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Mr. Mark J. Gross

Mr. Mark J. Gross, Oak Grove Technologies, Raleigh, NC, President and Chief Executive Officer

Good afternoon Chairman Herseth-Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman and members of this Subcommittee.    Thank you for the invitation to come before you and share my experiences and work within the veteran business owner community, and discuss the 3 percent federal procurement goal for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses.

I am a veteran of the United States Army, and CEO of Oak Grove Technologies, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned small business, founded at my kitchen table 5 years ago this coming August.  Today, I am proud to say, I employ over 140 employees, over 70% of whom are veterans, and 16% of those are service disabled veterans.  Geographically, we are dispersed across 16 states, and support both OEF and OIF in  Afghanistan and Iraq. 

In my opinion the climate has changed considerably in the past few years.  If you look at some of the trends today, you will see that many agencies are improving in making awards to Service Disabled Veteran owned businesses, although we still have a way to go.   Congress has done an outstanding job in passing legislation such as 106-50 and 108-183, both of which established Service Disabled Veteran goals and mandates in federal contracting.   However, there still lacks accountability within Agencies to meet these goals.  I am here to offer my views on what can be done to ensure the state of veteran’s entrepreneurship within the federal government. 

Some positive changes that will further enable agencies to meet some of these goals are contained in PL 109-461, (See Amendment 1) which gives the VA special Authorization in procuring to Veteran and Disabled Veteran Owned business. 

I offer five recommendations to meet the 3% procurement goal:

  • With respect to set asides and sole sources, eliminate the “Rule of Two” wherein a contracting officer

o has to know of two or more SDVOB’s before an acquisition can be set aside. 

o Conversely, an “SDVO sole source” award can only be made when there is only one SDVOSB that can satisfy the requirement. 

This is the only similar requirement for any of the statutory programs. 

  • Create a level playing field between the statutory programs by changing the use of “MAY” to “Shall” when using restricted competition for SDVOB’s.
  • Small business subcontracting plans, including all details of the plans, required by large prime contractors, should be made public and accessible electronically or on forms 294/295 upon request.  Mandate that contracting officers impose liquidated damages, as predicated in FAR Part 19.705-07 for those large companies that fail to demonstrate good faith efforts to fulfill the requirements of their subcontract plans.
  • Close loopholes in the GSA Schedule (FAR Par 8) wherein large businesses are allowed to take away business intended for small business, or mandate that the Federal Agencies disclose the percentage of overall contracting dollars procured to small business’ through the GSA Schedules.
  • Establish an Ombudsman within agencies to provide procurement oversight.

We are proud to say we are the first SDVO small business in the DOD Mentor Protégé Program as created by 108-183; this year we were awarded the DOD Nunn-Perry Award.

As an entrepreneur and Veteran, the climate certainly has gotten better over the past 7 years, but we still have a long way to go.   I’m confident that Congress, and many of the Federal Agencies such as Department of the Army, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, are committed to this cause. 

I thank you for your time and your efforts to improve the federal contracting climate for Service Disabled Veteran Businesses.

Amendment 1

Memo from the Deputy Secretary for Undersecretaries, Asst. Secs. and Other Key Officials  Regarding Veterans First Contracting Program