Ensuring ACCESS for Iowa’s small businesses

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, comprising 99.9% of all American businesses and employing nearly half of our nation’s workforce. They produce 16.5 times more patents than large firms, delivering key modernizations and competition necessary for a healthy, cost-effective defense industrial base.

Unfortunately, despite their valuable contributions, Washington often overlooks the needs of entrepreneurs and innovators.

The truth is: Today’s federal contracting process is stacked against America’s small businesses. Complex contract terms, opaque pricing structures, and crushing compliance requirements put our small businesses at a serious disadvantage compared to their large counterparts. Big corporations have the resources to wade through the complexities of government contracts, but our mom-and-pop shops often lack the means to hire multiple experts.

As the Biden administration proudly lauds an increase in federal contract dollars awarded to small businesses, it fails to address our nation’s rapidly shrinking pool of small business contractors. Between Fiscal Year 2007 and Fiscal Year 2023, the number of small businesses that received government contracts fell dramatically from 144,774 to 74,617. Most concerningly, the Department of Defense lost 43.1% of its small business vendors in only six years.

You shouldn’t need VIP access to do business with the U.S. government, the world’s largest buyer of goods and services. Limited competition in contracting only concentrates the market, resulting in taxpayers spending more and more to get less valuable products. When our nation’s defense relies on just a few small businesses, our supply chain is weaker for it.

That’s why Congress needs to pass my Accountability and Clarity in Contracts to Engage Small Suppliers and Small Businesses (ACCESS) Act. This effort addresses small businesses’ challenges in the federal procurement space by mandating that federal notices — such as contract opportunities — be written clearly and in plain language instead of wacky government jargon. My bill also counters the decline in the small business vendor base by ensuring agencies contract with a wider variety and greater number of individual small businesses.

As a proud Iowan, I know our state has much to offer, and government contracting should not be limited to big corporations within the D.C. bubble. Midwesterners are every bit as capable and qualified, if not more. That’s why I hosted my first annual Entrepreneur Expo in Ames last year, where I brought government agencies to the Heartland and helped Iowa’s small businesses learn more about government procurement and federal innovation-focused programs. I am excited to host the event again this year on Aug. 6, and I hope to see you there!

During National Small Business Week, it’s more important than ever that Congress focus on reducing red tape and fostering an environment conducive to small business growth. As ranking member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I pledge to continue fighting against burdensome contract requirements and champion the cause of our nation’s small business owners.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, represents Iowa.


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