The Department of Transportation (DOT) is dedicated to serving our community, including those businesses contracting with state agencies and recipients of DOT funds. The Department's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program is designed to remedy ongoing discrimination and the continuing effects of past discrimination in federally-assisted highway, transit, airport, and highway safety financial assistance transportation contracting markets nationwide. The primary remedial goal and objective of the DBE program is to level the playing field by providing small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals a fair opportunity to compete for federally funded transportation contracts.
DOT's Operating Administrations distribute substantial funds each year to finance construction projects initiated by state and local governments, public transit and airport agencies. DOT has the important responsibility of ensuring that firms competing for DOT-assisted contracts for these projects are not disadvantaged by unlawful discrimination. The Department’s most important tool for meeting this requirement has been its DBE program, which originally began in 1980 as a minority/women’s business enterprise program established by regulation under the authority of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other nondiscrimination statutes that apply to DOT financial assistance programs.
The DBE program was reauthorized by Congress several times since its inception; most recently in the “Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act" or the ‘‘FAST-ACT,’’ (P.L. 114-94, December 4, 2015). Section 1101(b) of the Act describes Congress’s findings regarding the continued need for the DBE program due to the discrimination and related barriers that pose significant obstacles for minority and women-owned businesses seeking federally-assisted surface transportation work. The Act further provides, that, except to the extent the Secretary of Transportation determines otherwise, not less than 10% of the amounts made available for any program under Titles I, II, III and VI of the Act and 23 U.S. Code 403, shall be expended with DBEs.
To meet the stated 8 objectives of the DBE Program Regulation, recipients of DOT funds must develop and implement a DBE program that conforms to DOT standards set forth in 49 CFR Part 23 (for airport concessionaires) and 49 CFR Part 26. The integrity of DOT's DBE program depends upon systematic procedures to ensure that only bona fide small firms, owned and controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s), are certified to participate as DBEs in DOT federally assisted programs. The DOT DBE Regulations 49 C.F.R. Part 23 and 49 C.F.R. Part 26 place primary responsibility for the certification process upon State Transportation Agencies.