Friday, October 23, 2009

Small Business Funding Gets Fashionable - SBIR Benefits

It's been a week of good news for a change. Congress is actually allocating money for small businesses instead of just talking about it. SBIR is benefiting. The DOD SBIR Program will get another year of life as soon as President Obama signs the National Defense Authorization Act into law. And the NIH soon will be required to pony up a big chunk of the ARRA Stimulus money they tried to keep away from the SBIR community.

We'll come back to the NDAA in a moment. This NIH news is what's really exciting for me.

You'll recall back in February shortly after the ARRA Stimulus was signed, this column broke the big story: Hidden in the Fine Print - SBIR Explicitly Excluded from NIH Stimulus Money. Turns out this dastardly deed was done in secret while the bill (H.R.1) was in Conference, bypassing the House and Senate Small Business Committees.

I personally sent faxes to every member of both Committees, cluing them in. I called for legislative action to repeal the exclusion and give small business back the $230 Million in projects stolen from them. Reaction was swift from the Senate (I got calls), but the House was strangely silent. Hmmm. The NIH refused to budge, effectively thumbing their nose at the Senate by responding to letters with bureaucratic gobbledygook and not even showing up at a special hearing called to discuss the situation.

It took ten months, but the Senate has finally taken steps to repeal the exclusion. Senate SBE Committee Chair Mary Landrieu introduced a bill (S.1832) this week that, in addition to enhancing small business loan provisions, requires the NIH to provide $150 million out of their ARRA funds for new small business projects during GFY2010. Seven other Senators (Kerry, Harkin, Cardin, Shaheen, Boxer, Pryor and Casey) have immediately joined her in co-sponsoring it. The Press Releases are flowing (Landrieu's, Cardin's, Shaheen's, Boxer's, Casey's). Other may also join -- how about asking your Senators to co-sponsor!

Why only $150 million? Seems that's what the NIH said they could do in a negotiated settlement. Other than having admitted behind the scenes that they did instigate the skulduggery, they're still not revealing who on the Conference Committee slipped the wording into ARRA. Did they really think we wouldn't notice it?

Now this has to get through the sausage grinder that is our legislative process, but with the co-sponsorships and Obama's recent small business support proclamation, it's a cinch to get passed.

Now, back to the NDAA. The NDAA's inclusion of SBIR was reported in last week's "Big Dog Barks" column. Not much more to say about that here, other than to again thank those responsible. Rick Shindell does a great job of that in his SBIR Insider column he sent out last night.

What about the other ten Agencies? Their SBIR and STTR programs will expire at the Witching Hour on Halloween unless another Reauthorization CR is passed. Watch for it in your trick-or-treat basket. No one in the Congress wants to be caught not supporting small business just now. It's suddenly become fashionable.

1 comment:

Greg said...

(Re. NIH exclusion) Now we are going to hear academic scientist scream... :)
Good job alerting the SBIR community (many of us contacted our representatives) and pushing the Legislature to act.