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Begich presses DOD on policy that harms 8(a) contractors

Sen. Mark Begich is pushing back against U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) actions that have curtailed business opportunities for Alaska Native Corporations through the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program.

After personally meeting with Richard Ginman, director for defense procurement and acquisition policy in the Department of Defense, Begich took the lead in writing a letter to DOD officials to press his concerns.

At issue is an Aug. 15 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upholding the constitutionality of the 8(a) program, but calling into question Alaska Native Corporations’ ability to fulfill specific types of contracts – for military simulators – under the provisions of 8(a). Ginman then wrote a memo directing the DOD not to award any contracts for services in the simulator industry through the 8(a) program.

“There are already cases where 8(a) businesses have lost contracts as a result of the court order and memo,” Begich said. “Given how important the 8(a) program is in Alaska, I’m asking the Department of Defense to take a more conservative approach in its interpretation.”

Begich wrote a letter, which was co-signed by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. John Tester of Montana, asking DOD to narrow the scope of the memo to ensure it is in compliance with the court order and doesn’t result in job loss. He also met with Ginman last week in his Washington, D.C., office to urge changes to DOD’s position to encourage business opportunities for 8(a) contractors.

“The fact the District Court ruled the program was unconstitutional in the simulation industry, yet found it constitutional in general, is not only ludicrous but unnecessarily jeopardizes this important program by making it subject to further litigation in other industries,” Begich said. “In the interim, I’ve asked DOD to reconsider its mandate that no contracts be awarded through the 8(a) program in the simulation industry since that goes beyond what the court order directed.”

Begich, Murkowski and Tester also asked Department of Defense, Department of Justice and the Small Business Administration to appeal the decision.

The ruling, called DynaLantic Corp. v. Department of Defense, “creates an undue burden on agencies, and will negatively impact their ability to utilize the program,” states the letter.  It also points out the ruling may expose the government to litigation by making industry-specific exclusions. “Such risk will create disincentive for federal agencies to maximize use of the 8(a) program,” the letter states.

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