Proposed Legislative Changes for the DoD SBIR/STTR

Although it’s early in the process, Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and Adam Smith (D-WA), the Committee’s ranking member introduced H.R. 1597, a bill aimed at reforming the DoDs broken acquisition system. The legislation is intended as a discussion draft, a warm up, if you will, for the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Obviously congressman Thornberry and his staff are very familiar with SBIR, its benefits and the struggles to reauthorize the program.  He is also familiar with the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) reports on SBIR, DoD in particular. Thornberry sees the technological advantages, and streamlined acquisition benefit of SBIR/STTR.  Consequently he incorporated some changes for the DoD SBIR/STTR in portions of his H.R. 1597, “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act.”

In this bill, DoD would break off from the rest of the other SBIR programs and become permanent (no need for the reauthorization mess we’ve been going through).  Also of note is that the DoD services would break out from under the OSD’s Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) SBIR umbrella.  As Mr. Thornberry states: “… establishing programs under each of the military services to be managed in a decentralized fashion and making the program permanent for the Department of Defense”.

It seems that the House Armed Services committee is aware that the OSD’s OSBP has been making a “play” to gain control of the services’ SBIR/STTR funding and program management.  This is not playing well on the Hill, nor is it in the services (Army, Navy Air Force).  Same is true on the street where some of the more familiar small businesses are fearing that OSD might pull this off.

“Me too…” is what our “Secret Squirrel is hearing from the smaller but non-the-less important DoD entities such as MDA and DARPA.  They would like the autonomy that the bigger services have.

There are additional complexions to this proposed legislation, one of which is extending RIF through 2020.  You can download the entire bill (see section 506/507) at or just the SBIR/STTR portion of Mr. Thornberry’s discussion paper from our site at

The bill has been sent to the House Small Business Committee, the Science, Space, and Technology committee, as well as the Oversight and Government Reform committee.

– Rick Shindell, SBIR Gateway


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