New Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Participation Is Decreasing at the Nation’s Largest Airports, and Certification Barriers Exist
Each year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) distributes more than $3 billion in Federal grants for airport projects. In accepting these grants, airports are required to establish disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) and airport concession DBE (ACDBE) programs. These programs provide small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals with opportunities to compete for construction, professional services, and concession contracts.
In the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress directed our office to report annually on new DBE participation at the Nation’s largest airports and to identify reasons why some have been more successful. Our third and final review determined that between fiscal years 2012 and 2014, the number of existing DBE firms working at the 65 largest airports decreased by 31 percent and the number of new DBE firms working at these airports decreased by 76 percent. Several factors hampered new and existing firms that pursued DBE/ACDBE certification. These include (1) FAA’s inability to effectively track certifying authorities’ processing times for DBE/ACDBE applications to ensure they meet regulatory timeframes; (2) lack of a method to determine whether mandated DBE certification training is complete or consistent; and (3) absence of a “train-the-trainer” program from the Departmental Office of Civil Rights (DOCR) to ensure that FAA, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Transit Administration personnel provide consistent guidance and training to certification staff. We made 11 recommendations to strengthen FAA’s oversight of airports’ implementation of the DBE/ACDBE program and help ensure that only eligible firms are certified. DOCR and FAA concurred with all 11 recommendations.