It ain't gonna happen this year folks. The 111th Congress will be remembered for many things. Reauthorizing SBIR won't be among them.
But, don't worry, they won't let it die. No one wants to be accused of killing a small business program. So it'll be extended as is, with yet another Continuing Resolution, and the 112th will have to start over. With a clean slate. All unresolved legislation is trashed, ya' know.
Hit the Reset Button. It'll be a brand new game.
If the polls are even close to being accurate, there will be a lot of new faces in both the House and Senate. Many of these new legislators are likely to have never even heard of SBIR. So we must start over again with educating, persuading, persisting.
And we'll have new Congressional leadership, both at the top and on Committees. In the case of the House Small Business Committee, that's a good thing. Nydia needs a vacation. She works so hard on behalf of her constituents and supporters' pet projects. Too bad SBIR has never been one of them.
Those of you from Missouri -- get ready to "show me" some style. If the Republicans gain control of the House, Sam Graves is likely to be the new SBC Chair. At least his district of north Kansas City and St. Joseph may actually have some SBIR funded companies in it! Make sure he knows how you feel.
It's also a brand new game at many of the SBIR Agencies. The three biggest in terms of SBIR budgets, DOD, NIH and DOE, all have new leadership at the Program Director level.
Defense, the Big Gorilla with over $1 Billion of SBIR and STTR projects annually, has had Chris Rinaldi at the DOD SBIR helm for just a few months. He's still getting his feet wet. And he's got a bunch of new faces at the twelve DOD component desks as well, as DOD's had a bunch of recent SBIR office retirements including Connie Jacobs (DARPA) and Steve Guilfoos (AF). New game here for sure.
Energy still hasn't officially settled on the replacement for Larry James and has Vince Dattoria serving as Acting SBIR Program Director. No telling what's going to evolve there. But, DOE has done more than any other agency to use their Stimulus Funds for small business R&D projects, so there's hope.
But the biggest new game is at the NIH, where Jo Anne Goodnight recently announced that she is retiring from government service this month. No announcement yet as to who will be replacing her as NIH SBIR Program Director, but Kay Etzler is certainly qualified and capable of handling that job! Heck, she did it most of last year when Jo Anne was on temporary assignment to the Senate. I haven't asked her if she's even put her hat in the ring, but if they don't give Kay the job, watch out. That could very likely portend a significant shift in NIH SBIR policy.
Jo Anne will really be missed, especially by me. She and I haven't always agreed on SBIR policy implementation, but she's been a respected friend. SBIR Conferences just won't be the same without her. Her "SBIR 101" presentations are classic and legendary. She and Joe Hennebury from DOT (also recently retired) were mainstays as the primary cheerleaders for the Program. Now who's going to pick up that slack?
Another SBIR office that's lost a star is NIST. Clara Asmail, in my opinion the most creative thinker among the SBIR Directors, has moved to another NIST post. Hopefully what she started at NIST (see my column on this: Clever Clara...) won't be allowed to fade away.
So, it's pretty much a brand new game. On all fronts. Hit the Reset Button.
I predict this eighth SBIR CR will likely be for seven months, taking us to April 30th of 2011.
We'll have a few months of nothing doing while Congress re-boots and the 112th gets started. New SBIR Reauthorization bills will be introduced by the House and Senate Small Business Committees. Probably similar to the current ones, but hopefully a bit closer together in concept.
Here we go again. Monitor www.SBIRreauthorization.com for updates.
Meanwhile, there are three important events coming up this fall that The SBIR Coach will be participating in as a sponsor or speaker:
- The DOD's Beyond Phase II SBIR Conference in San Antonio (Sep 13-17),
- The National Association of Seed and Venture Funds (NASVF) Annual Conference in Baltimore (Oct 13-15), and
- The Fall 2010 SBIR National Conference in Oklahoma City (Nov 8-10).