Coverage Continues on Criticism of SBA's Proposal

In today's Business section Washington Post staff writer Kendra Marr covers the uproar over the Small Business Administration's new proposal to change contracting rules governing women-owned businesses.

In its proposal, released two weeks ago, the agency identified just four industries in which it said women-owned small businesses are underrepresented and thereby eligible for set-asides: intelligence; engraving and metalworking; furniture and kitchen cabinet manufacturing; and a limited category of motor vehicle dealers, Marr reports.

Federal agencies could decide that women-owned businesses are underrepresented in other industries, but first they would have to find sufficient evidence of discrimination by the government before setting aside contracts. The SBA further limited the size of any contract to $5 million for manufacturing work and $3 million for other jobs.

The proposal prompted many small-business owners to protest, and some are mobilizing to press their concerns during a 60-day public comment period that ends Feb. 25.

For more background information, see Small Business blog posts I've written on the reaction of women's groups and lawmakers.

Stay tuned as the debate develops.

By Sharon McLoone |  January 7, 2008; 12:20 PM ET Regulation Legislation
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It's no surprise that various women's groups are unhappy with the Small Business Administration's proposed rules regarding set-asides for female-owned companies. Naturally, they think there should be more set-asides.

But, as a legal and policy matter, there should no such preferences, period. The underlying statute requires no such discrimination, and it is extremely unlikely that, in the year 2008, the only way to ensure that contracting is nondiscriminatory for women is by mandating discrimination in their favor. And, of course, the taxpayers lose whenever contracts go to anyone other than the lowest bidder. The Bush administration should, at a minimum, go no further down this silly road than the proposed rules would take it; ideally, it would reconsider and not go down this road at all.

Posted by: Roger Clegg, Center for Equal Opportunity | January 9, 2008 11:27 AM

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