McCaskill Taking Aim at 8(a) Contracts

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is taking aim at the special breaks given to Alaska Native Corporations seeking federal contracts.  She introduced a bill Wednesday that she says will “crack down on waste and abuse in contracting.”  But Alaska Native Corporations are calling her efforts “misguided” and an “assault on Native enterprises.”

McCaskill’s bill would stop the Alaska Native Corporations, or ANCs, from receiving sole source contracts over three and a half million dollars.  It would force them to prove they are economically and socially disadvantaged rather than automatically qualifying as such, and require them to count their affiliates and subsidiaries when measuring their size.

McCaskill’s spokeswoman Maria Speiser says huge government contracts are going out the door without competition because of the Small Business Administration “8(a) Program,” which she thinks isn’t good for taxpayers.

Speiser says truly disadvantaged Native Corporations could still qualify for breaks – but they would have to prove their need.

McCaskill’s bill would prevent ANCs from operating as what the Senator calls “pass-throughs” to non-Native companies that don’t qualify as Small Businesses.  She’s especially targeting the partnerships ANCs forge with other non-Native corporations, and has called for an investigation into the practice by the Small Business Administration.  A press release from her office Wednesday said she wants a report made to Congress, with to the Justice Department if necessary.

But the Vice President of Communications and Marketing at NANA Development Corporation in Alaska Robin Cornfield says the ANCs play by the rules, deliver high quality services to the government, and ultimately help shareholders back home – which fulfills their mission.

Senator McCaskill is a Democrat, but her fellow “D” in the Senate, Alaska’s Mark Begich, intends to fight her bill.  His spokeswoman Julie Hasquet says their office is taken aback that McCaskill is going after a program far away from her state of Missouri.

Hasquet says Senator Begich does believe some reform in the 8(a) program would help rout out any misuse.  But he believes that can be done through proposals the Native corporations are already discussing.

Senator McCaskill’s bill won’t likely see any movement during the current Lame Duck session in Washington.

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