Barb Carson is the Associate Administrator for SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development. She is a senior executive at SBA.
Q: Have you heard from veteran business owners besides VetLikeMe? What are their concerns about SBA’s programs to assist them?
A: Though most veterans share positive feedback on SBA’s veteran programs many share feedback that they “wished they knew about the resources earlier.” SBA is making a concerted effort to increase outreach, revitalize the sba.gov website and deliver programs that are effective and efficient in order to reduce barriers and increase opportunities for veteran small business owners.
Veterans can find and connect with Veterans Business Outreach Center mentors at www.sba.gov/vboc. Even if the VBOC is not local, they are incredible navigators of veteran entrepreneur resources across the nation and all VBOCs use technology to reach veterans who can’t meet in person.
SBA has 5 distinct entrepreneurial development programs for veterans, service members, military spouses and members of the Guard and Reserve which can be found at www.sba.gov/ovbd. The programs include:
1) Boots to Business; 2) Veterans Business Outreach Centers; 3) Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program; 4) Women Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Program; 5) Veteran Federal Procurement Entrepreneurship Training Program
Q: How are you going to improve access to capital for veterans who are trying to start their own businesses?
SBA implemented the provisions of the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 which eliminates the up-front guarantee on SBA Express loans up to $350,000 for veterans, service members, military spouses and members of the Guard and Reserve. Additionally, in fiscal year 2018 the SBA Veterans Advantage program will reduce the upfront guarantee fee by 50% on non-SBA Express 7a loans up to $350,000.
SBA will increase outreach to the veteran community to increase their awareness of the Community Advantage initiative and the SBA Microloan program. Through lending intermediaries these programs offer capital along with technical assistance. The average Community Advantage loan is $132,000 and the average microloan is $13,000.
Q: What steps have been taken to streamline and achieve the minimum goals specifically for vet biz owners and vetrepreneurs?
In terms of procurement goals, the Interagency Task Force for Veteran Small Business Development (IATF) reviewed and updated their recommendations in December, 2016. Since then, the members have shared advances in federal agency market research tools, addressed concerns about subcontracting goals and worked to implement legislative guidance and judicial rulings related service-disabled veteran procurement.
Q: How is the SBA holding prime contractors accountable to their subcontracting plans and SBA goals, specifically as it relates to award and payment to small business subcontractors?
All contracts that require small business subcontracting plans are monitored by SBA through the electronic Subcontracting Reporting System. All contractors must report their performance on meeting their negotiated goals as part of their contract. SBA also has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) which conducts oversight of defense related contracts. DCMA notifies SBA of any compliance reviews that are less than satisfactory. These reports are provided to the contracting officer that issued the contract to take appropriate action in accordance with the terms of the contract. SBA, through its Commercial Market Representatives (CMR) or Procurement Center Representatives (PCR) will investigate issues on payments of subcontractors and engage the awarding contracting officer to help resolve these issues when they occur. The Agency is committed to ensuring that contractors with small business subcontracting plan requirements are held accountable for meeting the terms of their contract.
Q: Do you suspect that training for government Contracting Officers in the law—that 3% of procurement expenditures shall be set-aside for service disabled veteran owned business—would move the agencies toward the 3% goal?
SBA provides training for contracting officers and federal agency small business professionals through its Office of Government Contracting Area Offices. This education and training contracting and small business professionals at local federal procurement centers of all goals and methods to help attain them. In addition, SBA also collaborates with federal agency Small Business Directors through its monthly Small Business Procurement Advisory Council (SBPAC) and through its monthly “1st Wednesday” webinars with the contracting workforce. SBA views training as a continuous learning process.
Q: Have any measures been considered to compel federal agencies to follow the law and meet their 3% goal of contracting with veteran businesses? Will the agency heads be held accountable? The agency Contracting Officers?
ANS. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of Fiscal Year 2013 implemented a requirement that all members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) receive training with respect to Federal acquisition requirements, including training requirements under the Small Business Act. The law also requires that the head of each respective agency take steps to ensure that members of the SES are held accountable to meeting small business contracting goals. SBA fully supports this initiative and believes it is one of the reasons the federal government has met the 23% small business goal for the past four (4) consecutive years and the Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) goal of 3% for the past five (5) years. While we recognize that not every agency has met their goal individually, we do believe that senior level attention and accountability is a major influencer in attaining this performance measure.
Q: Agency goals set by SBA are 5% for women owned business and small disadvantaged business (8a). SBA’s goals for federal agencies contracting with service disabled veteran owned small business is 3%. Why this discrepancy when SDVOSB are disabled by their service in the armed forces – not by birth – which is the case for women owned and 8a small businesses?
ANS. The establishment of goals and assignment of what the individual goals should be is an act of Congress. SBA is fully committed to applying those laws in its execution of its mission.
Q: Do you have any advice for veterans looking to start their own business?
A: Leverage the myriad resources SBA can offer you no matter what phase of business or industry you’re in!