Construction Pathology: Set Aside Programs
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Building Pathology: Set Aside Programs

@ A. Sebastian Engineering and Investigation Services

In the US there are a number of programs at just about every level of government mandating that a certain percentage of major (and some not so major) public contracts have to be preferentially set aside for certain groups.

One popular such program administered by the SBA seeks to aid businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, under part 24 of Title 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which may be accessed at

Like probably anywhere in the world, discrimination is alive and well in the USA. In most cases it is subtle, although this country has seen its part of vehement and virulent discrimination in the past. The idea of set aside programs started as a way of reparation and as an equalizer for the field. Unfortunately it came to be blatantly abused, both by some of those who were the intended protectees, and by other opportunists! The sad reality is that two wrongs do not make a right, reverse discrimination does not solve anything, and these programs are often an open invitation to incompetence and low quality, combined with higher prices. With all the legal safeguards in place, many projects end up paying excessively more for substandard, incompetent work. Another one of the negative results is that many companies owned by white males are literally trashed in the process.

While there is no simple solution, and education proved to be very much a failed tool in this area, discrimination can probably be contained in a relatively effective manner through a rapid, fair and strong system of punishment for the guilty parties.

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