White House Hosts Meeting to Improve Federal Government Contracting


Picture of White House from the front lawn during the summer.

Last week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the Better Contracting Initiative (BCI), a four-pronged initiative that seeks to ensure it gets better terms and prices when purchasing goods and services. The four areas of focus include:

  1. Leveraging data across federal agencies to get lower prices and better terms.
  2. Negotiating common enterprise-wide software licenses.
  3. Saving money and avoiding waste by getting contract requirements right the first time.
  4. Getting better value from sole source and other high-risk contracts.

As part of this effort, the White House hosted a meeting of key stakeholders including Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC) CEO and President Sharon Pinder. Top issues discussed during the meeting include:

  • Focusing on outcomes instead of outputs.
    The Administration affirmed its commitment to ensure that contracting officers will not just check boxes in their compliance efforts but maximize accountability in alignment with all priorities and commitments.
  • Ensuring contracting officers are better prepared to support diverse small businesses.
    Meeting attendees agreed that one of the barriers to contracting and procurement programs for diverse businesses is that contracting officers often lack the resources and expertise of the communities they serve. The Administration acknowledged this is a challenge and its desire to prioritize education for contracting officers.
  • Committing to racial equity.
    Attendees expressed concerns this approach, in addition to potentially leaving small businesses behind, could leave minority business enterprises (MBEs) out of the contracting process almost entirely. The most recent available data on federal contracting from the Small Business Administration (SBA) reported in FY20 that only 9.5% of federal contracts went to minority-owned small businesses. It also showed that only 1.6% of federal contracts went to Black-owned small businesses and that overall, 75% of federal contracts went to large businesses and corporations.
  • Addressing workforce challenges.
    Attendees discussed workforce issues facing contracting officers, including high turnover rates, risk of burnout, and lack of age diversity. They emphasized the difficulty of retaining contracting officers long-term and how there are far too many responsibilities for one contracting officer to manage. They also noted that the average age of contracting officers (many of whom are approaching retirement age) could lead to future workforce shortages.
  • Providing better resources and education for business owners on the Better Contracting Initiative.
    Many of the new requirements are complex and require a sophisticated workforce to fully understand, so additional training is needed.

Fortunately, during the meeting, several possible next steps for addressing these challenges were raised including:

  • Supporting contracting officers’ understanding of and accountability to racial equity goals.
    Providing extensive diversity and inclusion training to contracting officers at key agencies to ensure they are maintaining high equity awareness and standards when executing contracts.
  • Expanding partnerships across contractors and agencies.
    Developing roundtable discussions for prime and subcontracts alongside key officials at the agency level to ensure that processes and support structures are understood and in place for successful outcomes.
  • Advising the federal government on how to strategically institutionalize accountability structures.
    Working with coalition partners to better understand institutional accountability to ensure proposed solutions to these issues are fully implemented.

NMSDC looks forward to working with the White House, its regional affiliates, and its other strategic partners on this effort to ensure NMSDC-certified MBEs are given the best possible opportunity to compete for federal government contracts.

You can learn more about the Better Contracting Initiative on the White House website.

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