Minority Enterprise, Federal Contracting, and the SBA’s 8 (a) Program: A New Approach to an Old Problem

In partial response to the problems of the minority businessman, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has developed the 8(a) Program to channel government contracts to businesses owned by disadvantaged persons. This is accomplished through a procedure whereby the SBA contracts with another federal agency to provide that agency with goods or services, and then subcontracts that obligation to a qualified small business on a noncompetitive basis. The withdrawal of these contracts from competitive bidding has recently resulted in the institution of a number of federal court suits alleging inter alia that the 8(a) Program denies to whites the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Constitution. After reviewing the considerations that led to the development of the 8(a) Program, this Note will examine the statutory and constitutional challenges to the Program. Finally, the potential impact of the 8(a) litigation on other federal minority enterprise programs will be considered.