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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Media Conference Call: Veterans' Small Business Executive Order and Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses
Washington, DC
April 26, 2010

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us. Special thanks to Secretary Locke, Department of Commerce, and to Administrator Mills for her strong and steady leadership of the Small Business Administration. Her leadership of this Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting for Small Businesses is critical to the economic well-being of our nation. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) very much looks forward to working with her on Veteran-owned small business development.

The President has been committed and unwavering in jumpstarting these initiatives, indicating, yet again, his strong support for small businesses and, in particular, Veteran-owned and service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses all across the nation.

As Secretary Locke and Administrator Mills stated, and as President Obama often says, small businesses remain key to strengthening the economy and increasing prosperity for America. In that effort, Veteran-owned small businesses have unique qualities. Leadership, risk-taking, and competent organizations are things Veterans carry over from their military experience, especially from those most difficult missions.

On operations, we valued bold, tough, clear-headed, risk-taking leaders, who never misread the situation or overreached an opportunity, and who remained calm and innovative in the midst of crisis. We need that kind of leadership from Veteran-owned small businesses to help strengthen our economy right now. They distinguished themselves then, in uniform, and their leadership is essential, now, in business.

In fiscal year 2009, VA’s unique “Veterans First” buying initiative resulted in VA investing more than $2.7 billion dollars in Veteran-owned small businesses—19 percent of our procurement dollars, up 4 percent from 2008.

VA was provided $1 billion of recovery act funding to apply against our longstanding maintenance backlog. We competed 98 percent of the dollars and received an additional 15 to 20 percent in buying power because the contracts came in lower than estimated. Nearly 80 percent of those contracts went to Veteran-owned small businesses. This is important, because Veterans hire Veterans—they know what they are getting. This churn is good for efficiency, good for taxpayers, and good for Veterans.

All in government are looking for the best and most cost effective ways to meet our missions. Veteran-owned small businesses offer significant potential for good outcomes. We encourage all to actively increase contract opportunities for competent and qualified Veteran-owned small businesses and, especially, those owned by service-disabled Veterans.

On a separate but related track, we are also working closely with Secretary Solis at the Department of Labor, and with John Berry at the Office of Personnel Management, to increase the number of Veterans working in each of our federal departments. Today, approximately 30 percent of VA’s 300,000 person workforce consists of Veterans. We intend to increase that level in the coming years.

Brave men and women serving in uniform today represent less than 1 percent of our population; but, they have been shouldering the heaviest burden of our nation’s security and safety for over eight years. We all need to remember that Veterans have earned the opportunity to become entrepreneurs as small business owners.

I thank the President for his Executive Order on behalf of Veterans and for energizing this Task Force on Federal Contracting for Small Businesses. These groundbreaking initiatives are always good, but especially critical in times of economic hardship.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.