I know you're all holding your breath on SBIR/STTR reauthorization, so here's the news, hot off the press. We'll have more in-depth coverage later.
SBIR & STTR PROGRAMS EXTENDED "AS IS" THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30, 2010
The House just passed H. R. 5849, "To provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes."
What this means is that all SBIR and STTR programs (except the DoD) will be extended "AS IS" for an additional 60 days. The DoD SBIR, STTR and CPP were previously extended through September 30, 2010 under separate legislation. With the passing of this bill, all 11 SBIR agency programs are authorized through September 30, 2010.
This action is the 8th in a line of short term continuing resolutions (CRs) since 2008, and is expected to quickly pass the Senate and be signed by the President this week, thereby avoiding a programmatic lapse, not just for SBIR, but for several other important SBA programs as well.
If there is good news to this short term extension, it is that both House and Senate committees are hopeful that they will reach compromise prior to September 30, and unlike last year, the relevant committees are communicating and getting close to an agreement. The downside to this short term action is the precarious position the agencies are put in.
It is interesting to note that in his floor speech to urge passage of H. R. 5849, Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) stated "uncertainty is the enemy of growth." Do these elected officials realize that "uncertainty" is also the enemy of stability in government programs? SBIR and STTR have been suffering from this uncertainty for far too long, and many agencies are reluctant to commit to making awards, especially in phase II.
SBIR REAUTHORIZATION IN 60 DAZE?
No, that's not a typo. Although September 30 may be almost 60 days away to us, it is far less for congress who is in the midst of a re-election daze, the likes of which we haven't seen in quite sometime.
If all goes according to plan, congress will recess August 6 for what is known as their "district work period" and will return September 13. The number of legislative days they will have from enactment of this bill to September 30 is estimated to be about 18.
During the district work period you may have the opportunity to speak with your representative or senator, perhaps in person, or in a town hall. Don't be afraid to call their local, regional or state office to invite them to visit your business. Let them know how important the SBIR program is to you, your business, and potential new jobs. Programs such as SBIR that help keep or add employment for good wage paying jobs, are usually popular with the politicos.
SBIR AND THE SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010
There are some gray clouds the agencies are dealing with in the form of H.R. 4899, "Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010" Although the House and Senate passed their own versions of this bill, there are many areas of disagreement between the two bodies, and the conferencing work has failed to produce enough votes to pass the legislation. There are many issues other than raw funding in this large bill, and passage is essential in keeping much of our government operating.
One concern in the SBIR arena is a number of rescissions made to existing budgets (retroactive) as listed in section 4114. Obviously many of these were made to help offset the spending increases in other areas. A notable number of rescissions are in the areas of R&D. In the DoD we see an R&D reduction of about $505M which could translate to a loss of more than $12M in SBIR funding.
The DoD has cautioned congress that without passage of supplemental funding, the war efforts will run out of funds in early to mid August, 2010. You may recall that a few years ago we had a situation where war funding was in peril and the DoD started to "rob Peter to pay Paul" in an effort to protect our war fighters. This affects most DoD programs including SBIR.
In our last issue we discussed the possibilities of kicking the SBIR can down the road to the next congress. I can tell you that most of the SBIR veterans we polled, who have been around since the beginning, and fought the wars over the years to establish and keep the SBIR program running, are very concerned about a new congress with many freshmen.
On the other hand there is a concern of giving too much of the program away to special interests (both large and small). There are some groups within government working for a "next generation" SBIR program. Many of these people are relatively new to the program, and do not have a balanced view of what SBIR was created to be, or how it may best serve the private sector in addition to the government.
SBIR was not a government idea, it came from the outside world. It came from the visionary mind of Roland Tibbetts, who conceived the program, along with the energy, force and respect of the late Milt Stewart. Stewart created the political environment and inertia in congress to establish the program. There was also a great cast of characters without whose participation, SBIR would not have been possible.
Most of these people are still with us today and are of sharp mind. Yet, in all this talk of a new SBIR program (rumored to be SBIR 2.0), we are not hearing of any involvement with any of these great people. Perhaps the eggs think they are smarter than the chickens.
Thanks again for your time and we welcome your comments.
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