Sandy Baruah takes over as US Small Business Administrator

August 27th, 2008 - 2:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 27 (IANS) Santanu “Sandy” K. Baruah, an Indian American, has taken over as Acting Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), an independent agency of the federal government, to help small business concerns.President George Bush had nominated Baruah, 43, to be the new head of the agency with proposed 2009 budget of $659 million in June 2008, but his Senate confirmation ran into bipartisan concerns about the agency.

Bush then appointed Baruah acting administrator Aug 15 under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 that allows him to continue in the post till the President leaves in January.

On taking over the post last week, Baruah said he planned to “help SBA carry on its mission as it navigates the height of hurricane season and deals with the current economic challenges and tightening credit opportunities for small business.”

Baruah has been with the Bush administration since 2001, most recently serving as head of the Economic Development Administration at the Commerce Department.

Before joining the Bush administration, he worked for seven years as a senior consultant at the Performance Consulting Group in Portland, Oregon, which had some big-name clients like Walt Disney and Intel. The firm closed in 2000.

Baruah also served in the administration of George H. W. Bush, working as a legislative affairs officer in the Labour Department and as a confidential assistant for the Interior secretary.

Earlier in his career, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the Department of Commerce. Baruah received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and his master’s degree from Williamette University.

Baruah’s confirmation troubles stemmed from a rule issued by the agency last December - more than six months before he was named to the SBA post. The rule narrowly defining the women’s government contracting programme set off protests on Capitol Hill and among women’s groups.

Democratic Senator John F. Kerry, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has accused Bush of circumventing the confirmation process and of undercutting efforts to open government contracting opportunities for women.

“This nominee and the administration know that I am vehemently opposed to them moving forward with the unconstitutional women’s procurement rule that makes it harder for women to access federal contracts,” Kerry said.

Republican Senator Olympia J. Snowe, who is the ranking minority member on the committee, tried to extract a pledge from Baruah on the issue at a meeting last month. Snowe said she ‘demanded Baruah make a commitment to either withdraw this proposed rule or defer action on this issue until the next administration.’

Baruah did not make a commitment. Even so, Snowe this week issued a statement welcoming his designation but urging him to “rectify the administration’s recent failure to implement a meaningful women’s contracting rule.”

Several small-business groups said it was beneficial to have an administration-selected agency head because the hurricane season was beginning, and a firm hand was needed to oversee the agency’s disaster loan programme.

But Lloyd Chapman president of the American Small Business League, which has locked horns with the SBA over the awards of small-business contracts to large corporations, said Baruah’s lack of small-business experience meant he was not qualified for the job.

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