Women and Government Contracts


with Jane Campbell of Women Impacting Public Policy


Mar 07, 2018

As part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the Small Business Administration is studying how the practice of Multiple Award Contracts impacts the ability of women-owned and other socio-economic categories of small businesses to compete for government work. Jane Campbell, President of Women Impacting Public Policy discusses the SBA study, which is in response to a WIPP report regarding women owned businesses and government contracts.

Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Traynham: Women-owned businesses have historically not had the same opportunities as their male counterparts when it comes to receiving government contracts. But a newly enacted federal law makes the Small Business Administration take a closer look at these inequities. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. Joining me is Jane Campbell, the President of Women Impacting Public Policy. Jane, hopefully this will help more women entrepreneurs get into the game, no?

Campbell: Right. Robert, WIPP has been around for now 15 years, and when we started, there was a goal of 5% of all of our contracts would go to women. Do you know that 50% of the population, 38% of the businesses, and we have only met that 5% goal once? And that was in fiscal year 2016. So WIPP has been advocating on behalf of meeting the goal, but more importantly we´ve been looking at what are the impediments to getting that done? And so we created the opportunity for the women-owned small business programs set-aside, but what we found is as the federal government was under more stress to have fewer employees, what they began to do was what we call multiple-award contracts. And so, instead of awarding multiple contracts to many small businesses, they would put a whole slew of things together and do one big contract. That is potentially difficult for small businesses. And as that process has emerged, some of the multiple-award contracts have a track where women businesses can compete, veteran businesses can complete, HUBZone, 8(a), which is the historically minority underserved businesses, and it´s all over the map. And so what we did in this last defense authorization, which is where all the small business stuff gets enacted.

Traynham: Which, ironically, that´s the piece of legislation that the president signed into law late last year.

Campbell: Exactly, exactly. All the small business contracting law ends up getting done, rolled into the National Defense Authorization Act, because the defense department´s the largest contractor. And because Congress seems to have a hard time passing a bill that´s not a must-pass, and we always do defend the country. So that´s a good thing. So what we got done was a requirement that the Small Business Administration do a review over a 180-day period, which is a short time period of what´s happening with multiple-award contracts for each of the historically underserved populations. So we´re looking forward to having that report come out sometime this summer.

Traynham: And what´s the next step? Once the report comes out, let´s say, midpoint of 2018, this year, what is the next logical step? You don´t want this report to sit on the shelf.

Campbell: This is not a shelf report.

Traynham: Okay.

Campbell: You know, when WIPP does its advocacy on Capitol Hill or with the Administration, we always do it with data in hand. And the problem we had -- we did an initial review of multiple-award contracts. We looked at 19. And from the 19 we looked at, only four had a set aside -- you know, had a track for women. Most of them had a track for 8(a), which is the historically racially, you know, underserved communities. Some had it for veterans, some didn´t, and so the next step would be, if the data shows that when there is a track for women or veterans or any of the underserved groups that it works, then we would likely advocate that each time there´s a multiple-award contract each of the disadvantaged group have a track.

Traynham: I see. Jane, we got about 30 seconds left. I would be remiss if we didn´t talk about the historic tax bill that was signed into law late last year. There´s some confusion, to be fair to the conversation about the tax bill, but there´s a lot of people and also businesses out there that are saying this is the best thing that´s happened to this country in a very long time. Where does WIPP stand on this?

Campbell: Well there´s so much in the tax bill. There´s things to be for and things to be against. And what WIPP does is, we didn´t take a position on the tax bill as a whole. We took a position on a very particular issue which is that women businesses tend to be organized as pass-through entities, as Subchapter S partnerships, and those have historically been taxed at the individual rate. For the first time in this tax bill there is an attempt to understand that those are businesses and we should move toward the business tax rate. We think that´s a victory of understanding how women businesses are operated.

Traynham: Jane Campbell, the President of Women Impacting Public Policy It is always good to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

Campbell: Thank you, Robert. And, of course, thank you for watching, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Robert Traynham. Have a great day. Bye-bye.

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