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GAO: Agencies Do Not Always Make Small Business Awards on Time

Agencies that participate in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs have helped small businesses bring new technologies to market—such as a low-cost, energy-efficient alternative to fluorescent lights. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says agencies do not always make these awards on time.

Agencies participating in the SBIR and STTR programs awarded nearly $3 billion to small businesses in fiscal year 2021, and GAO found that agencies’ timeliness rates for the issuance of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards remained similar from fiscal year 2020 to 2021. The watchdog notes that agencies’ timeliness performance for award issuance has improved for both programs overall since fiscal year 2016. This is the case government-wide, although defense agencies have lagged behind civilian agencies in their performance.

The Department of Defense’s (DOD) timeliness relies on the performance of the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, which together issued 83 percent of all defense-related awards for fiscal year 2021. DOD issued 65 percent of its awards on time from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2021 compared with 85 percent by civilian agencies.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is required to annually report agency award timeliness data to Congress along with other information about participating agencies’ implementation of the SBIR and STTR programs. However, GAO’s review found that SBA has been consistently late with its annual reports from FY 2016 to FY 2021—between 6 to 16 months late. Without a comprehensive, documented analysis of its process for developing these annual reports, GAO says it is unclear whether SBA is missing opportunities to take action to improve the timeliness of its required reports. Additionally, the watchdog is concerned that SBA is missing opportunities to provide real-time award timeliness data on its website, which could offer an alternative source of information to Congress and the public about agencies’ performance in meeting award time frames and could spur further improvements.

GAO is recommending that SBA identify and implement actions to improve timely issuance of its annual report and add SBIR and STTR award timeliness data to its website. SBA concurred with these recommendations.

Read the full report at GAO

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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