Mr. Kerry. Mr. President, I speak today to commend the President for issuing Executive Order 11625, designed to help strengthen the Federal Government's commitment to providing contracting opportunities to disadvantaged businesses.

In 1998, I took to the floor to successfully defend the Transportation Department's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program from those who sought to weaken it. Today, I am pleased to speak out in favor of the President's efforts to strengthen programs like the DBE, along with all minority-owned business government contracting programs.

It should come as no surprise to anyone in this Chamber familiar with small businesses, especially minority owned firms, that government contracting can help provide a strong foundation to build a prosperous small business . As any successful graduate of the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program will tell you, it provides the opportunities, but you have to supply the entrepreneurial spirit and hard work.

And this hand-up approach is what I mean by assisting minority-owned firms. These programs are not a handout. Rather, they exist to help level the playing field and to combat the inequities in our society that may prevent these firms from receiving the same opportunities available to other businesses.

These contracts are beneficial not just because they provide initial contracts to small disadvantaged firms, they also help minority firms establish a record of providing goods and services to the Federal Government. This is of critical importance because it assists these businesses in obtaining future contracts. In turn, these firms help provide jobs and competition to larger businesses, saving the taxpayers money through reduced costs and time saving innovations. Thus, these programs have direct and indirect benefits to our economy at all levels.

The Executive Order signed by President Clinton on Friday will help strengthen minority business ownership by directing Federal agencies to take affirmative steps to increase contracting between the Federal government and Small Disadvantaged Businesses, 8(a) Businesses, and Minority Business Enterprises. The Executive Order also holds Federal agencies accountable for carrying out the terms of the Order by requiring them to develop a long-term strategic plan and to submit annual reports to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) of their efforts to increase contracting with disadvantaged businesses; requires Federal agencies to ensure the participation of small and disadvantaged businesses when procuring information technology and telecommunications services; and directs Federal departments and agencies to ensure that all creation, placement, and transmission of federal advertising are fully reflective of the nation's diversity.

I applaud President Clinton's action to help ensure the vitality of minority-owned small businesses. As the Senior Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and a long time supporter of these programs, I urge OMB to forward the agencies' plans and their implementation reports to the House and Senate Committees on Small Business for further review.