FACT CHECK OBAMA: The Obama campaign's response does not address plans to increase small business contracting opportunities if he wins re-election.
ANALYSIS: "Mr. Romney's position on small business federal contracting does not speak to the core issues and rights of America's small businesses to receive fair access to tax-payer funded federal contracts," says Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, who has testified before Congress about contracting issues. Dorfman says Romney "talks about competition but focuses on the narrow issue of unions without addressing core competitive issues including the continual decline in the number of new suppliers to the U.S. government and the declining number of companies securing contract awards each year."
Looking at the Obama campaign's statement that nearly $100 billion in federal contracts went to small businesses each year between 2007 and 2010, Dorfman notes that the government still failed in each of those years to reach the statutory 23 percent minimum goal. "The growth Mr. Obama mentions is simply due to the tremendous increase in the overall federal spending during this time," she says. Dorfman says the Interagency Task Force did establish some promising ideas but none of these ideas have driven much progress, as evidenced by the shortfalls in contracting with small businesses. "Nor has Mr. Obama used his executive authority to clearly call upon agency leaders to bring about fair access to contracts for small businesses and hold these appointed leaders accountable for their actions," Dorfman adds.
Steven Schooner, a George Washington University Law School professor who specializes in government contracting law, says of the Romney campaign's proposal, "Threatening to repeal Davis-Bacon is an impractical and, probably, empty promise, but it remains an extremely popular campaign theme. The Romney campaign hopes to exploit what it sees as a target of opportunity in President Obama's pro-union bias in government contracting. It is not difficult to demonstrate that, as a result of long-standing congressional mandates, the government consistently pays above-market wages to contractor labor. Conservatives and liberals can differ on whether that makes sense. But President Obama's initial Executive Orders signaled a deep commitment to aggressively supporting organized labor's interests in federal contract work, and the President has not wavered since."
Of the Obama response, Schooner says the president has "little to offer small business."
"He cannot, with a straight face, promise small businesses more contracting dollars in the foreseeable future," he says. "The era of relentless growth in federal procurement spending is over. After a decade of extraordinary growth, federal contracting dollars plateaued for the last few years (at around $530 billion a year), all signs suggest that we reached a peak, and small decreases in spending aren't out of the question. In other words, small businesses will continue to compete with large business for their slice of a stable or shrinking pie."