WASHINGTON—As part of National Small Business Week, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) has put forward a bipartisan bill with Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) aimed at helping provide additional opportunities for small businesses, in Iowa and across the country, to contract with government agencies, specifically the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

“Iowa’s small businesses, especially those in the defense industry, are often times at a disadvantage when securing important government contracts. By reauthorizing the DoD Mentor Protégé program, we’re able to pair up larger companies with Iowa’s small businesses in order to create more competition and open the door for additional opportunities for our local job creators,” said Senator Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.

“Small businesses often struggle to overcome the hurdles of bureaucracy and fail to break through the existing network of suppliers to the Department of Defense, which is the single largest Department in the federal government,” said Senator Heinrich, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and founder of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus. “This bill gives small businesses an opportunity to partner with larger defense companies who have the resources and experience to navigate the procurement process and compete for contracts, which will create good paying jobs in our communities and provide better products for the Department of Defense.”

The Defense Small Business Advancement Act would reauthorize and improve the DoD Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) that expired last year. This program increases participation of small, disadvantaged businesses performing as suppliers to DoD, civilian agencies, and private industry by encouraging mentorships from established DoD contractors. Participating protégés have been awarded more than $5.4 billion in contracts over the lifetime of the program. For every year a protégé business participated in the program, the average business added 13.4 new, full-time employees to its payroll and earned $7.3 million in additional revenue.

The Mentor-Protégé Program assists businesses that are owned and controlled by: socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; Indian tribes; Native Hawaiian Organization; women; service-disabled veterans; and others as defined by the Small Business Act.