Congress Acts to Assure Firms Receiving Women-Owned Federal Set-Aside Contracts Are Actually Women-Owned

Margot Dorfman

Thanks to Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision to assure women-owned set-aside contracts are not inappropriately diverted to non-women-owned firms.

The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce ( applauds Congress for taking action to protect women-owned firms from competing against ineligible firms for federal women-owned small business set-aside contracts. The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which has now been passed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, includes a provision, authored by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, to assure women-owned set-asides are not inappropriately diverted to non-women-owned firms.[1]

“For months, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce has been speaking out to the Small Business Administration, Congress, media and to women businesses all across America about the failure of the Small Business Administration to bring accountability to the women-owned small business federal set-aside program,” states Margot Dorfman – CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. “Finally, after the Government Accountability Office found that forty-percent of women-owned small business set-aside contracts were awarded to ineligible firms in FY 2012 and 2013[2], Congress has taken action to bring about a higher standard of accountability for the women-owned set-aside program.”

Finally, Congress has taken action to bring about a higher standard of accountability for the federal women-owned set-aside program.

Margot, Dorfman

“Many will remember that the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce filed and won a legal claim against the Small Business Administration for failure to implement the women’s set-aside program that was established by Congress in 2000,” adds Dorfman. “Amazingly, it took the Small Business Administration ten years to implement the law, and the implementation was only accomplished after the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce won our claim and the court ordered periodic reporting from the SBA on the status of implementation.  No wonder, Judge Reggie B. Walton, who found in our favor -- stated the SBA, “had sabotaged . . . the implementation of the procurement program.””

“As part of the flawed implementation of the women’s set-aside program, the Small Business Administration allowed firms to self-certify their women-owned status without any tangible oversight,” continues Dorfman. “The results of this lack of accountability were highlighted in the Government Accountability Office report released on November 7, 2014 which detailed the alarming, systemic and costly failure by the SBA to provide oversight of the women-owned small business set-aside program and of socioeconomic programs across the entire federal marketplace.”

“The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce extends our deepest thanks to Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee for being a real champion for women in business in the U.S. Congress,” adds Dorfman. “Congresswoman Velázquez, who was the original author of the women’s set-aside program, also authored HR 2452 to add sole-source authority to the women’s set-aside program and to end self-certification (which allowed firms to compete for set-aside contracts who had not been certified by the SBA or an authorized, independent third-party certifier as meeting the federal standards for the program). Congresswoman Velázquez was key in assuring that this provision to protect women from competing against ineligible firms (which was originally included in HR 2452) was included in the National Defense Authorization Act.”

“The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Congress calls upon Small Business Administration to swiftly take action to bring an end to awarding women-owned set-aside contracts to ineligible firms, establish real accountability in all socio-economic programs, add sole-source authority for women-owned set-asides and complete a new review of the industry codes eligible for this program,” adds Dorfman. “For too many years, Washington has claimed to love women in business while failing to act in good faith on our behalf. It’s time for real accountability with contract awards to legitimately women-owned firms.”

The U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce (USWCC) is the leading advocate for women on economic and leadership issues.  As the economic leader for women, the USWCC creates opportunities, drives progress, advocates, and provides tools and solutions to support the economic growth of women across America. The USWCC ( is a not-for-profit 501(c)6 organization founded in 2001 with over 500,000 members; its headquarters offices are located in Washington, D.C.  Contact the USWCC at 888-418-7922.

[1] Section 825, H.R. 3979 EAH. 113th Congress 

[2]Government Accountability Office. (Published October 18, 2014. Released: November 7, 2014.) Women-Owned Small Business Program: Certifier Oversight and Additional Eligibility Controls Are Needed.


Related Files

Additional Images