Senate Passes Legislation that Seeks to Remove Roadblock to Women-Owned Small Tech Businesses

A long-awaited provision that will benefit woman-owned small businesses seeking federal government contract opportunities is included in amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3254), which passed the Senate on Dec. 4. CompTIA has actively advocated for this fix, which will correct an anomaly in this federal program.

The Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program sets aside five percent of federal prime and subcontracts for women-owned small businesses. Under the current rules, federal agencies can invoke this program only when the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that there will be offers from two or more women-owned small businesses. In the technology industry, where women-owned small businesses are underrepresented, the provision serves as a roadblock to increasing women-owned small business access to federal contracts.

This two-or-more requirement does not apply to other related programs, such as section 8(a) Business Development Participants, HUBZone small businesses and Service Disabled Veteran Owned small businesses.

First brought to our attention by CompTIA member Wendy Frank, founder of Accell Technology, Inc., this inequity in federal contracting law had effectively barred Frank's company from being awarded a number of federal contracts because other woman-owned small businesses could not be found to compete on a procurement. Even though Accell Technology was fully qualified for these contracting opportunities, the government was not permitted to award a contract without a qualified woman-owned competitor.

Passage of this provision by the Senate demonstrates how individual CompTIA members can make a difference in Washington, and we commend Frank for bringing this little known archaic provision to light.

The Senate-passed bill must now be reconciled with an earlier version passed by the House. While there are some questions, currently we anticipate that the Woman Owned Small Business fix will survive conference to be included in the final version of the bill, which must then be signed into law by the president.

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