Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) programs awarded over $3 billion in contracts to small businesses in fiscal year (FY) 2020, but those awards were not been consistently issued in a timely fashion, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) calls for small businesses to be notified of an award within 90 days, and to receive the award within 180 days. Despite award timeliness improvements since FY2017, 20 of the 29 Federal agencies that participate in the SBIR and SBTT programs reviewed by GAO had not issued at least some of those awards on time.

Of those 20 agencies who have not consistently issued awards on time, 12 are within the Department of Defense (DoD). Overall, 11 agencies issued at least 50 percent of their awards in late 2020.

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“On the one hand, timeliness across agencies has improved since fiscal year 2017. Agencies issued 69 percent of awards within the recommended time that year, compared to 82 percent of awards that we reviewed for fiscal year 2020,” wrote GAO. “On the other hand, only nine of the 29 participating agencies were consistently on time in fiscal year 2020, meaning they issued at least 90 percent of their awards within 180 days.”

According to GAO, this lack of timeliness dates back at least five years, with 20 agencies routinely late during this period – and issuing fewer than 90 percent of their awards on time for three or more of the five fiscal years since 2016.

Further, GAO said that DoD may be missing opportunities to obtain technologies more quickly since 12 of the 13 Pentagon agencies participating in the SBIR and SBTT programs are not consistently issuing their awards on time.

To address timeliness, GAO made 22 recommendations for 20 Federal agencies, which include those to improve the timeliness of awards to small businesses. Of that total, Federal agencies concurred with 20 of the recommendations, while DoD “partially concurred with one and did not occur with the another recommendation that GAO maintains still is warranted.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.