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Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program


The U.S. Department of Transportation's DBE (disadvantaged business enterprise) program provides a vehicle for increasing the participation by MBEs in state and local procurement. DOT DBE regulations require state and local transportation agencies that receive DOT financial assistance, to establish goals for the participation of DBEs. Each DOT-assisted State and local transportation agency is required to establish annual DBE goals, and review the scopes of anticipated large prime contracts throughout the year and establish contract-specific DBE subcontracting goals.

In addition to establishing goals, state and local recipients also certify the eligibility of DBE firms to participate in DOT-assisted projects. Some groups are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged for the purposes of participation in this program. In 1987 Congress added women to the groups presumed to be disadvantaged. The main objectives of the DBE Program are:

  • To ensure that small disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) can compete fairly for federally funded transportation-related projects.
  • To ensure that only eligible firms participate as DBEs.
  • To assist DBE firms in competing outside the DBE Program.

There has been, since 1983, a statutory provision requiring DOT to ensure that at least 10% of the funds authorized for the highway and transit financial assistance programs be expended with DBEs. DOT has established a single DBE goal, encompassing both firms owned by women and minority group members.

To be certified as a DBE, a firm must be a small business owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Certifiers make the determinations based upon on-site visits, personal interviews, reviews of licenses, stock ownership, equipment, bonding capacity, work completed, resume of principal owners and financial capacity.

All offices within the Office of the Secretary (OST) and Operating Administrations (OA) involved in program operation and oversight share important responsibilities in ensuring nondiscrimination in the award and administration of DOT's federally assisted contracts. These responsibilities require systematic coordination to ensure: (1) the DBE program is administered properly, (2) all regulatory provisions are appropriately implemented by DOT recipients, and (3) information about the program and its operation is communicated by the Department in a consistent, unified way to all parties and stakeholders.

These offices include elements from the Office of the Secretary-the Departmental Office of Civil Rights (DOCR), the Office of the General Counsel (OGC), and the Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) - as well as from the three OAs distributing financial assistance to DOT recipients - the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The DOCR will act as the lead office in OST for the DBE program. In this capacity, the DOCR will coordinate the Department's oversight of the DBE program.

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Updated: Monday, June 1, 2015
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