Small Businesses Contribute to NASA's Mission

Ed. Note: Crossposted from the NASA blog.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama said, “What America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

Nobody knows that better than those of us associated with NASA. Spaceflight today would not exist without the spark of innovation that drove us to build rockets and computers and robots. And small businesses helped us achieve our greatest missions.

Small businesses have always been an integral part of NASA. Small businesses have built parts for launch vehicles and planetary science missions, they help us manage our facilities and our data and help keep our organization running smoothly. Small business is crucial not only to NASA, but to the nation. And federal procurement opportunities for women, minority, veteran-owned and small businesses are critical to the economy and to sustaining economic development.

Today I am in Huntsville, Alabama, home to the Marshall Space Flight Center. I’m at Marshall to salute the center for its strong commitment to expanding opportunities for small businesses, and present them with an award for managing the most effective small business program in the agency. In 2010, NASA awarded approximately $2.3 billion directly to small businesses, an increase of almost 15 percent from the year before. NASA’s large, prime contractors awarded an additional $2 billion in subcontracts to small businesses.

Small businesses create jobs and power our economy. In fact, small businesses created 64 percent of the net new jobs in America over the past 15 years. And small business hire 40 percent of the high tech workers in the U.S. Small businesses are often started by people with an innovative product, a creative solution or just a passion for something. We are trying to change the way we do business at NASA, and we need the help of small business to get there. We need the energy and ideas that come from small business owners and their employees; we need their entrepreneurial spirit and innovation.

The President is urging government agencies to meet the combined goal of 23% for all federal contracting with small businesses, as well as specific goals for underserved small business groups that, for too long, have been left behind. NASA is working to help the Federal Government not only meet this standard, but also surpass it.

But partnering with small business is about more than reaching that goal. It's about bringing the innovation and ideas of small businesses into the fold. It's a larger effort to diversify our procurement and make the business of the federal government reflect the many perspectives of our entrepreneurs and make our procurement portfolio continue to be representative of small businesses.

Investment in space exploration has long pushed the boundaries of our nation’s technical capabilities. And we’ve succeeded with the help of our innovative small business partners.

Charles Bolden is the Administrator of NASA
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