Committee on Civil Rights

AASHTO Liaison
Clarisse Bernardes Coble, Human Resource Director

FHWA National Review of the DBE Program

Please see here a copy of the final report of an internal Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) national review of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program that was conducted in 2015.

FHWA respectfully requests our assistance in sharing the observations and recommendations of the program review report with our State DOT leadership.  FHWA will encourage every State DOT CEO to hold conversations with their respective Division Administrator to identify opportunities and develop an action plan to further enhance the State’s DBE program.  Our responsibility is to assist in communicating to State DOT CEOs of how important it is to communicate with all units of their respective organizations about their commitment to the program.

National Review of DBE Program Summary:

The purpose of the review was to determine the current state of practice with respect to how the FHWA Division Offices provide technical assistance and oversight of their State Department of Transportation’s (State DOT’s) DBE program and the approaches State DOTs use to administer their DBE programs.  The review took place in January through May of 2015.  The review included site visits to six State DOTs that were randomly selected through a probability proportional to size methodology, surveys to Division Offices, telephone interviews with program experts, and a review of each State DOT’s DBE Program Plan.

National Review Observations:

  • State DOT approaches to DBE program administration and use of internal controls oversight needs to be strengthened;
  • Opportunities exist to enhance FHWA’s oversight of the DBE programs;
  • FHWA risk-based, data-driven approach to providing program administration and oversight is not yet widely understood or applied to the DBE program; and
  • Opportunities exist for FHWA to use limited resources more strategically to aid in addressing the underlying issues of noncompliance.

National Review Recommendations:

  • Modifying and increasing training materials to emphasize the underlying controls needed to ensure compliance and effective use of risk management principles and techniques;
  • Creating management and oversight tools for Division Offices and State DOTS to use in assessing compliance,
  • Enhancing internal controls and conducting effective program reviews;
  • Elevate the importance of the program by adding DBE compliance to FHWA’s Strategic Implementation Plan.

Next Steps:

  • FHWA’s Office of Civil Rights has created an internal Action Plan and timeline that responds to each one of the report’s four recommendations.
  • Our Executive Director has issued the final report to the Division Administrators and Program Offices and has provided his support for the DBE program to receive support from all areas of the agency.
  • The FHWA Office of Civil Rights is planning webinars and video conferences to inform Division Administrators, Civil Rights Specialists, Program Engineers and other Field Staff of how we are responding to the report’s observations and recommendations.
  • FHWA, in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Departmental Office of Civil Rights, will host collaborative three-day DBE Academies in four regions of the country. These Academies are tentatively scheduled for February, April, and June, in Atlanta, Chicago, and a location in the western United States, respectively. The Academies provide in-depth training for program administrators in all major components of the DBE program free of charge.  We ask that you encourage State DOT support and participation at these Academies by their civil rights staff.

FHWA stands ready to provide training and technical assistance to State DOT area engineers and field staff, contract administration and procurement staff, in addition to civil rights staff, to improve their understanding of the program and to convey effective compliance and oversight practices.

This is a great opportunity for us to assist FHWA in communicating the observations, recommendations and next steps.  Working together on this endeavor is a win-win for ALL!

Grindly Johnson

Civil Rights Subcommittee Chair-person