Executive Order Aims at Opening Doors to All in Federal Work

While we wait for Congress and the private sector to sort out a solution to our struggling economy and spark much needed job growth, President Obama took a promising step last month in signing Executive Order #13583.

The purpose of the order is to promote the equal opportunity and inclusion of qualified minorities by America’s largest employer – the federal government. According to the President, the federal government should set an example for America’s businesses.

With unemployment rates among women and minorities topping out at almost 18 percent in August, President Obama mandated certain “ends” that must be achieved by all federal agencies. The Dodd-Frank Act, by requiring the agencies that regulate the financial markets to create Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion, sought to ensure equal employment opportunities in those agencies. This order expands the requirement to all federal agencies by instructing that each “develop and implement a more comprehensive . . . focus on diversity and inclusion . . . in human resource strategies.”

It has been particularly difficult to reduce the stubbornly high unemployment rate in minority communities. Accordingly, the order requires that all federal agencies recruit, hire, promote, retain, and professionally develop greater numbers of minority and women employees.

The order states that America is “at [its] best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved [through] diverse perspectives.” As “CEO” to every federal agency, Obama has the authority to require that all agencies look to minorities and women for future employment and contract opportunities. Further, the president does not require congressional approval for this initiative. Rather than spending additional resources to create new jobs in this instance, Obama is extending an invitation for minorities and women to participate in presently funded projects.

What’s in it for me? The order requires that all federal agencies be monitored to ensure that they are giving all potential contractors, particularly those that are minority-owned, a fair shot at federal contracts and employment opportunities. Large federal contractors have effectively been “put on notice” and are at serious risk of losing their biggest client if their employment practices do not include more minority-owned businesses. In addition, the order encourages established minority vendors to reach further into the federal market for opportunities, and undoubtedly it will spark the entrepreneurial spirit in many others who will start new businesses.

This order can be of great assistance to both well-established and new minority- and women-owned businesses. While the president has sent the invitations and opened the doors, the road to this opportunity can often be fraught with difficulty and frustration, and a well-planned legal strategy is essential. Carefully completed certification applications are also needed. A law firm skilled in helping you achieve certification will allow you and your employees to get to work. Admittedly, federal agencies aren’t known for efficiency, but they do offer a chance to grow and expand your businesses to new heights, and this Executive Order makes that process a little easier.

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