President Biden recently authorized more than $700 billion in defense spending when he signed the Fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. Key to the act are the provisions that will shape federal procurement policies and forecast areas, including:
Support for Domestic Preferences, Supply Chain Security
Congress supports the strong domestic preference requirements that illustrate its concern about China’s influence over the federal supply chain. The NDAA prohibits certain procurements of Chinese goods and amends the U.S. Code to stop the secretary of defense from purchasing personal protective equipment from China, Russia, Iran or North Korea ― absent his own waiver.
Small Business Focus
Though not as robust as previous versions, the NDAA contains significant provisions for small businesses. Initially, it directs the Small Business Administration’s Office of Hearing and Appeals to decide appeals related to HUB Zone status challenges; in addition, the NDAA orders the Pentagon to report on the effects of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification framework on small business concerns.
Innovative Technologies, Commercial Contracting
The NDAA also includes provisions to ease the route for the government to procure innovative technologies, like authorizing a pilot program for the Department of Defense to procure four emerging technologies using newly developed, unique acquisition mechanisms. The idea is to expedite the transfer of emerging technologies into acquisition programs and/or operational use.
The NDAA has taken a rocky road to enactment. The House marked up and passed its version last fall, but the Senate’s efforts to pass its own bill stalled when lawmakers couldn’t agree on various amendments.
Awarding $2.9B to Airports
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will award $2.89 billion ― including $31.6 million for Maryland ― made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to 3,075 airports around the U.S. The money can be invested in runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability projects, as well as terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway projects.
The FAA encourages applicants to prioritize projects that increase airport safety, equity and sustainability. Importantly, the agency also plans to conduct outreach to minority businesses concerning these opportunities.
The money will come from the Airport Infrastructure Grant program, one of three new aviation programs created by the law, which provides $15 billion over five years for the program. The FAA estimates the backlog of airport modernization and safety projects totals $43.6 billion.
The state of small business contracting in the federal government can be called strong. But then again, maybe it isn’t.
Know that more contracts and money are flowing to small and disadvantaged firms than ever. In 2020, agencies spent more than $145 billion, accounting for more than 26 percent of federal contracting spending and exceeding the goal of 23 percent. In addition, those numbers should rise when 2021 data is released.
But a closer look at the numbers of small businesses that are involved in the day-to-day of government contracting, the horizon isn’t as rosy. According to the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, there are more than 21,700 fewer small business contractors in the federal market today than there were in 2017. Numbers from the disadvantaged and veteran-owned categories declined, with the number of women-owned small firms experiencing the largest decline — in total numbers (4,350) and by percentage (22.65 percent).
On that note, the 2020 contractor survey from Deltek found 63 percent of respondents said the pandemic made it harder to coordinate with clients, while small firms saw delays or cancellations of contracts in 2020. There is no reason to think the 2021 data will change that information dramatically.
Gloria Larkin is President and CEO of TargetGov and a national expert in business development in the government markets. Email FAST@targetgov.com, visit www.targetgov.com or call toll-free 1-866-579-1346 x 325 for more information.