Lies, Darn Lies, and NASA Small Business Contracting Statistics [Retracted]

[Update: I probably should mention that an anonymous commenter claimed that this story is a big misrepresentation by the ASBL trying to win lobbying points for its clients…it’s possible, but I’d really like more data either way before going further. Does anyone have any information about if NASA really has been counting contracts with Fortune 1000 companies as small business contracts? Also, does anyone have a link to the relevant SBA policy that the ASBL is blasting? I’m sure they’ve got plenty of reason to misrepresent some things, particularly the nature of the policy released. However the allegation that NASA has been counting large business contracts towards their small business contracting statistics is either true or not. Can anyone shed some more light on this?]

[Update2: I’m retracting this post. After taking some time that I didn’t have to do some high-level due-diligence, I think the ASBL was blatantly misrepresenting the situation. I expected them to be biased, but looking at the regulations that they’re griping about, it looks like they badly misrepresented things. I apologize to NASA for being taken in by this–nobody deserves to be falsely accused. I’m going to leave this up here, just so everyone can see how much of a tool I was, and so that if anyone wants to do more research on the topic they have a starting point]

I saw this article over on yesterday, but was surprised how little attention it’s garnered in the blogosphere. Basically, NASA (as well as several other government agencies) have been counting billions of dollars of contracts to Fortune 1000 companies like Lockheed and Boeing as “small business contracts” for some time now, in order to claim that they’ve been meeting the federally mandated goal of 23% procurement from small businesses. The SBA, instead of criticizing them, or any of the other federal agencies that did similar things, passed a law allowing such dishonesty through 2012. This, in spite of the fact that a similar policy had been previously dropped after receiving over 6000 objections.

What’s galling is that NASA was doing this even before the policy was enacted. In other words, for at least a few years, NASA has been counting contracts to big aerospace companies as “small business contracts” in order to lie about how well they’ve been doing with their small business contracting goals. The sad thing is is that as I understand it, they aren’t actually legally required to meet those goals, but they felt it necessary to be dishonest anyway.

I don’t have any beef with larger aerospace companies, and in fact I’ve got many friends in ULA, Lockheed, and Boeing. They sometimes do really useful work, and with how much expertise they have in some fields its perfectly reasonable for them to sometimes get contracts from NASA or other agencies for work. But I have a real issue when NASA or other federal agencies try to claim that a contract with a company that has thousands of employees is a “small business contract.”

It’s just dishonest. Though, I have to admit, I can’t really say I’m shocked. This wouldn’t be the first time NASA has “bent” the truth a little when it was convenient.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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3 Responses to Lies, Darn Lies, and NASA Small Business Contracting Statistics [Retracted]

  1. Anonymous says:

    FYI — It’s not true. The ASBL deliberately misrepresents the nature of the new regulations on this issue because it’s lobbying for a different outcome. You’ve been had.

  2. Jon Goff says:

    Could you provide more info? I wouldn’t be surprised if the ASBL was being a little loose with the facts themselves, because as you say they have a stake in the outcome. An anonymous poster just saying I’ve been had, but without providing any details isn’t exactly the most convincing argument. Do you have links to the new legislation? And, the more important question is, do you have any information you can bring to the table about the nature of the supposed contracts to large businesses that were counted toward the small business contract procurement goal? Did they make this up out of whole cloth, or is that part of the story true?

    Regardless of the nature of the new regulations, what interests me is if NASA was dishonestly counting contracts as small business contracts that were with anything but “small” businesses.


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