Leading Senate and House Democrats urged federal agencies to take an active role in increasing the amount of federal advertising contracts awarded to disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses. Their action comes in response to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to be released that found that federal agencies are falling short of the standards set by an executive order issued in 2000 calling on the government to "aggressively" reach out to minority and underserved firms.
The Defense Department used minority firms for advertising only 1.8 percent of the time and paid them on average nearly 84 percent less per contract than majority firms. The Treasury Department used minority firms for advertising only 1.9 percent of the time and paid them on average nearly 47 percent less per contract than majority firms. The GAO also reviewed the records of three other agencies which all contracted with a greater number of minority firms: Health and Human Services Department (24.6 percent), Interior Department (6.4 percent), and NASA (88.9 percent).