Business research

Small Business Research Agendas: Status of Past Recommendations

What the GAO found

The Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, and the agencies participating in the programs have implemented approximately one-third of the GAO’s previous 20 recommendations for the programs . From September 2013 to April 2017, GAO made 17 recommendations to the SBA and 3 to participating agencies to improve oversight and enforcement of spending requirements; reporting requirements; the administrative pilot program; and requirements for the prevention of fraud, waste and abuse. SBA has implemented 5 recommendations and participating agencies have implemented 1 (see figure), although GAO has made 4 of these recommendations to SBA and 2 to participating agencies as of April 2017.

Number and percentage of past GAO recommendations implemented as of April 2017

The SBA and participating agencies have taken some steps to address the GAO recommendations. For example, in June 2014, the GAO recommended that the SBA clarify how agencies should submit allowable spend data. In response, the SBA revised its annual reporting template, asking agencies to identify program obligations outside of rewards. This change has improved the accuracy of the data agencies report to the SBA. However, the SBA and participating agencies have not fully implemented 14 recommendations that, if implemented, could improve program oversight and implementation. For example, in each of its four reports on agency compliance with spending and other reporting requirements, the GAO found that the SBA had not submitted required annual reports to Congress on programs. The SBA released its last mandatory program report for fiscal year 2013 in March 2016. In a September 2013 report, the GAO concluded that without more rigorous SBA oversight and more timely and detailed reporting , it would be difficult for the SBA to ensure that the benefits of the programs were being achieved and that Congress was receiving critical information to oversee these programs. The GAO recommended that the SBA provide Congress with a timely annual report, as required by law. The SBA agreed and said it plans to implement the recommendation. However, the SBA has not yet done so, and as of April 2017, the SBA did not have an estimated date for submitting its reports for fiscal years 2014 through 2016. GAO continues to believe that it is important for the SBA to provide a timely annual report to Congress to further improve program oversight.

Why GAO Did This Study

For approximately 35 years, federal agencies have awarded small business awards for technology research and development through the SBIR program and, for the past 25 years, through the STTR program, totaling more than $40 billion. Currently, 11 agencies participate in the SBIR program, and 5 of these agencies also participate in the STTR program. The SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 included provisions allowing the GAO to review certain aspects of the programs.

This statement discusses GAO’s key findings and recommendations regarding the SBIR and STTR programs since 2012. This statement is based on GAO reports issued in response to the provisions of the act from November 2012 through April 2017. These reports examined the compliance of the SBA and agencies with expenditure and other reporting requirements for programs and their implementation of measures to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. For these reports, GAO compared documentation from the SBA and participating agencies with the respective requirements. In April 2017, the GAO updated the status of its past recommendations.