S. 1390), but was later stripped from the bill in conference.

Two GAO decisions released in September 2008 and May 2009 contradicted a long-standing Small Business Administration (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.