Washington, D.C. – Wednesday Alaskan Congressman Don Young enlisted a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives to urge Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to swiftly and diligently complete a Department of Defense (DOD) study examining the negative impacts of Section 811 of the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Native community owned contractors.
“The 8(a) program has been extremely successful in creating an efficient and cost effective contracting option for the government while supporting economic opportunity for some of the most disadvantaged and underemployed populations in the nation,” said Congressman Young. “Since Senator Stevens left the Senate, Native contractors have been under constant attack. Section 811 was snuck into the 2010 NDAA negotiations by the Senate, and ever since then I have repeatedly heard about the confusion, difficulty and damage this Act has caused to our Native contractors.”
Section 811 requires that any 8(a) Native American sole-source contract, in excess of $20 million, go through an overly burdensome approval process. While the measure was sold as a “good governance” provision and did not prohibit or discourage the awarding of such contracts, this heightened scrutiny, not required for any other contractors, has had a chilling effect for contracts.
The 2015 Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act included a requirement that directed the Secretary of Defense to conduct an analysis based on Section 811 to examine its excessive, burdensome, or negative effects on Native owned companies.
“Reports, including from the Government Accountability Office, have indicated that Section 811 has been improperly interpreted and improperly implemented,” Congressman Young wrote in the letter. “Examples of this include arbitrary “caps” on the value of contracts that an agency will award, or the requirement of a significantly higher approval than is otherwise required by the Federal Acquisition Regulation. Furthermore, some companies report that the provision has been used [by contracting officials] to avoid working with these companies altogether, out of fear of political scrutiny, even when a contract award may be justified.”
The same GAO report showed a 60% decline in revenue from these contracts, which has resulted in a loss of jobs, reduced benefits to Native Americans and has led to unintended discrimination against Native community owned firms.
“It is imperative that the integrity of our federal acquisition system is maintained,” Young wrote in the letter. “Agencies and Congress must not only exercise diligent oversight of contractors, but also ensure that agencies, Members of Congress, and others, are not influencing decisions by acquisition officials because of political reasons. This includes directing contracts towards or away from certain contractors based on anything other than performance capabilities and cost.”
Congressman Young’s letter to Secretary Carter, which stresses the importance of completing this DOD study, was signed by Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA).
Click here to view Congressman Young’s letter to Secretary Ash Carter.