Agencies failing to review research grant applications within required timeframe, says GAO

Several agencies are taking longer than required to notify successful small business applicants of an award.
Close-up of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sign outside its main headquarters in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

Some federal agencies are still failing to meet the required timeline for reviewing government research grant applications submitted by small businesses, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a new report, the watchdog said that although it identified improvement since a previous audit in fiscal 2016, several agencies are still not meeting required and recommended assessment time frames.

Agencies with the highest median number of days before notifying applicants of an award include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (162), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (135) and the National Science Foundation (232)

According to a Small Business Administration policy directive issued in 2020, agencies are required to review proposals and notify applicants within 90 days after the closing date of a solicitation.


In addition, the directive recommends that agencies issue awards within 180 days of a closing date.

Congress and oversight bodies have sought to audit the length of time federal departments take to make awards to small businesses because they are more vulnerable to funding delays than larger enterprises.

Multiple administrations, including the Biden administration, have sought to use the purchasing power of the federal government to support small business innovation.

In its report, GAO recommended two actions: that the administrator of the SBA develop an action plan for improving its annual report to Congress on the issue, and that the SBA official add information on award timeliness to the public online award database.

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