Mac Thornberry, key House Republican, pushes plan to boost Pentagon contracts with small businesses

April 9, 2019

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee is rolling out legislation that would encourage small and midsized enterprises to do business with the Defense Department.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican, told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday that he is working on a bill that will focus on how the military can take advantage of “tremendous innovation” that smaller, private companies in Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin are producing, saying the Pentagon needs to reach out beyond major corporate partners.

“The incentives are just not there” for smaller businesses to work with the Defense Department, he said.

The Pentagon largely contracts from major defense producers including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to produce their systems.

Mr. Thornberry told The Washington Times that he has talked with acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, who spent 30 years at Boeing before moving to the Pentagon, about his legislation, although not in deep detail.

“I do think he has an appreciation for the innovation that occurs in the private sector and the necessity of DoD to work with them and to take advantage,” Mr. Thornberry said.

The Defense Department currently has mandatory contracting goals with small businesses, but the Texas congressman said the existing measures have not been fully implemented because of what he called “bureaucratic foot-dragging.”

“A fair criticism one could make of Congress as we tend to pass laws and then move on to the next thing,” Mr. Thornberry said, “and so I really want to pay attention to what we have already done.”