Mr. President, as Ranking Member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, today I am introducing a package of bills that will help small business owners with access to loans, business counseling and Federal procurement opportunities. Each of the bills was previously introduced on its own or as part of the Committee's extensive Small Business Administration reauthorization proposal that passed the Senate unanimously last Congress. These are provisions that are necessary for enabling our nation's small businesses to continue to have the resources and tools they need to compete with larger companies. They will help America's budding entrepreneurs continue to seek out business opportunities and continue to start businesses. Enactment of this assistance will show that the Federal government is not there to make the road to success more difficult for small businesses, but to help them where the private sector will not.

Mr. President, the first bill of this package is the Small Business Federal Contractor Safeguard Act. It includes essential contractor protections that were a part of the Small Business Administration reauthorization package that passed the Senate unanimously last Congress but was stalled during negotiations in the House of Representatives. These much-needed protections will help level the playing field for small firms and create a procurement atmosphere that fosters competition, fair access and equal opportunity for smaller entities.

With Federal agencies awarding larger, more complex and more costly contracts, and with less staff at the Small Business Administration and within Agency contracting offices performing oversight, this nation's small businesses and its taxpayers are the ones shouldering the burden when small business goals continue to be unmet. In addition to helping small businesses obtain access to procurement opportunities, these goals are meant to help the government benefit from the cost-savings and innovations small business contractors can often provide.

Significant steps were made during the last Congress to address the challenges of contract bundling; however, it is my belief that passing and implementing binding statutory requirements is the only long-term solution to the on-going problem of contract bundling, also called contract consolidation. The first section of the bill creates a two-tiered approach to preventing unnecessary contract consolidation. Civilian agencies will be required to meet specific standards if they attempt to consolidate contracts above $2 million and additional requirements for those contracts above $5 million. The Department of Defense is required to meet two types of similar requirements for contracts above $5 million and $7 million. The bill also eliminates the use of the term ``contract bundling'' and expands the definition of ``contract consolidation,'' closing a loophole that has been widely used to the detriment of many small businesses.

In addition to increasing opportunities for prime contracts by eliminating unnecessary contract consolidation, this bill addresses another serious problem: the dishonest treatment of small business subcontractors by large business prime contractors. Small businesses have been severely hamstrung by the dishonest practices of some large business prime contracts that delay paying their subcontractors, falsely report their subcontracting plans and use ``bait and switch'' tactics.

This bill holds prime contractors responsible for the validity of subcontracting data, requiring the CEO to certify to the accuracy of the subcontracting report under penalty of law. It also makes the penalties for falsifying data included in subcontracting reports match the current $500,000 penalty for businesses that falsify their status as a small and disadvantaged business. Under this bill, if one intentionally falsifies data as a part of a subcontracting report to a federal Agency, he is defrauding the United States government and will be punished to the full extent of the law.

Finally, the bill requires contracting officers to maintain a database of contract performance that is made available to the small business subcontractor upon completion of the contract. This report can then be used as a record of past performance, building a history that will help successful small firms bid on future Federal prime contracts or subcontracts. Each contracting officer will be empowered to withhold a portion of the payment to the prime contractor until he also receives the completed and accurate performance report. Any material breach of contract that is found will be immediately reported to the Inspector General of that Agency for a complete investigation.

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