Federal Contracting and Subcontracting with Small Business: Issues in the 112th Congress

Congress has generally broad authority to impose requirements upon the federal procurement process, or the process whereby agencies obtain goods and services from the private sector. One of the many ways in which Congress has exercised this authority is by enacting measures intended to promote contracting and subcontracting with “small businesses” by federal agencies. Among other things, these measures (1) declare a congressional policy of ensuring that a “fair proportion” of federal contract and subcontract dollars are awarded to small businesses; (2) establish government-wide and agency-specific goals for the percentage of contract and/or subcontract dollars awarded to small businesses; (3) require or authorize agencies to conduct competitions in which only small businesses may compete (i.e., set-asides), or make noncompetitive awards to them in circumstances when such awards could not be made to other businesses; and (4) task the Small Business Administration (SBA) and officers of the procuring agencies with reviewing and helping to restructure proposed procurements so as to maximize opportunities for small business participation. A companion report, CRS Report R42391, Legal Authorities Governing Federal Contracting and Subcontracting with Small Businesses, by Kate M. Manuel and Erika K. Lunder, provides an overview of these statutes, the regulations implementing them, and the various judicial and other tribunals that construe them. 

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