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Pentagon Increases Small Business Contracts to Disabled Veterans

The Defense Department finally met its goal last year for awarding contracts to small businesses run by disabled veterans, improving on what was admittedly an "atrocious" record.

Steering contracts to disabled vets "was an area in which we have made a lot of progress, but I think we still have some ways to go, and that one is obviously of particular concern to the Department," Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary of Defense for acquisition, said at a Pentagon briefing last Friday with Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.

The goal for DoD in Fiscal Year 2014 was to award 3 percent of its small business contracts to disabled vets, and the Department met the 3 percent goal out of a total of $54.3 billion in DoD contracts awarded to small businesses, said Andre J. Gudger, acting deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for manufacturing.

Gudger recalled Kendall telling him four years ago at a veterans conference that the DoD's record on awarding contracts to disabled vets was "atrocious" and the Department had to do better. Kendall was not satisfied with meeting the 3 percent goal, Gudger said.

"He wants us to do even better than the 3 percent goal. He wants us to make a high number even higher," Gudger said.

Contreras-Sweet said the federal government as a whole met and exceeded its goals for awarding contracts to small businesses but she shared Kendall's concern about contracts going to disabled vets.

All federal agencies awarded 3.7 percent of their contracts to businesses owned by disabled vets, exceeding the goal of 3 percent, Contreras-Sweet said. 

"They served this country on the battlefield, and they continue to serve at home providing others good jobs in this economy," she said of the disabled vets.

Last year, the SBA gave DoD a 'B' grade for awarding contracts to small businesses, Contreras-Sweet said, but this year "they received their first 'A' for awarding more than $54.3 billion in prime contracts to small businesses." The $54.3 billion at DoD represented "about two out of every three dollars deemed small business-eligible" for contracting from the federal government, Contreras-Sweet said.

Overall, "DoD awarded 23.5 percent of its prime contracts to small firms -- the highest percentage in its history -- earning its first-ever 'A' in the scorecard," Contreras-Sweet said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

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