Business research

Small business research programs: reporting on timeliness of grants could be improved

What the GAO found

Agency timeliness rates for awarding the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards remained similar from fiscal year 2020 to 2021. agencies on timeliness of scholarship issuance has improved for both programs overall since FY 2016. This is the case government-wide, although defense agencies have lagged compared to civilian agencies in their performance (see figure). See the full results of the GAO analysis here.

Civilian and Department of Defense Awards Schedule, Fiscal Years 2016-2021

Note: Civilian agencies exclude the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, which have different notification and issuance timelines.

Government-wide, program organizations more consistently adhered to the timelines required for notifying fellows than the recommended timelines for awarding fellowships. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) timeliness is based on the performance of the Army, Navy, and Air Force departments, which together delivered 83 percent of all speed-related awards. defense for fiscal year 2021. DOD issued 65 percent of its awards on time. from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2021, compared to 85% for civilian agencies.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is required to report data on the timeliness of agency awards to Congress annually, as well as other information on participating agencies’ implementation of the SBIR and STTR programs. However, the SBA has consistently been behind with its annual reports from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2021, between 6 and 16 months behind schedule. Without a comprehensive and documented analysis of its process for preparing these annual reports, it is difficult to know whether the SBA is missing opportunities to take steps to improve the timeliness of its required reports. Additionally, SBA misses opportunities to provide real-time data on awards news on its website. Although the SBA is not required to do so, providing current data on the timeliness of awards on its website would provide an alternative source of information to Congress and the public about agency performance in meeting award timelines. and could stimulate further improvements.

Why GAO Did This Study

Agencies participating in the SBIR and STTR programs awarded nearly $3 billion to small businesses in fiscal year 2021. Small businesses rely on the timely issuance of these awards to plan, develop, and commercialize new technologies. . In its oversight role for both programs, the SBA sets timeliness standards for the notification and issuance of awards. The SBA is responsible for reporting annually to Congress on the overall results of both programs, including the timeliness of rewards.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 included a provision for the GAO to review the timeliness of award notification and issuance. This report, GAO’s fourth, examines, among other objectives, the timeliness of agencies in notifying and issuing awards and trends from fiscal year 2016 to 2021, and the extent to which the SBA reports on timeliness of awards. powers of agencies.

GAO analyzed data from the SBIR and STTR grants, administered a questionnaire to the 29 participating agencies, and reviewed documentation from the participating agencies and the SBA. GAO also interviewed SBA officials and conducted follow-up interviews with officials from other agencies, as needed, to clarify the information they provided.