NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Preferences for Whites in Federal Contracting

August 15, 1997

The Clinton administration is making it easier for white-owned companies to qualify for contracts that have been reserved almost exclusively for minorities. This is part of its effort to "mend, not end" affirmative action, begun after a 1995 Supreme Court decision restricting the use of race as a consideration in awarding federal contracts. Administration officials say that by allowing more whites into the 8(a) program, they will increase the size of the political constituency supporting affirmative action.

  • Planned changes in the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program may mean that an additional 3,000 companies -- most owned by white women -- will become eligible to apply for contracts.
  • In the last fiscal year, 6,115 companies -- all but 27 of them owned by racial or ethnic minorities -- were awarded federal contracts totaling $6.4 billion as a result of the program.
  • Although the changes won't take effect until later this year, the government also intends to issue additional new guidelines for other contracting programs.

A company can now enroll in the program if it is small, the owner is worth no more than $250,000 and is "socially disadvantaged." Businesses in the 8(a) program accounted for 3.2 percent of all federal contracts in the last fiscal year.

Source: Steven A. Holmes, "U.S. Acts to Open Minority Program to White Bidders," New York Times, August 15, 1997.


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