December 23, 2019

President Signs Hirono-Backed Improvements to Federal Contracting and Research Programs for Hawaii Small Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, successfully enacted improvements to federal contracting and research programs that will benefit Hawaii small businesses into law. Passed in the Senate as part of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), President Donald Trump signed Senator Hirono’s provisions into law on Friday. 

“Hawaii relies on small businesses to drive economic growth and spur innovation, which is why I have continued to advocate for federal programs that support these businesses,” Senator Hirono said. “This year’s NDAA makes changes to promote business opportunities for Native Hawaiian Organizations and their businesses, and to improve research opportunities for other innovative businesses in our state.”

“On behalf of the NHOA Board of Directors, we extend our heartfelt mahalo to Senators Mazie Hirono, Dan Sullivan and James Inhofe for their steadfast support of the Native Hawaiian community. Their tireless efforts were instrumental in the enactment of the FY2020 NDAA that includes many provisions benefiting Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHOs) and other Native Hawaiian-owned small businesses,” Daphne Tong-Pave, Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Organizations Association (NHOA), said. In particular, the amendment to Section 811 will allow NHO-owned firms to grow their businesses and provide greater support to the Native Hawaiian community as they each strive to fulfill their unique missions that range across social and community objectives including youth programs, access to legal defense, leadership development, innovative youth education, specialized job training, health, financial literacy, business development, cultural engagement, community development, and other community needs.”

Promoting Business Opportunities for Native Businesses: Senator Hirono worked with Senator Sullivan (R-Alaska) to include a provision that will expand federal contracting opportunities for Native Hawaiian Organizations, Alaska Native Corporations, and other Native businesses at DOD. Specifically, the provision raises the threshold applicable to certain DOD contracts from $20 million to $100 million, providing businesses in Hawaii with the ability to compete for larger federal contracts.

Senator Hirono has strongly advocated for federal programs that support Native businesses, particularly Native small businesses, and earlier this year, in July, introduced the Native American Business Outreach Act (S. 2191), which would permanently authorize the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) business outreach and counseling programs for those businesses, providing more stability for Native businesses that seek assistance from SBA. Earlier this month a companion billwas introduced in the House.

Improving Research Opportunities for Innovative Businesses: Senator Hirono also supported provisions that will improve DOD research opportunities for Hawaii businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs – two programs the Senator has continued to advocate for during her time in Congress. Specifically, the bill includes a provision to require procurement centers to support small businesses with research solicitations and provide them with technical assistance. Under the provision, small businesses would also receive assistance to commercialize research developed through the SBIR and STTR programs.

Senator Hirono has consistently advocated for federal programs that provide small businesses with technical assistance, and earlier this year signed a letter requesting strong support for procurement centers in FY2020.

Prioritizing Innovative Research that Supports the National Defense Strategy: Senator Hirono also supported a provision to align research priorities for DOD SBIR and STTR projects with the priorities in the National Defense Science and Technology Strategy, providing clear guidance for research pursued through those programs. 

During the 112th Congress, Senator Hirono introduced legislation to increase federal agency allocations for research and development to small businesses through the SBIR and STTR programs. Those allocations were subsequently increased, and since that time the Senator has continued to support expanding federal research opportunities for Hawaii small businesses through the programs. Last year, in 2018, Hawaii small businesses received 32 research awards through the SBIR and STTR programs worth $25.3 million. DOD accounted for 19 awards worth $18.2 million.