It is still a few steps away from reality, but the Department of Defense (DoD) may adopt a business contract award program based upon the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) existing "Vets First Contracting Program." This program puts qualified service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) and veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) first in line for the award of appropriate VA contracts.
A significant step toward that end was taken when the U.S. House of Representatives approved an American Legion-backed measure that, if also passed by the Senate and enacted, would order DoD to study the impact of adopting such a veteran-centric policy.
The measure is an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), or Pentagon budget, introduced by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., and passed unanimously by the House on June 14. It directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the administrator of the Small Business Administration and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to issue a report on the "impacts of Department of Defense contracting with (VOSBs and SDVOSBs) on veteran entrepreneurship and veteran unemployment."
Included in the mandated DoD report would also be "a description of the effect that increased economic opportunity for veterans has on issues such as veteran suicide and veteran homelessness." The amendment sets a deadline of 180 days from its enactment for the issuance of the report.
The American Legion was instrumental in the formulation of the amendment, with Legion Small Business Task Force Chairman Bill Jenkins taking part in the actual writing of the measure. Jenkins is vice president of Skyline Unlimited, a Virginia-based SDVOSB that offers a variety of supportive services to veterans. He expressed delight at news of the amendment's passage, saying, "This is a great bill, a no-brainer and long overdue for our veteran business community."
Jenkins and the Legion's National Economic Commission staff are now appealing to members of the Senate to follow suit and pass a similar amendment.
Another NDAA amendment offered by Rep. Fitzpatrick — that also won unanimous House passage — would require the services to continue offering tuition assistance to active-duty servicemembers at least through the end of fiscal year 2014. Earlier this year, such educational support had been threatened by sequestration.