This is a new section, intended to explain what role the 10 percent statutory goal plays in the DBE program. Under former part 23, the 10 percent figure derived from the statute had a role in the setting of overall goals by recipients. For example, if recipients had a goal of less than 10 percent, the rule required them to make a special justification.
This section makes clear that the 10 percent goal is an aspirational goal that applies to the Department of Transportation on a national level, not to individual recipients. It is a goal that the Department can use to evaluate its overall national success in achieving the objectives that Congress has established for this program. However, the national 10 percent goal is not tied to recipients' goal-setting decisions. Recipients set goals based on what will achieve a level playing field for DBEs in their own programs, without regard to the national goal. Recipients are not required to set their overall or contract goals at 10 percent or any other particular level. Recipients are no longer required to make a special justification if their overall goals are less than 10 percent.
As discussed in connection with the Congressional debate on the TEA-21 DBE provision, Congress viewed flexibility concerning the statutory 10 percent goal as an important feature of narrow tailoring and made clear that it was setting a national goal, not a goal for any individual recipient. The Department wants to ensure that state and local programs have sufficient flexibility to implement their programs in a narrowly tailored way. This section is part of the Department's effort toward that end.