Federal agencies improved on their commitment to award contracts to small businesses in 2018, though they still fell behind in goals for contract awards to women-owned small businesses, according to the Small Business Administration’s procurement scorecards released June 25.

The government as a whole received an “A” for 2018 — meaning that it met or exceeded 100 percent of the goals set for small business contracting that year — a grade that it has maintained for the past five years.

The Departments of Education, Commerce and the Treasury led the pack of 24 agencies that were evaluated, each earning an A+ and meeting over 130 percent of the established goals for small business contract awards.

Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management, Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for International Development and the National Science Foundation failed to meet their small business contract goals, with NSF achieving the lowest score at just over 85 percent of their goal.

But despite the overall successes for small business contract awards, some categories of small businesses failed to meet governmentwide metrics.

“In general it’s a positive report in that the federal government in an overall standpoint exceeded its goals of 23 percent [of contracts awarded to small businesses],” said Gloria Larkin, procurement adviser to American Express and president of TargetGov, which contracts with the federal government and also provides advice for other businesses looking to get government awards.

“For women-owned small businesses … it’s not so good.”

The whole of government fell just short of its goal to award 5 percent of prime contracts to women-owned small businesses, awarding 4.75 percent under that designation instead. In the past decade, the government has only met its WOSB goal once, in 2015.

“To only exceed the goal once is a very sad state of affairs,” said Larkin.

According to Larkin, the WOSB program lags where other small business initiatives succeed for a few reasons: other initiatives like the veteran-owned small business program have agency-specific champions like the Department of Veterans Affairs, the WOSB program is limited only to industries where women have been determined to be particularly disadvantaged, and acquisition professionals don’t always understand the complicated nature of the program.

Despite overall deficiencies for WOSBs, 18 of the 24 scored agencies actually managed to meet or exceed goals in that category, meaning that agencies with particularly large contract offerings, like the Department of Defense, failed to meet the 5 percent threshold.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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