Bipartisan Sens. Push House on SBIR Compromise
Nov 8, 2011


Recently, a bipartisan group of 11 Senators sent a letter to the committee chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Small Business Committees urging passage of a long-term reauthorization for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The SBIR program currently is only authorized under the continuing resolution passed in late-September to keep various government programs running through Nov. 18.


This latest extension is the 13th in a long string of failures to pass a long-term reauthorization. The Senators' letter is aimed at urging the House to come to the table and accept the compromise legislation crafted by the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship which is supported by all major stakeholder groups.

The House Committee on Small Business has pushed dramatic changes to the SBIR program that would give large venture capital-backed companies unfettered access to the mere 2.5 percent set-aside for small businesses under the program. Led by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the letter implores the House to place a higher priority on the successes of the SBIR program than it does on politics.


The bipartisan group of Senators expressed deep concerns over the House reauthorization bill, H.R. 1425, and urged the removal of sections 105, 106, 505, and 101 of the bill. Specifically, they pointed to section 505 which would “limit the number of SBIR awards and award dollars that participants in the program can competitively win, will have an adverse impact on technology research needed by the agencies and small business commercialization.”


The Senators also highlighted other flaws with H.R. 1425, including: allowing SBIR awardees to avoid Phase I and move directly to Phase II; allowing a small business which is majority-owned by multiple venture capital firms to participate in the program; and the mere two- to three-year reauthorization period.


The impasse over how to best reauthorize the SBIR program has bogged down the program and added a certain level of instability over the past several years. Fortunately, due to the hard work of various Senators and their staffers—including Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)—a compromise has been reached in the Senate’s version of reauthorization, S. 493. According to the letter, “the language in S. 493 is the only version that is supported by all major small business advocacy organizations, as well as BIO and the National Venture Capital Association.”

Unfortunately, the House Committee on Small Business has shown little inclination to move forward with such a long-term compromise. This is despite growing House support for the Senate compromise language and a long-term reauthorization spurred by a Dear Colleague letter from Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) and Peter Welch (D-Conn.).

NSBA applauds Sens. Shaheen and Brown for spearheading this letter, and Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Michael Enzi  (R-Wyo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for their signing their support of this critical issue.

Additionally, NSBA applauds Reps. Markey, Tsongas and Welch for their continued efforts to ensure a vibrant and successful SBIR program for years to come.

Please click here to view the Senate letter.

Plesae click here to view the House Dear Colleague letter.