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Advocacy Update: Congress to Reject Section 809 Panel Recommendation

Posted By WIPP Advocacy Team, Friday, August 9, 2019
The Section 809 Panel is an independent commission created by Congress to modernize and streamline the Defense acquisition system. On April 1, 2019, WIPP signed on to a letter denouncing a recommendation from the Section 809 Panel that the Department of Defense should do away with small business set-asides and institute a 5% price preference instead. WIPP joined 25 other organizations and businesses in signing onto the letter, which was sent to top lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

As a result of these collaborative efforts, both Congress and the Department of Defense have indicated this recommendation will not be adopted. Thank you to all of the WIPP Members who added their voices and joined our efforts to preserve the small business programs that give WOSBs access to the federal marketplace.

Tags:  Action Alert  Advocacy 

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Action Alert: 15 Reasons to Move SBA Reauthorization Forward in the Senate

Posted By WIPP Advocacy Team, Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Your legislators will be at home in their districts and states from August 5 to September 6 to meet with constituents, like you, to share updates on their efforts in Washington, D.C. They are eager to understand how these efforts are impacting you. Take advantage of this opportunity to continue WIPP’s advocacy work by engaging with your Members of Congress.  

WIPPActionAlert

WIPP has been working closely with the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to make necessary changes to programs benefiting entrepreneurs through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The Committee was scheduled to vote on a bill (Chairman’s draft) combining many important changes on July 24. 

 

Unfortunately, the Committee postponed action after failing to agree on proposed regulatory changes contained in the draft legislation.  The Chairman’s draft contains 15 changes that, if passed, will be game-changers for women business owners. 

 

Now is the time to contact your Senators and ask them to express support for moving forward the SBA Reauthorization legislation, including the fifteen below highlights championed/supported by WIPP. 

 

Download our letter to send to your Senators!

 

Contracting

 

  • Raises sole source thresholds to $8 million generally and at $10 million for manufacturing contracts. 
  • Allows sole source contracts for each option year instead of the current one-time award.
  • Amendment to eliminate the rule of two language for sole source contracts from the WOSB, HUBZone, and SDVOSB programs. 
  • Solidifies Small Business Runway Extension Act, allowing for 5-year average of gross receipts for revenue based NAICS codes and adds employee based NAICS codes to the calculation by allowing them to also use a 5-year average for the purposes of size determination.
  • Requires agencies to pay small business contractors for work performed within 15 days of performance. 
  • Requires the SBA to commission an independent external study to determine which industries are underrepresented by women.
  • Allows for equity investment in women and minority owned small businesses for federal contractors by women-owned/minority-owned equity 
  • Adds the SBA as a member of the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council.

 

Access to Capital

 

  • Eliminates a rule that prevents SBA from distributing more than 1/55th of its microloans in any one state. 
  • Requires much needed data on microloans, of which women are the largest consumers.

 

Regulatory

 

  • Expands the role of the SBA Office of Advocacy to weigh in on regulations affecting small businesses.
  • Requires a five-year review of regulations’ effect on small businesses. 
  • Allows the Office of Advocacy to write a letter questioning an agency’s certification that a proposed rule would not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities, and asking the agency to reconsider.

 

Cybersecurity

 

  • Mandates that the SBA Administrator establish a program to designate employees of lead SBDCs as certified to provide cyber strategy assistance to small businesses. 
  • Directs the SBA to develop a cybersecurity clearinghouse that consolidates federal government cybersecurity information specifically for small business assistance.

Tell your Senator to open doors for women business owners by urging them to express support to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to move forward with SBA Reauthorization legislation. 

Tags:  Advocacy  SBA  Senate Small Business 

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WIPP Champions Investment Breakthrough with Equity Bill

Posted By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate, Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Updated: Monday, July 15, 2019

 

Championed by WIPP, The Women and Minority Equity Investment Act of 2019 (S. 1981) allows women-owned federal contracting firms to take investment by women-owned equity firms and still meet the “51% unconditionally owned and controlled” standard set by SBA to participate in the WOSB/EDWOSB program. WIPP also brought the minority-owned firms along with us in this legislation, allowing for minority-owned firms to invest in minority-owned companies. We thought it was important and the right thing to do.

 

According to my friends, Amy Millman, who runs Springboard Enterprises, and WIPP Member Sue Malone, who funds small businesses through equity investments, the legislation introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) solves a problem that has been discussed for 20 years. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL), the first elected official to identify this problem, introduced a similar bill in the House, H.R. 3633.AnnSullivan

 

It should come as no surprise that the numbers are abysmal when it comes to equity investment in women. According to the press release issued by Senator Cantwell's office: “[The] percentage of women-owned businesses rose from 4.6% in 1972 to 40% in 2018, but they still receive less than 4% of venture funding.” Equity investment is a term that encompasses venture capital, private equity, and angel investment. Equity simply means ownership. In exchange for a percentage of ownership, the investor provides capital. An example of this investing at a very basic level is the TV show Shark Tank.

 

The flip side of the coin is that a major obstacle to investment in women-owned companies is that not enough women are investors. Only 8% of investing partners at the top 100 venture firms globally are women, according to an analysis by TechCrunch. Additionally, Fairview Capital’s 2018 Market Review of Woman and Minority-Owned Private Equity Firms shows significant growth in funds owned by women or minorities. The estimated 312 private equity firms have doubled since 2015 and represent roughly 10% of the market. 

 

Currently, if a woman-owned firm wanted to obtain an SBA certification to participate in the WOSB/EDWOSB procurement program, she basically has to swear off any investments. We know a number of cases where women who took equity investment had to shut down their government business, which is completely counterproductive to the SBA’s mission. 

 

This legislation is groundbreaking on both sides of the women-owned equation. It not only opens a path for investment in women-owned businesses who are government contractors, but also strengthens women investors, giving them a reason to ask for greater equity positions within their firms. It has been suggested to us that giving an incentive to women-owned equity firms to invest might change the dynamic in those firms. Women-owned companies looking for investment will be incentivized to ask for women-owned investment firms—we hope this will work favorably both ways. The same holds true for minority investments under this new legislation.

 

Any day now, a similar bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives. We fully anticipate this legislation will make it into law, doing away with a long-standing impediment to accessing capital. 


“We all know that access to capital is a barrier to entry and growth for women owned businesses,” stated WIPP’s President & CEO Candace Waterman upon introduction of this legislation. “This bill will not only assist these businesses, it will have a positive impact on the financial industry, as it will spur growth for women-owned equity/VC firms. We applaud Senators Cantwell and Rubio for leading this breakthrough on an issue that has been an impediment to women’s business growth.”

Tags:  Advocacy 

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Knowing the Game Changers

Posted By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate, Wednesday, June 5, 2019

When I started representing WIPP in Washington some 17 years ago, Republican George W. Bush was in his second year as President and Senate Democrats held their majority by a very slim margin, while the House was controlled comfortably by Republicans. Women held 62 seats in the House and 13 seats in the Senate. No women chaired Congressional Committees and two women held Cabinet posts – Ann Veneman (Department of Agriculture) and Elaine Chao (Department of Transportation).

 

Things are a little different now— but maybe not as much as one might think. President Donald Trump is also a Republican, but this time the Senate is controlled by Republicans and Democrats control the House. But the game changer is women in power. As of January 2019, there are 106 women in the U.S. House of Representatives, including delegates, and 25 women in the Senate. Seven women head Congressional Committees—not to mention Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is second in the presidential line of succession, after the vice president.

AnnSullivan

 

 Even though there were relatively few women in Congress, in those early days there were a few game changers—Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Senator Olympia Snowe. Senator Hutchison was the head of the Republican Policy Committee in the Senate and included us in her monthly meetings, even though we were the only women in the room. Senator Snowe supported women business owners from her position on the Small Business Committee highlighting our issues.

Today, women-owned companies in the United States make a much bigger impact than in 2002. Women owned 6.5 million nonfarm U.S. businesses in 2002, employing 7.1 million people and generating $939.5 billion in business revenues. The latest numbers, by contrast, show women own 10 million firms, generating $1.4 trillion in receipts and employing 8.4 million.

 

WIPP was founded because women business owners were not well understood and did not have “a seat at the table.” Routinely left out of important agency and Congressional meetings, women pressed for a bigger presence. Making a difference in public policy was, and is to this day, WIPP’s mission. WIPP’s first example of making a big difference was pushing for a federal program which set aside federal contracts to women-owned companies. The women’s procurement program rallied women all over the country who believed that resistance to implement this law was just plain wrong. The game changer was locking down Presidential candidate support for implementation and when President Barack Obama won – it was one of the first things he did. Our strategy of presenting our platform at both conventions attended by powerful women in both parties and our members worked.

 

With WIPP’s legislative and regulatory victories, our narrative started changing. We no longer asked for a “seat at the table.” We had it. Rather, we were seated at the head of the table. Congressional Members, staff and committees consult our organization and its members for views and testimony on every aspect of policies affecting entrepreneurs. SBA became our partner through ChallengeHER, educating women nationwide on working with the private sector. Lastly, we became an integral part of the small business community and worked diligently to build a cohesive coalition with all other parts of the community – another game changer.

Changing the game has been in WIPP’s DNA since its inception. In June, there are two additional opportunities to lead. First, the Senate will hold a hearing on contracting issues with an eye to making the small business programs more effective. WIPP will testify, addressing the disappointing performance of the WOSB/EDWOSB program and efforts to increase federal contracts to women-owned businesses.


The second opportunity is the 2019 WIPP Business Leadership Conference. Participation, just like those early days, requires everyone’s attendance. WIPP visits to Capitol Hill has never been more important. Our visibility helps all women entrepreneurs across the country, even though they may not even be aware of our efforts. Our attention to issues such as business growth requires action and this conference provides opportunity for engagement with Congressional Members and staff.

 

Unlike the early days, we are not begging for a seat at the table. But now that we have a seat, it is our responsibility to do something with that seat. Get involved. Add your voice.


Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  leadership  WIPP Annual Conference 

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WIPP Driving Legislation

Posted By WIPP Advocacy Team, Thursday, May 2, 2019

Two recent bills introduced in the House and Senate, respectively, incorporate WIPP’s recommendations for increasing access to capital and creating parity for women-owned small businesses:

 

  • Making the Microloan Program More Effective: Elimination of the SBA Microloan Program’s 1/55th rule is a top WIPP priority, and the Microloan Program Enhancement Act (S. 996) would accomplish that. Women consume 48.7% of loans through the Program, which assists borrowers obtaining loans under $50,000. Read our letter of support.
  • Requiring 15-Day Payment to Small Federal Contractors: Reinstating the accelerated payments policy for small contractors and subcontractors that expired in 2017, House Small Business Committee Members introduced the Accelerated Payments for Small Businesses Act (H.R. 2332). The bill sets a goal for federal agencies to pay both small prime contractors and large primes with small subcontractors within 15 days.

Tags:  Advocacy  legislation 

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What Is "NDAA" and Why Do I Keep Hearing About It?

Posted By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate, Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Around this time of year, you will start to see communications from the WIPP Advocacy Team around getting legislation important to women-owned businesses “into the NDAA.” If you have been around long enough, you have probably heard me decode this legislative strategy. WIPP has used this vehicle to pass a number of bills into law – including sole source authority for WOSBs in the FY2015 NDAA. So, the question is, how can legislation about small business wind up in something authorizing defense? Let’s start with a little history of the Act.
AnnSullivan
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of the last “must pass” pieces of legislation left in Congress. Since the Constitution requires that Congress provides for a common defense, this bill is considered to be “must pass.” Therefore, every year for the past 58 years, Congress has passed the NDAA. Not to be confused with defense appropriations, with “defense” in the title, the purpose of the massive bill is to authorize defense policies and programs under which the funding levels are set. 

Even though the bill is “must pass,” that does not necessarily mean it must pass on time. In 33 years, the NDAA has been passed only three times before the start of the new fiscal year. However, one of the three times was last year’s FY2019 NDAA. The other two years the NDAA was signed on time were FY1997 and FY1978. ***Note: the calendar year the bill is passed and the fiscal year for the NDAA do not align. Congress is always working on it for the next fiscal year; therefore, Congress is currently working on the FY2020 NDAA. 

So where does small business enter the mix? The bill falls under the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committees in both the House and Senate, not the Small Business Committees. Each year, both sides of Congress craft their own version of the NDAA to pass in their respective chambers. Next, they come together with negotiators and hammer out the differences. Since this is not under Small Business Committee jurisdiction, adding small business provisions is a more internal process. Meaning, you won’t see us tell you about a public hearing to review proposed small business provisions, instead the House and Senate Small Business Committees work with the Armed Services Committee Members to include relevant small business provisions. The NDAA has not always had small business changes. In recent years, small business advocates in Congress realized that a stated U.S. national security policy—the need for a strong industrial base— justifies inclusion of small business legislation. The NDAA quickly became the go-to legislation for procurement changes to small business programs.

A prime candidate for inclusion this year is a bill that would help bring parity to sole source authority for small businesses, especially WOSBs/EDWOSBs. The Expanding Opportunities for Small Businesses Act of 2019 (H.R. 190) would increase sole source contracts for women, veterans, and HUBZones at the amounts of $4 million and $7 million each year, instead of the life of the contract. It also raises the sole source dollar threshold for construction and manufacturing from $6.5 to $7 million. This legislation passed the House and is ready for Senate action. With category management shifting the way the government buys, contracting officers will have a bigger incentive to award work to small businesses if this bill passes. It’s time to mobilize around this huge opportunity for women-owned small businesses. The NDAA might just be the mechanism to get it done. 

Tags:  Advocacy  legislation  policy 

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Mounting Debt

Posted By Ann Sullivan, Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Recently, I heard Congressman Chip Roy from Texas state that the U.S. accumulates $100 million in debt every hour. That is a staggering, unsustainable number. It begs the question – is anyone in Congress concerned about this mounting debt, given that it is budget season? Does anyone care?

AnnSullivan According to the former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, “Despite rising debt, interest rates have remained low, and a fiscal crisis has not occurred. That is because private demand for business investment has been sluggish in a slow recovery, the Federal Reserve has provided liquidity through its unconventional monetary policy, and financial markets often ignore unsustainable fiscal conditions for an extended time.” He goes on to say: “Now, the imperative must be to develop a political strategy, and, in that context, a narrative, that persuades the broad American public that its economic well-being depends on getting our fiscal house in order.”

Given the absence of a financial crisis, elected officials have not convinced the American public that mounting debt, even to the tune of $100 million an hour, requires action. The place where fiscal policy starts is the Senate and House Budget Committees. Since the Senate Budget Committee just passed their FY2020 budget resolution, it is instructive to note the positioning of both sides. The Republican-controlled Senate Committee lauded the plan as cutting half a trillion dollars in deficits and debt over the next five years. According to the Chair, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), the Senate Resolution does not increase budget caps put into place in 2011 by the Budget Control Act, thus limiting spending.

In contrast, the top Senate Democrat on the Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said this: “The Senate Republican Budget is immoral and bad economic policy. In almost every instance this budget ignores the needs of ordinary Americans and what the American people want, while at the same time protecting the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country – many of whom are the largest GOP campaign contributors. This is a budget that moves this country rapidly in the direction of oligarchy. It constitutes a massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the billionaire class.”

The House Budget Committee, controlled by Democrats since January, has not yet announced its deliberation schedule on the FY2020 budget. However, there appears to be disagreement on the levels on non-defense spending among Democrats. The Chair, Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY), is pressing to lift the spending caps imposed in 2011, allowing the Congress to spend more money without requiring spending cuts to offset the decreases.

So much for a political strategy. And frankly, so much for public engagement. While some in Congress have sounded the alarm, there appears to be little appetite for making hard choices necessary to reduce the debt.

Meanwhile, while I have been writing this article, the debt just went up another $100 million. Reduction of the debt falls into the same bucket many other issues facing our country drop into—solving problems only when a crisis demands it. Short of a voter groundswell, the debt will keep piling up. You should know where your Congressional delegation stands on this important issue. Are they concerned? Have they proposed any solutions to reducing the debt? Or are they waiting for a financial crisis to force the issue?

It seems to me that asking elected officials for big solutions is a reasonable request. Answers won’t be formulated unless the voters demand it.

Tags:  Advocacy  budget  Treasury 

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Senate Committee Passes WIPP-Supported Cybersecurity Bills

Posted By Elizabeth Sullivan, Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Senate Small Business Committee passed two WIPP supported bipartisan cybersecurity bills last week, the Small Business Cyber Training Act of 2019 (S. 771) and the SBA Cyber Awareness Act (S. 772). These bills are a step in the right direction to help small businesses with cybersecurity compliance as well as hold the SBA accountable to secure the sensitive data it collects. The next stop is a vote by the full Senate.

 

WIPP submitted a letter endorsing both bills to Committee Chair Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Tags:  Advocacy  cybersecurity  Senate small business 

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And...We’re Off to the Races

Posted By Elizabeth Sullivan, WIPP Advocacy Team, Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Senate Small Business Committee holds first hearing of the year with Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon

 

The first Committee hearing in a new Congress sets the tone for the two years ahead—priorities, attitudes and bipartisanship (or lack thereof) are on display. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held their first hearing on February 13 by hearing from Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Linda McMahon.

Three areas of focus bubbled up during the hearing. Challenges facing women-owned small businesses, access to capital and issues around the workforce. 

Committee Members repeatedly mentioned challenges facing women-owned small businesses. Issues from access to capital to access to contracts were raised, signaling the Committee’s dedication to implementing policies that help WOSB’s succeed. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) raised two important questions for WOSB federal contractors. She addressed the delay in a report that was commissioned by Congress to the SBA to look government-wide at small business participation on multiple award contracts (MACs). This legislation was in direct response to WIPP’s report, Do Not Enter: Women Shut Out of U.S. Government’s Biggest Contracts (October 2016). The data is desperately needed to understand the landscape of small business contracting and create future policies that ensure fairness in the federal marketplace. 

Senator Ernst also raised the importance of ensuring small businesses are not shut out of opportunities as the government continues to buy through large contracts. The Administrator pointed to small business goals as a mechanism to hold agencies accountable. WIPP has partnered and participated in roundtables with other business organizations to determine the best path forward to safeguarding small businesses during this shift in acquisition policy. Furthermore, the Administrator shared that the SBA will be launching an innovative interactive digital platform to provide resources for women entrepreneurs, which they predict will expand their outreach capabilities from 150,000 to one million users. 

Another common thread throughout the Committee Member’s questions was access to capital. This is nothing new – women-owned firms still only get 4% of all commercial loan dollars and about 2% of venture capital funding. Additionally, only 18% of 7(a) loans in FY2017 went to women-owned firms and 27% to minority-owned firms. In response, the Administrator expressed the importance of SBA’s Capital Access programs and utilizing them to the fullest extent possible. Senator Duckworth pointed to the need for enhancement of SBA’s micro loan program as a possible solution. Furthermore, in her testimony, the Administrator highlighted that SBA was able to reduce loan processing times by half and provided $60 billion in loan guarantees. Despite this success, the Administrator committed to working to increase awareness of SBA loan offerings and resources for acquiring capital. 

Issues around workforce dominated many questions posed to the Administrator. This aligns with WIPP’s pillar-- rethinking workforce development. Questions centered around the plight of low-wage federal contractor employees and protection from future government shutdowns. Additionally, Senator Coons asked the Administrator what she saw as workforce challenges for small businesses as she traveled around the country last year. Administrator McMahon identified access to a skilled workforce and expressed SBA’s commitment to tackling this problem through its resources around the country.  

The Committee’s priorities align with several of WIPP’s six Policy Pillars. We look forward to continuing work with the Senate Small Business Committee and the SBA around these issues.

Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  hearings  SBA 

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Who Is the FAR Council and Why Are They So Slow?

Posted By Ann Sullivan, Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2019

 

A letter from the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee recently came to my attention urging the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council to adopt changes made by law in 2013. And I thought Congress was slow.

 

AnnSullivan

Who is this Council? According to the law, the FAR Council membership consists of: the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy and — (A) the Secretary of Defense, (B) the Administrator of National Aeronautics and Space; and (C) the Administrator of General Services. Now, admittedly these are busy people. Maybe they just don’t have time. However, upon further investigation, these very busy people have representatives for various sections of the FAR. They are called FAR Teams.

 

For example, in 2007, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council established a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Small Business Team. The purpose of this Team is to focus on small business issues and to coordinate with the Small Business Administration (SBA) on concurrent SBA and FAR rulemaking. So, even with a team devoted to small business, there is still a backlog on adoption of small business changes dating back as long as six years.

 

As background, the government implemented the FAR in 1984, looking to create a single, governmentwide procurement regulation. Any amendments proposed and announced by the Department of Defense (DOD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) need the concurrence of the FAR Council established at the same time. The FAR is massive and has 53 sections. Just in case you were wondering, the small business portion is contained in FAR Part 13.

 

The process of changing a law or putting in place a new one is lengthy. The FAR Council uses the same process as any other agency to amend the FAR, which includes: the publication of a proposed rule in the Federal Register; the opportunity for interested persons to submit comments on the proposed rule; publication of a final rule that includes a “concise general statement” of the “basis and purpose” of the rule; and a 30-day waiting period after the final rule is published in the Federal Register before the rule can take effect. Other agencies get involved in this process as well, such as a review from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) or the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), for example. Then, finally, it goes to the FAR Council for adoption. In my experience, a speedy regulatory process is six to nine months. Years can slip away as everyone involved in the process concludes their work.

 

A look at the FAR Council website reveals 12 pages of open cases, some of which involve the small business changes the House Committee letter is seeking. The good news is that the force of law does not necessarily have to depend on this years-long process. Sometimes the FAR “conforms” to regulations issued by the agency, such as changes to the Small Business Act. Contracting officers do not always have to wait on FAR Council actions before implementing a change in the law because agency rules generally have the force of law; however, they do not realize this. For example, this certainly happened with respect to WIPP’s push to implement sole source for the WOSB procurement program. A contracting officer told women contractors that the FAR had to be amended before they would consider issuing sole sources.

 

Agencies can also be compelled to take action in certain circumstances if they have “unreasonably delayed.” That was certainly the case with the WOSB procurement program (unless passage of a law in 2000 and implementation 11 years later does not seem unreasonably delayed).

 

So, why is the FAR Council so slow? Because the process to amend the FAR goes through an extra level of interagency review. Even though Congress passed a law and agencies produced a rule to implement the law, the FAR amendment process basically goes through the review process all over again. I don’t know about you, but it seems like this process could be streamlined. Of course, I am looking at this through private sector eyes, not the eyes of a federal agency. Given this Administration’s focus on streamlining federal processes, it seems to me that this might be a good place to start. 

Tags:  Advocacy  FAR  procurement 

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