The 8(a) program faces an uncertain future.
Political and legal threats loom over the Small Business Administration's 8(a) minority set-aside program, which provided 6,625 new contracts and more than 25,000 contract modifications totaling $5.82 billion to small minority businesses in fiscal 1995. California's passage of the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 and the Supreme Court's June 1995 decision in Adarand v. Peña possibly invalidating government agencies' racial classifications make it more than likely Congress will attempt to redraw the SBA program as part of a broader effort to make federal laws more color- and ethnicity-blind.
Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL) will reintroduce the bill he sponsored last session, which ends racial and gender preferences for federal programs. Last session, only Republicans publicly supported the Dole-Canady bill. But a Canady aide says some Democrats were also on board, if silently. "There will be Democratic support for something in this direction," he maintains.
It is uncertain whether anyone will introduce a narrower bill on the 8(a) program, as Rep. Jan Meyers (R-KS), the retired chair of the House Small Business Committee, did in 1996, to no avail. But the Clinton administration will fight any major reform efforts. "There is no need for drastic change," says SBA spokesman D.J. Caulfield, who notes that while the Justice Department is considering changes to federal programs in the wake of Adarand, none are expected to significantly affect 8(a).