Tag Archives: Small Business Contractor

U.S. Navy Actively Aiding And Soliciting Small Businesses

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Image: U.S. Navy Office of Small Business Programs

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

Assistant Secretary Geurts:

“We are spending … $10 billion a year-plus every year on ship maintenance. I think there are tons of ideas out there in small business that [would] allow us to do that more cheaply, more effectively with less manpower if we had programs to go after and look at it.”

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“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to persist, the Navy is making sure that small businesses are not left behind, according to officials.

For example, the service is taking steps to cut down on program acquisition timelines for small businesses. Awarding contracts early has been one its strategies to account for potential complications that may arise during the pandemic. In many cases, the Navy’s overall time to release contract awards was reduced from 120 days to 24 days, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby said Sept. 1 during the Department of the Navy Gold Coast Small Business Procurement Event. The webinar was hosted by the San Diego Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association. 

To reduce acquisition cycles, the Navy has taken steps such as changing project proposal requirements to be less stringent by reducing page count requirements and speeding up evaluation times, Selby noted. The service has also “opened aperture” by accepting more project proposals than usual, he said.

“We put in place a lot of changes,” Selby said. “We sped up our processes. Our proposals, we made them broader. … By the end of June, we were about $80 million ahead of where we would have been last year. We’re pushing money out the door.”

However, small businesses must ensure that they continue to provide adequate work during all phases of an acquisition cycle, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James “Hondo” Geurts said during the event. The Navy, for its part, must be “reasonable at all steps” and avoid putting workers at risk during the pandemic, he noted.

“You’ve got to perform” on programs, Geurts told members of industry. Some companies seem to take the approach that they can complete the first couple of phases of work and then “get rich on phase 3,” he said. “Then it gets priced to the point where it’s not competitive or fair and reasonable.”

Meanwhile, the Navy is hoping to leverage more innovation from small businesses to help it solve some of its existing problems. For example, they may be able to provide ideas on how the service can reduce the amount of money it is spends on ship maintenance, he said. The Office of Naval Research is examining the possibility of setting up a fund dedicated to adopting existing technology that could help cut down on these costs, he noted.”

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/9/1/navy-trying-to-aid-solicit-help-from-small-businesses

Air Force Looks To Bridge ‘Valley Of Death’ For Small Tech Firms

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Image: “National Research Council” – Charles W. Wessner, Ph.D.

The Air Force’s top buyer is looking to revamp how small businesses interact with the service through its innovative research program.

A separate matching [program and investment dollar] paradigm for “defense unique companies” to ensure the tech is commercially viable.

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“Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition chief, said the U.S. government effectively created a technological “trench” that kept small businesses from transitioning their capabilities from the Small Business Innovative Research program without program dollars.

“There is no phase 3 funding that’s allocated by Congress. That is where you have to have a program office working with you,” Roper said during a 90-minute “ask me anything” event on AFVentures, the Air and Space Force’s investment arm, Sept. 1. “We could’ve built a better process; we could have built a better bridge.”

Roper called the lack of process a “trench” that fails to bridge funding accounts and can leave companies hanging. Instead, the acquisition chief said he wants to create more mechanisms that pair program dollars to SBIR recipients.

“That is typically what’s happened to companies in the Small Business Innovation Research fund as a whole,” he said, “it wasn’t connected to the big acquisition system, the market that we represent. And that created a valley of death and so unfortunately the option that was left for many companies hitting the end of the SBIR pipeline was to be acquired by a prime and then ultimately that technology would be charged back to us, probably with a little higher rate than we would have gotten from a small business.”

“So we are endeavoring to fix that, that’s why we’ve got a separate matching [program and investment dollar] paradigm for defense unique companies” to ensure the tech is commercially viable.

Roper also said he hopes to get more authorities and mimic the Intelligence Community’s venture capital structure to get involved with promising companies at an early stage.

“What I hope we do in the future, beyond the authority we have now is explore greater authorities — things like the In-Q-Tel model,” Roper said. That means owning equity, issuing emergency contracts and funding to “avoid procurements that maybe aren’t’ in a company’s best interest or are maybe adversarial in nature.”

“There’s a deeper level of competition that we can achieve but we need a deeper level of authority to achieve it.”

Roper called the lack of process a “trench” that fails to bridge funding accounts and can leave companies hanging. Instead, the acquisition chief said he wants to create more mechanisms that pair program dollars to SBIR recipients.

“That is typically what’s happened to companies in the Small Business Innovation Research fund as a whole,” he said, “it wasn’t connected to the big acquisition system, the market that we represent. And that created a valley of death and so unfortunately the option that was left for many companies hitting the end of the SBIR pipeline was to be acquired by a prime and then ultimately that technology would be charged back to us, probably with a little higher rate than we would have gotten from a small business.”

“So we are endeavoring to fix that, that’s why we’ve got a separate matching [program and investment dollar] paradigm for defense unique companies” to ensure the tech is commercially viable.

Roper also said he hopes to get more authorities and mimic the Intelligence Community’s venture capital structure to get involved with promising companies at an early stage.

“What I hope we do in the future, beyond the authority we have now is explore greater authorities — things like the In-Q-Tel model,” Roper said. That means owning equity, issuing emergency contracts and funding to “avoid procurements that maybe aren’t’ in a company’s best interest or are maybe adversarial in nature.”

“There’s a deeper level of competition that we can achieve but we need a deeper level of authority to achieve it.”

US Space Force Schedules Spring 2021 Small Business Pitch Day

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Image: “afwerx.af.mil

C4ISRNET

The Air Force first introduced its pitch days in March 2019, and has since held several to find “defense unicorns” — nontraditional companies with innovative solutions that lack the resources and know-how to secure Department of Defense contracts.

While the current plan is to host the event in person in Los Angeles, California, SMC noted that it may move to a virtual environment due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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“Inspired by the popular television series “Shark Tank,” select companies are given the unique opportunity to present their solutions to acquisition leaders, who are then able to award Small Business Innovation Research grants.

“Space Force is committed to procuring things differently. We continue to recognize the need for faster and smarter methods to quickly identify, procure and develop military space solutions. Space Pitch Day is one way SMC is bridging the gap between small businesses and the military,” said Maj. Ryan Pennington, project lead of SMC’s deputy space ventures.

A major draw of the events is the responsiveness, giving smaller companies the chance to forgo the traditional, lengthy DoD contracting process. The Air Force boasts that on its first pitch day, the service awarded a contract within three minutes of seeing the presentation. During the first Space Force Pitch Day in November 2019, the Air Force issued $9 million to 12 companies.

“The inaugural Air Force Space Pitch Day last year was very successful. Although SMC is hosting its second pitch day event, it really is the first under the USSF. We are excited to host another event that enables us to grow and leverage small-business innovation into thriving ecosystems,” said Roberta Ewart, SMC’s chief scientist. “The next SMC Space Force Pitch Day event will have the same focus and that is to open doors for innovative technologies and ideas and then create transition on-ramps into the USSF enterprise and architecture. We are fielding tomorrow’s Space Force faster and smarter and we do this by changing the way we buy things.”

SMC has laid out 11 focus areas for the upcoming Space Force Pitch Day:

  • Innovation in early missile detection and warning
  • Space situational awareness
  • Space communications
  • Space visualization
  • Multidomain command and control
  • Data mining
  • Operations within electronically contested environments
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Responsive launch systems
  • Space logistics
  • Protection of critical space assets

Interested companies can register and submit their proposals at www.spaceforcepitchday.com.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/space/2020/08/27/space-force-sets-pitch-day-for-spring-2021/

FY 19 – A Small Business Government Contracting Record Year

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SBA By Dr. Francis Spampinato, Assoicate Administrator

In FY 19 the federal government not only exceeded its small business contracting goal, it awarded a historic $132.9 billion or 26.50 percent in prime contract dollars to small businesses.

The Women-Owned Contracting Goal was met for the second time in scorecard history.”

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“Every year, the federal government spends over $400 billion on goods and services, making it the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration released the annual Fiscal Year 2019 Small Business Federal Procurement Scorecard, which tracks and assesses each agency’s yearly and individually negotiated small business prime and subcontracting performance and determines grades ranging from A+ to F

We are very pleased to announce that in FY19 the federal government not only exceeded its small business contracting goal, it awarded a historic $132.9 billion or 26.50 percent in prime contract dollars to small businesses. This is an increase of $12 billion from FY18, earning the federal government an “A” on SBA’s Scorecard. This smashes the record-setting $120 billion the federal government awarded to small businesses in FY18!

It was a record-breaking year for women-owned small businesses too!  For the second time ever since the implementation of the women-owned contracting goal, the federal government met the five percent contract goal awarding $26 billion in federal contracts, or 5.19 percent to women-owned small businesses.    

The federal government also awarded nearly $90.7 billion in subcontracting dollars to small businesses.  The prime and subcontracting dollars combined amount to one million jobs created that are supported annually through federal contracting. These jobs  help to build communities and fuel the nation’s economy.

I have spent 25 years of my government tenure as a professional program administrator,  the Chief Procurement Officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Director of Acquisition and Contracting for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Chief Acquisition Officer at the Department of Energy. I am pleased to oversee the SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, which is charged with making sure that the federal government spends at least 23 percent of its contract dollars with small businesses annually. 

The goal of my office is to increase support to the small business contracting community, namely, the agency procurement personnel which includes: SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives, Commercial Market Representatives, the  Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization, the Office of Small Business Programs and contracting officers who are responsible for actually making the contract awards to small businesses to achieve the 23 percent goal. 

I am so pleased to see this shared result between the SBA and its colleague agencies and partners despite the challenges caused by the pandemic. Meeting these small business contracting goals is part of our commitment to ensuring that entrepreneurs are adequately supported and represented throughout the government.

These positive results are also because of small business owners like:

  • James Moore, Managing Partner of Expert Maintenance and Construction Services, LLC (EMCS), an 8(a) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise-certified firm of Prairieville, Louisiana and SBA’s Louisiana 2020 Small Business Person of the Year.  James founded his business with just two employees and has grown his business to 85 employees, with $16 million in revenues. 
  • EMCS has performed numerous contracts with federal, state, and local agencies in addition to private entities and has completed projects in multiple states, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas, with offices in all five states.

SBA is incredibly proud of the small businesses that we support. We are deeply gratified to work with our federal partners and are appreciative of their efforts in helping to achieve and exceed the 23 percent goal. This achievement is not only a win for the federal government; it is a win for small businesses and the nation’s economy.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Francis Spampinato is Associate Administrator for the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development

DARPA Wants Stronger Security For Internet Of Things Devices

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Image: (EtoileArk)

C4ISRNET

“The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to industry for “revolutionary security technologies” that can protect the military’s growing number of Internet of Things devices.”

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“The Cryptography for Hyper-scale Architectures in a Robust Internet Of Things (CHARIOT) program was established to “develop revolutionary approaches for fast, efficient, and quantum-resistant cryptographic operations for Internet of Things (IoT) devices,” according to a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) opportunity released by the agency Aug. 11.

Due partly to the low cost of the equipment, the military has been able to adopt “unprecedented numbers” of IoT-enabled devices, explains DARPA. However, not all of those devices have the cryptographic security they ought to, and the issue will only be exacerbated as quantum computing and 5G wireless networks come online.

The problem, DARPA says, is that the amount of power cryptography consumes reduces the lifespan of devices in the field, which ultimately disincentives manufactures from including security in their products. With some IoT devices expected to last over a decade in the field, the military needs cryptographic solutions that are low on power consumption.

“CHARIOT’s objective is solutions that are fast, efficient, and quantum-resistant on even the cheapest devices,” the solicitation reads.

The CHARIOT program will prototype “low-cost, low-footprint, post-quantum cryptographic techniques” that use up less energy. The solicitation notes that DARPA is particularly interested in vehicle-embedded and wearable use cases with a zero-trust network architecture, such as “uses within a larger scenario of wearable-equipped passengers entering, traveling in and departing from a vehicle such as a troop carrier or school bus.”

Proposals are due Sept. 29.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/it-networks/2020/08/12/darpa-wants-stronger-security-for-internet-of-things-devices/

Servant Leadership- A Long Term Change To America’s Work Infrastructure?

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Image: “Servant Leadership.ca

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGYBy Bruce Lyman

As many companies consider making the transition to remote work more permanent, there are four areas leaders should emphasize to create a successful corporate culture in a coronavirus pandemic-era remote work environment.

They all begin with servant leadership – putting employees and their work first by creating an environment in which employees are safe, challenged, effective, motivated and productive.

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“As the COVID-19 pandemic eases and economies reopen, many companies and people will return to the office. However, according to a recent survey, remote work may become even more popular. The socially responsible coronavirus-related quarantines of the last few months may have created a long-term change to America’s work infrastructure, especially as employees show greater happiness and productivity while working remotely and modern technology makes this option easier than ever.

Once this [Servant Leadership} is accomplished, other leadership goals like organizational performance, profits, and cost-cutting will become more easily — and more naturally — accomplished.

Ensure employees and their families are safe

All servant leaders will agree the focus should be on the employee, and the leader’s job is to block and tackle to enable employees to be effective. More so than in a normal environment, however, this time of COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines require that employees know that their safety and that of their families are important to the company. If the employee is experiencing a battle between protecting their family and meeting the demands at work and the employee does not feel the company cares, the employee will not be as committed to company work or to achieving company goals.

Empower the team

Second, great leaders empower employees to work together in teams to develop ways to get the work done in the most efficient way. Employees who are told what to do may grudgingly follow orders — or they may not. Empowered employees know what work needs to get done, and are creative and hard-working enough to create partial or complete solutions on their own. Leaders need to spend their time identifying goals, providing guidance and offering support as opposed micromanaging daily staff activity and behavior.

This strategy allows the most flexibility for the team and puts results ahead of artificial measures like number of hours worked. It also allows for long-term efficiency because the natural ebb and flow of each team member will, over time, increase their individual contributions as well as their synergy and effectiveness with the rest of the team.

Communicate

Third, create an environment of continual communication. It is easy to fall into the trap of using email or text to task others or to share work products. While this can be an effective way to transfer documents and exchange data, e-mail and texts do little to build team cohesiveness, ensure employees are challenged, or disclose areas where individual or team performance that can be improved. Have team meetings on-line and, as the leader, reach out to each employee often to discuss their work and their life, listening to what they need to be successful.

Effective intra-company communication also creates opportunities to catch and correct employee errors, dis-engagement, and other performance issues before they become long-term problems. Great leaders know that almost every issue is personal – which means that listening is often more important than talking to employees, especially employees experiencing personal or professional challenges.

Create a modern governance structure

Employee and company performance are best measured through effective corporate governance structures. Leaders must be able to evaluate individual and team productivity objectively — and correct issues or celebrate high performance. If each employee and each team understand the definition of success, they will know how to manage their time and their work-life balance to achieve this success. If they have input into the definition of their success, they will have more buy-in and be more motivated to achieve personal, team, and company goals.

Effective leaders create a culture which clearly defines and a governance structure that enforces the company’s ethos, practices and client focus. This not only provides focus and creates a culture of high performance for current employees, but it also increases the likelihood of hiring highly motivated, effective employees from the start.

With a high performing, innovative, empowered team, companies will outperform the competition and increase revenue, market share and profit.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/06/10/insights-lyman-team-optimization.aspx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bruce Lyman

Bruce Lyman is a former Air Force Colonel and the CEO of Parabilis, a small business government contractor lending company.

Air Force “AF Ventures” Small Business Initiative

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Photo by Master Sgt. John Hughel

NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE

The effort is a collaboration between the Air Force Small Businesses Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Program and AFWERX to invest in small businesses that may have technology useful to the military, according to a news release.

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“The Air Force is moving forward with an initiative to bring innovative technologies into the service, according to a top acquisition official.

“AFVentures is our process to work with companies that — at least for now — are mainly targeting commercial success,” Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said June 4 during a Decode webinar. “It’s not perfect, but I think we’ve come a long way.”

The service is giving out awards through different levels of “bets,” he noted, with “small bets” totaling between $50,000 to $75,000 and “medium bets” totaling between $1 million to $3 million, Roper said.

“The process as it exists today, does about 1,000 very small entry level awards to get companies in,” he said. “The second step is where we move up to medium-sized bets.”

Companies chosen for the small awards don’t have to have a concrete idea of how their products can be used by the military, he noted.

“You don’t have to understand the mission you’re targeting, but if you have a really interesting technology, you’re pretty sure there’s a match with the military, [it’s] meant to get you in and find your potential customer,” he said.

Products chosen for the “medium-sized bets” allow the company to develop a prototype of the technology and pitch it, he noted.

“If they select you for one of those medium bets, well, that’s a pretty good indication of a product market set,” he said. “The fact that we selected you means you have a better chance of getting access to that broader market we represent.”

The service is also investing in a handful of “big bets” from $5 million to $50 million, he said. This would allow a company to prototype, produce and sell its product. In March, Roper said the service has a tentative combined “big bet” awards of about $1 billion total in contracts that will go to over 550 small businesses.

“Our hope is that as companies become amazing successes that they don’t view themselves as either commercial or military,” he said. “We hope that they’ll view themselves as tech companies that have a … history or legacy with the military.”

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/6/4/air-force-fleshes-out-afventures-small-business-initiative

Federal Agency Initiatives To Make Selling To The Government Easier

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Image: “Strategic HR Solutions”

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Jarrod McAdoo

Contracting with the federal government is often frustrating, but agencies are trying hard to broaden their base of participating businesses. But it is incumbent on the business sector to try harder too.

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“Selling to the federal government can be complicated, particularly for startups, smaller companies, and those unfamiliar with government contracting. The procurement process creates a jungle of barriers including crushing complexity, awkward communications and significant expense just to try and compete for business. 

As a result, a number of companies with innovative products and services have chosen either not to work with government at all, or have given up in futility after trying. That represents a real loss to the public as well as to the business community, and it’s one that federal procurement professionals are well aware of.

In a recent podcast underwritten by my company, two procurement officials – Sandra Oliver Schmidt from the Department of Homeland Security and Jaime Garcia from the IRS – talked about some of the ways their agencies were responding to these acquisition barriers and using innovative approaches to the purchasing process. 

DHS for example, established a Procurement Innovation Lab whose teams are testing the flexibilities built into the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Its mission is to reduce the barriers to competition and bring more non-traditional companies into the supplier mix by creating their own terms and making multiple awards from a single solicitation. Together with the Department of Defense and General Services Administration, the agency established the Commercial Solutions Opening Pilot, which allows participants greater discretion and flexibility in buying innovative products valued below $10 million.

The IRS is also attempting to push the envelope with its Pilot IRS program. Its goal is to work with non-traditional and small business to quickly prototype and test emerging technologies. It is also looking carefully at project phasing to avoid becoming locked into a single vendor’s solution when there are better options available. 

In addition to the complexity of federal contracting terms and conditions, one of the most off-putting aspects of selling to the federal government has been the cost of writing a proposal. Proposals that follow FAR’s prescriptive guidelines are lengthy, time-consuming, and expensive to prepare. Whereas a commercial deal can often be closed in a matter of weeks or even days, the federal sales cycle can run anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Beyond that, it has been somewhere between difficult and impossible for potential suppliers to meet with the decision-makers who hold the fate of business proposals in their hands.

One way that DHS is trying to open up the process is with phased proposals. The first phase could involve a lightweight proposal of perhaps five pages, or maybe even a 30-minute phone interview. The agency then advises the company on how competitive it thinks the idea is and leaves up to the vendor to decide whether to move ahead with the detailed proposal. The agency is also welcoming oral presentations and product demonstrations using a paperless process. Not only does it give suppliers a better opportunity to showcase their wares, but it gives the government more confidence in making an award. Initiatives like these also show suppliers that the government is cognizant of small suppliers’ costs and resource limitations, which allow suppliers to remain willing to engage across multiple bids and projects and preserves a competitive and innovative supply base. “

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/06/02/insights-mcadoo-procurement-initiatives.aspx

“Adversarial Capital” Threatens Small Business Industrial Base

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Image: “Investors Business Daily”

FCW

“The Defense Department is concerned that foreign investment will take advantage of small businesses in the defense industrial base reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The defense industrial base, which consists of more than 300,000 companies, is “vulnerable to adversarial capital,” and DOD wants them to “stay in business without losing their technology” or be subject to intellectual property theft.

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“Ellen Lord, DOD’s top acquisition executive: “The foreign investment issue is something that I have been tracking for the last couple years. There is no question that we have adversarial capital coming into our markets through nefarious means,” Lord said.

“So what we are doing, on the defense side, looking at [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States], on the offensive side, we’re looking at our Trusted Capital mechanisms.”

DOD has been conducting periodic Trusted Capital Marketplace virtual events to pre-empt CFIUS concerns and ensure companies’ access to “clean capital.”

Lord said the global outbreak of COVID-19 has created instability and uncertainty, especially for small businesses that aren’t sure if government contracts will continue.

“I think it presents a greater attack surface as there is greater uncertainty, especially to small businesses as to whether their contract will continue,” Lord said. “So we want to basically mitigate that uncertainty.”

DOD under the Trump administration has been pushing for more domestic manufacturing and reducing foreign investments, namely with drone production. It has also been adamant about finding U.S.-based solutions for telecommunications services and hardware production, barring the use of Huawei and ZTE products because those companies have ties to the Chinese government and military.

These moves, especially as the global health crisis persists, could have broader implications and shrink direct foreign investment up 15%, according to a United Nations report.

The Defense Department has also created a new task force to synchronize its COVID-19 efforts led by Stacy Cummings, the principal deputy assistant defense secretary and leader of the Acquisition Enablers office.

The Joint Acquisition Task Force will coordinate with military services and agencies’ acquisition resources and field requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Departments of Health and Human Services and  Homeland Security and other federal agencies for medical resources and personal protective equipment.

The task force aims to identify weak points in workforce and industrial capability and ultimately reduce companies’ reliance on foreign supply sources. It will also direct use of Defense Production Act authorities, which include being able to use economic incentives and priority-rate defense contracts to best serve the need of troops in the field and team with industry to boost commercial capabilities.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/03/25/defense-china-cfius-corona-lord.aspx?oly_enc_id=

Small Tech Companies Got $1 Billion At USAF Virtual South By Southwest

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DEFENSE NEWS

The U.S. Air Force lost its chance to hang out at South by Southwest this week after the new coronavirus known as COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the festival.But the service still awarded nearly $1 billion in contracts during a virtual version of its event held March 12.

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“[The event], included keynotes from Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, a “Pitch Bowl” where companies delivered short pitches in the hopes of receiving small contracts from the Air Force, and other events meant to deepen the Air Force’s connection to small commercial tech firms.

The largest contracts — worth more than $550 million total — went to 21 companies to develop “big bet” technologies. Those companies are Aerial Applications, Analytical Space, Anduril Industries, Applied Minds, Elroy Air, Enview, Edgybees, Essentium, Falkonry, ICON Technology, Orbital Insight, Orbital Sidekick, Pison, Privoro, Shift.org, Swarm Technologies, Tectus Corp., Virtualitics, Wickr, Wafer and one company that the Air Force has not disclosed.

“For all these awardees, you’re on a four-year, fixed-price contract that we believe, if successful, will disrupt part of our mission in a way that will give a huge advantage for our future airmen,” said Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition executive.

The value of the contracts awarded by AFWERX may seem small compared to the multibillion awards for major defense programs. However, these awards go a long way in helping technology firms overcome the “valley of death” between technology development and production, when a lot of companies are vulnerable to failure, said Chris Brose, head of strategy for Anduril Industries, which specializes in developing artificial intelligence technologies.

“For a company like ours or companies of that size, It’s quite significant. It allows us to really kind of do more of the good work that we’re doing, to scale and grow and work with new partners, and it makes a huge difference,” Brose said.

Brose declined to detail the precise nature of Anduril’s contract with the Air Force, but said that the general objective is to prove that an unmanned aerial system can deliver a mass of swarming drones capable of performing complex missions. While a human would still be “in the loop” overseeing the network, certain tasks — such as steering the drones, moving their sensors and processing gathered data — would be automated.”

https://www.defensenews.com/industry/2020/03/13/small-tech-companies-got-a-combined-1b-at-the-air-forces-virtual-version-of-south-by-southwest/