Mr. KERRY . Mr. President, today, I am joined by Senators Pressler, Bumpers, Nunn, and others in introducing the Business Development Opportunity Act of 1994. This bill will reform the Small Business Administration's [SBA ] Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development Program commonly referred to as the 8(a) program. It will transform what is now an overly bureaucratic set-aside program into a true business development program. The reformed program provides program participants improved and intensified managerial training, access to equity, reduction of bureaucratic redtape, and opportunities for program graduates. Further, it will increase safeguards against abuse.

SBA Administrator Erskine Bowles has made a strong start in addressing the persistent problems of the program through the Minority Enterprise Development program [MED]. I believe this bill we are introducing today can be an important part of the development of the MED program. I hope that together our efforts will help develop a strong and vibrant minority small business community in every part of the Nation. I look forward to working with the SBA on these matters.

Minority business development should not be viewed as only part of our social agenda but also as an essential national economic imperative. A growing minority enterprise community is needed for the well-being of our Nation. America must be able to field its complete team if we are to succeed in the fierce global competition of the 21st century.

Small business is an important vehicle for historically disadvantaged minority groups to foster economic development for themselves and their communities. However, these groups have not had the access to equity necessary to develop a strong small business foundation. They have not had the access to information on how to develop small businesses. Furthermore, minority-owned small businesses have historically been underrepresented as contractors in the Federal procurement process.

I seek to fashion a more effective minority enterprise development program. One that will contribute to the long-term viability of participating firms after graduation and one that provides a full array of business development assistance.

The new program must be capable of helping more firms at different states of development, including start-up firms. As reflected in repeated General Accounting Office [GAO] reviews since 1980, the current program has provided too little assistance for the vast majority of the firms participating. We tried to address those problems in the 1988 legislation through requirements for transition management planning and business mix targets that gradually diminished the firm's dependence on 8(a) contracts, but they have not yet been fully implemented.

Our bill addresses this issue by improving and focusing SBA's Management Assistance program. This will add core business development skills, such as marketing and proposal development to 8(a) certified businesses only.

It will improve access to capital for program graduates by allowing them to sell a noncontrolling equity share of their business without losing the right to continue performance of contracts won while affiliated with the program. The bill will implement the Surety Bond Waiver Test program, which has granted waivers of surety bond requirements to qualified companies for some Government contracts. Also, it authorizes a test program to permit 8(a) program graduates to recompete for one Government contract that it had won while in the program as long as 25 percent of the contract is subcontracted to a current 8(a) participant.

There have been charges by the SBA inspector general office that some of the 8(a) certified small businesses are actually `fronts' for nonminority businesses which would otherwise not qualify for these programs.

Our bill will deter `front' companies from the various small disadvantaged business programs by improving SBA's administration of a Governmentwide protest system in which other participants can challenge a firm's eligibility. It gives the SBA access to more information on potential program abusers. It also encourages the use of available administrative as well as criminal remedies for those individuals or firms found to be engaged in misrepresentation.

The program has developed a maze of regulations and paperwork that keep many from even applying for certification. Applications are reviewed not only at the regional SBA offices but at the central SBA offices. By not allowing businesses to deal directly with agencies but only through the SBA the program adds a needless extra level of bureaucracy. Once a contract is signed, too many cumbersome reports are needed, draining valuable time and resources away from where they are needed the most.

This legislation will streamline and simplify the 8(a) programs certification and contracting process. It develops a onestop application process to expedite the application process. It accelerates the contract award process by allowing Federal agencies to award contracts directly to 8(a) certified businesses. It will streamline and simplify the process by which a company and the SBA determine whether companies fit into the appropriate size classifications for specific contracts.

Not enough has been done to allow agencies to reach the minority set-aside goals.

Our bill will expand the tools available for agencies to meet set-aside goals in addition to the 8(a) program. It extends the Department of Defense section 1207 program which provides tools for agencies to help them meet their goals for contracting with small disadvantaged businesses to all agencies can use a more streamlined and more competitive program.

I believe that the Business Development Opportunity Act of 1994 will help minority owned small businesses grow and prosper through training, assistance, financing, a reduction in paperwork, and safeguard against fraud. I hope my colleagues will support this important legislation.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill and a summary of its provisions appear in the Record.