Federal procurement features in new equity action plans

General Services Administration makes federal procurement a key part of its first-ever Equity Action Plan, aimed at increasing investment in disadvantaged small businesses as the White House seeks to address systemic issues affecting underserved communities.

The GSA, along with more than 90 federal agencies, unveiled its equity plan Thursday. The GSA plan highlighted the role it plays in overseeing $75 billion in annual contracts and said it plans to focus its equity efforts in three areas: federal procurement, federal buildings and the design and delivery of federal technologies.

The plan identifies five major barriers that prevent disadvantaged small businesses (DSBs) from achieving fair results in the federal marketplace, including the lack of a centralized opportunities portal where new entrants can assess potential rewards. According to the GSA, a lack of resources and knowledge about the complexities of navigating and meeting federal procurement requirements also impacts SDBs in obtaining delivery tasks or orders.

To overcome these barriers, the agency said it is looking to find new avenues for SDBs to find places in existing government-wide procurement contracts, create a supplier diversity plan and a ” robust post-award engagement strategy” to help SDBs succeed. Additionally, the GSA is looking to simplify the process for new entrants and improve vendor training to create new paths to federal procurement.

“This plan outlines how the GSA intends to embed diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility as a priority in everything we do, from delivering projects to designing websites,” said the administrator of the GSA, Robin Carnahan. “For government to work, it must work for everyone. That’s why we’re focused on improving how we at the GSA, and our federal partners, can improve the way we deliver services. to all American communities.”

The GSA also says it will award all remaining cohorts for 8(a)STARS III, Polaris, and female-owned small business pools this year, as part of an effort to support the House’s goal. Blanche to increase federal contract spending on SDBs by 50% over five years. Last month, the agency announced a four-fold increase in its SDB contract opportunity goals from the previous year.

Other agencies are also emphasizing procurement in their equity action plans, including the Small Business Administration, which says it will invest in improved technology to streamline program applications and integrate data as part of an effort to increase access to capital for minority-owned companies. businesses.

The Commerce Department’s equity action plan also includes calls for the Minority Business Development Agency – an agency within the Commerce Department charged with promoting the competitiveness of minority businesses in the federal marketplace – to create a pool of federal contracting opportunities. The Department of Homeland Security has also pledged to make its contract vehicles more open to SDBs.

The equity action plans are the result of President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Racial Equity and Supporting Underserved Communities through the federal government, which included a multi-year effort to improve the delivery of federal services and access to underserved communities. The White House website now features a page dedicated to its government-wide equity efforts, with links to each agency’s action plans and filter options to review the more than 300 commitments and strategies.

The GSA has worked for several years to streamline the process and improve educational resources for SDBs and minority-owned businesses, issuing a request for information in 2020 on the development of its contract vehicle for small businesses, Polaris. The Biden administration has meanwhile sought to leverage its procurement power to narrow the racial wealth gap, previously announcing plans to invest $31 billion in various forms of assistance to business owners socially and economically disadvantaged seeking to establish working relationships with the federal government.