The Office of the Chief Counsel for the Minority Business Development Agency (OCC/MBDA) provides legal and policy advice to the MBDA National Director, and to the Agency’s headquarters offices, covering all aspects of MBDA's operations and programs. MBDA functions as a primary operating bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce and is authorized by Executive Order 11625. MBDA’s mission is to foster the establishment, growth and global competitiveness of the nation’s minority business enterprises (MBEs).
OCC/MBDA is led by the Chief Counsel, who is resident in MBDA’s headquarters office in Washington, D.C. The Chief Counsel provides legal and strategic counseling to MBDA with respect to the Agency’s powers, duties and responsibilities, as well as its relationship with the Department of Commerce, other federal government agencies and external stakeholders. MBDA’s programs and initiatives are varied and range from the provision of strategic business consulting to MBEs, assisting MBEs in competing for contract opportunities and in securing public and private business financings, to a robust knowledge management and information dissemination program. In addition, MBDA maintains an active portfolio of over 44 financial assistance awards (structured as cooperative agreements) to support public and private organizations that operate minority business centers located throughout the Nation and the Chief Counsel provides advice to the Agency on legal and program matters pertaining to such awards. The Chief Counsel further advises the MBDA National Director and senior Agency staff on constitutional, administrative law and legislative matters potentially affecting the MBE community and MBDA programs.
Overview of MBDA’s Legal Authorities and the Definition of a "Minority Business Enterprise"
MBDA was originally established as the Office of Minority Business Enterprise by President Nixon on March 5, 1969 through Executive Order 11458 (34 FR 4937). By establishing a federal agency dedicated exclusively to promoting equal economic opportunities for MBEs, President Nixon recognized the impact of such businesses on the nation’s economy and on the general welfare of the country.
On October 13, 1971, President Nixon issued Executive Order 11625(36 FR 19967), which clarified MBDA’s authority and expanded the scope of its operations. The Agency continues to be authorized by Executive Order 11625, as amended, and receives annual appropriations from Congress. The authorities and responsibilities vested in the Secretary of Commerce under Executive Order 11625 are delegated to the MBDA National Director pursuant to Department Organizational Order (DOO) 25-4A.
Under Section 1(a) of Executive Order 11625, MBDA is responsible for:
- Coordinating the plans, programs and operations of federal agencies to strengthen MBEs (Section 1(a)(1));
- Promoting the mobilization of activities and resources of state and local governments, businesses and trade associations, universities, foundations, professional organizations towards the growth of MBEs (Section 1(a)(2));
- Establishing a center for the development, collection and dissemination of information that will be useful to MBEs and to interested stakeholders (Section 1(a)(3)); and
- Issuing, in the Secretary’s discretion, financial assistance awards to public and private organizations so they may render technical and management assistance to MBEs (Section 1(a)(4)).
Executive Order 11625 also contains a precatory Section 1(b) that grants MBDA certain other authorities, to the extent that they are necessary or appropriate to carrying out the mandatory duties described above. Among other things, Section 1(b) of Executive Order 11625 authorizes the Secretary to:
- Work with other federal departments and agencies to develop comprehensive plans and programs to support equal economic opportunities for MBEs (Section 1(b)(1));
- Review all proposed federal training and technical assistance activities supporting MBEs (Section 1(b)(2));
- Convene meetings of federal departments or agencies whose programs and activities impact MBEs (Section 1(b)(3));
- Provide the managerial and organizational framework to facilitate joint or collaborative undertakings with federal departments or agencies (Section 1(b)(6)); and
- Recommend appropriate legislative or executive actions (Section 1(b)(7)).
For purposes of determining eligibility to receive MBDA services, an MBE is defined as a business concern that is owned or controlled by the following persons or groups of persons that are also U.S. citizens or resident aliens admitted for lawful admission to the United States: African Americans, Hispanics, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, Native Americans (including Alaska Natives, Alaska Native Corporations and Tribal entities), Asian Indians and Hasidic Jews. See 15 CFR § 1400.1 and Executive Order 11625. It is important to note that there is no cross-cutting federal MBE classification and the above definition does not serve to establish eligibility for federal programs or services outside of those offered by MBDA.