WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing on Congressman Neal Dunn’s (FL-02) legislation, H.R. 2781, the Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act. The bipartisan legislation aims to increase government contracts for veteran-owned small businesses and ensure the VA is complying with federal law.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. H.R. 2781, the Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act is common sense legislation which I am honored to sponsor with a friend and fellow member of our freshmen class, Mr. Panetta from California. This bill closes a loophole which inadvertently denies Veteran Owned Small Businesses and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses contracting opportunities.
HR 2781 concerns a group of contracts run by the General Services Administration known as the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative. The FSSI enables federal agencies to pool their buying power for common items like office supplies, janitorial products, and building maintenance services. Each group of contracts under the FSSI is awarded to roughly ten to twenty companies. When an agency needs to order such products, the agency asks for price quotes from the FSSI companies, which have all already been vetted, and picks one of them. The FSSI is a good, simple method of purchasing.
The only problem is with some of the contracts and subcategories. These subcategories are divided in such a manner which may only have a few, and in some cases no, veteran- or service disabled veteran-owned small businesses represented. The VA is required to look for veteran- and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses, but in too many cases on the FSSI contracts, none of them are there to be found, or too few to establish meaningful competition.
H.R. 2781 directs VA to implement the most logical fix, to examine whether there are enough Veteran Owned Small Businesses and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses on the FSSI contracts. If there are not enough Veteran contractors, the bill directs the VA to work with GSA to add more. The bill in no way forces other agencies to operate differently. Instead, it helps the federal government meet the Veteran Owned Small Business and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business contracting goals by giving agencies access to a larger pool of contractors.
Some may ask why this legislation is necessary. The loophole is obvious, at least to these veterans in these industries who are frustrated at being excluded from business opportunities under the FSSI. The subcommittee brought the issue to the Department’s attention last year, but it has not been resolved. This is why Mr. Panetta and I bring this legislation forward today.
I encourage all Members to support the bill, and with that Mr. Chairman, I yield back.