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Small business procurement report needs adjustment, group says

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In anticipation of the government’s annual small business procurement scorecard this summer, a group of small business advocates and watchdog  groups has asked top federal procurement officials to stop practices that inaccurately reflect how close agencies have come to meeting their goals.

The scorecard measures the percent of federal prime and subcontract dollars awarded to small businesses, including women owned small businesses, small disadvantaged businesses, service disabled veteran-­‐owned small businesses and small businesses operating in Historically Underutilized Business Zones. The federal government’s goal is to award 23 percent of its contract dollars to small businesses each year.

During fiscal 2010, the federal  government spent more than $540 billion on goods and services, which means small businesses should have been awardedat least $124 billion worth of federal prime contracts, the group — which includes the Project on Government Oversight, Minority Business Round Table, Public Citizen and more than a dozen chambers of commerce  — said in a June 7 letter to SBA Administrator Karen Mills, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients and Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Joseph Jordan.

Instead, SBA reported that the government narrowly missed its 23 percent goal with $98 billion in small business awards.

The American Small Business League, which led the effort, found instances where contracts awarded to large corporations, such as  General Electric, Lockheed Martin and AT&T, and their subsidiaries have been incorrectly classified as small.  

The group said it also considers past scorecards  to be inaccurate because SBA does not include all federal contracting dollars when calculating the percentage. Instead, the agency uses an amount called “small business eligible,” which omits certain contracts, such as contracts for work performed overseas.

“During his campaign, President Obama promised to end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants,” said Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League. “It is time for President Obama to force the SBA to stop fabricating these numbers. They need to tell the truth, which is that small businesses get a small fraction of what the SBA says they do.”

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At Pentagon, the PS3 only does everything

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Sony Corp. lately has been trying to drum up interest in its PlayStation 3 video game console by emphasizing its versatility — such as the ability to play video games, DVDs and high-definition Blu Ray discs and browse the Internet – under the slogan “It only does everything.” But CNN is reporting that the Pentagon has come up with a use Sony may never have imagined: Link more than 2,500 consoles together to create a massive supercomputer.

CNN said the military is shopping for 2,200 new PS3s to complement a supercomputer cluster already running on 336 PS3s. The key to the supercomputer is the PS3′s powerful cell processor, which according to the justification review document is by far the most cost-efficient way to get the necessary processing power:

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FDR, Al Capone’s armored car, and oddball procurement rules of the '40s

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Al Capones armored Cadillac, later borrowed by FDR

Al Capone's armored Cadillac, later "borrowed" by FDR

While researching a story on how civilian government vehicles are armored against bombs and gunfire, I stumbled upon this fascinating article about the first armored car used by the government. The day after Pearl Harbor, the Secret Service pressed Al Capone’s confiscated 1928 Cadillac into service to transport President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Congress to deliver his famous “infamy speech” asking for a declaration of war against the Axis Powers.

The night of Dec. 7, 1941, the Secret Service worried that German or Japanese agents might try to assassinate FDR, so they decided to drive the president around in armored cars starting the next day. But not only was finding one overnight a tall order, the government’s procurement rules made buying such a car impossible. In those days, the government was not allowed to spend more than $750 (about $10,800 in today’s dollars) on any automobile. That, of course, placed armored cars out of the government’s price range.

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GAO: DHS procurement efforts still lag

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Earlier today we mentioned that Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is at the top of the list of candidates to take over the Homeland Security Department.

And, as the Government Accountability Office reminds us in a new report released today, she would take over an agency full of management challenges.

From the GAO:

However, most initiatives related to defining and identifying the acquisition workforce and assessing workforce needs have not yet produced results and in some cases are progressing more slowly than originally projected.

The department spends more than $10 billion each year on contracts — including some expensive and hard-to-manage projects like the “virtual fence.” But it had only a handful of contracting officers when it was stood up in 2003; DHS has made some strides since then, but, according to the GAO, it has a long way to go.

That’ll be just one of the many problems confronting the new secretary.