Tag Archives: Small Business Innovative Research

“Adversarial Capital” Threatens Small Business Industrial Base

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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/

Can The U.S. Compete In R&D?

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FCW

According to the Congressional Research Service, federal funding accounted for 66.8% of all U.S. research and development expenditures in 1964, but just 25.1% by 2000 after industry began funding its own research initiatives.

While industry has made up an increasing share of U.S. technology R&D expenditures, companies like Google, Qualcomm, Symantec and many others can trace their origins back to research grants from the NSF and intelligence agencies.

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“In a Jan. 29 hearing on maintaining America’s competitiveness in critical technologies, lawmakers homed in on strategies to boost federal funding for research, promote a stronger talent pipeline for tech workers and stay ahead of China in areas like artificial intelligence, quantum science and 5G.

In her opening statement, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said that over the last 15 years, the U.S. has dropped the ball by failing to increase spending to support research on emerging technologies, lamenting that “other countries have implemented strategies and invested significantly in their science and technology capacity.”

“As a result, they are now retaining and attracting talent that once came to the United States to study, conduct research, and build companies here,” Johnson said.

A recent report by the Center for a New American Security found that federal spending in this area has declined as a percentage of GDP over the past 40 years, from 1.2% in 1976 to 0.7% in 2018.

Johnson floated the possibility of creating a new directorate at the National Science Foundation that would specifically focus on accelerating research into critical technologies, similar to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s role in the defense sector.

Diane Souvaine, chair of the National Science Board, said the idea would have merit only if lawmakers ensured it did not suck up funding that would otherwise go to NSF’s mission of supporting basic research.

“A new directorate … could not thrive without the basic research seed corn on which things like AI and quantum are built,” she said.

This week, committee ranking member Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), introduced legislation that would double basic research funding over the next decade, formulate a national, whole-of-government plan to securing the science and technology research base, support programs that grow America’s talent pipeline and cut regulation in areas like technology transfer. The bill is cosponsored by 11 other lawmakers, all Republicans.

“I believe this legislative package will start a bipartisan conversation about what we need to do to ensure America’s lead in the technological revolution of the 21st century,” Lucas said during his opening statement.

While industry has made up an increasing share of U.S. technology R&D expenditures, companies like Google, Qualcomm, Symantec and many others can trace their origins back to research grants from the NSF and intelligence agencies.

That early funding directly supported Google’s development of the search function that forms the core of its business model, and former Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told lawmakers the company would not be the behemoth it is today without relying on that “symbiotic” research ecosystem.

“Your predecessors made these incredibly smart decisions 50 years ago … and we seem to have forgotten how fundamental this is,” Schmidt told the panel. “Virtually all of Silicon Valley was either DARPA funded or [NSF] funded or university funded through that mechanism.”

Even with more money, both government and industry are clamoring for more workers with science, technology, engineering and mathematical backgrounds to conduct that research.

“The core problem — to be very, very blunt — is that the knowledge of AI is so specialized, and very few of those people are in government,” Schmidt told lawmakers. “We need a path, a plan and an approach that will get that talent into the government one way or the other: training, hiring, mergers, partnerships, you name it.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/01/30/research-spending-us-china-congress.aspx

7 Ways To Kick-Start Small Business Innovation

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THE BALANCECESMB.COM

“What does innovation do for our small businesses? It makes them “more competitive and better placed to capitalize on business opportunities that arise.

So how can we encourage innovation in our small businesses? Here are seven ways.

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Realize That Innovation Can Be Simple

We tend to think of innovation as a formal and complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. Innovation is just a fancy word for improvement and invention. When you come up with better packaging, find a supplier who will give you a better rate, or try out a new marketing idea, you are involved in innovation.

Build Innovation Into Your Business Routines

  • Set aside an hour each week to think and exercise your creativity.
  • Build innovation into your business planning by setting goals that focus on improving products and processes. For example, one of your business goals might be to find and try out a new way to communicate with your customers.
  • Create an innovation action plan to implement your innovation goals.

Actively Solicit Suggestions for Improvement of Your Small Business’s Processes and Products

  • Use both formal and informal methods to get customers to make suggestions for innovation, such as questionnaires, surveys, and casual one-on-one conversations.
  • Talk to your suppliers and see what suggestions for improvement they might have.

Involve Staff in the Innovation Process

  • Make problem-solving a part of every staff meeting. For each meeting, for instance, you might set a question for discussion on a specific product or process that asks, “How can we improve…?” Publicize the topic of discussion a week ahead of time so people have time to think about it.
  • Have a suggestion box.
  • Reward staff for suggestions that are followed through on.
  • Talk to staff impromptu. Get out of your office if you have one and make personal visits to chat about how things are going.
  • Provide creativity/innovation workshops for staff.

Invest in Innovation

  • Invest in technology that improves your business operations and make your company more competitive. Information and communications technology are particularly worthwhile.
  • Invest in machinery and equipment that will allow you to make productivity improvements.
  • Invest in developing new products and services.

Cultivate an Innovation Mindset

  • Continue to educate yourself about innovation by attending workshops, webinars, conferences, reading blogs and articles, etc.
  • Stay on top of developments, technological and otherwise, in your industry. If you’re not a member, join at least one professional or industry organization and participate in its meetings and events.

Investigate SR&ED Possibilities for Your Business

  • The Canadian government strongly supports SR&ED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development) and through the SR&ED tax credit program Canadian companies can get reimbursed for up to 41.5% of their expenses for qualifying projects. Ordinary small businesses can participate in this program, even sole proprietorships.

The Key to Innovation Success

It’s not enough to say that innovation is a priority; you have to actually work at it.

Jim Hogan, President, and co-founder of VMAC, which developed a rotary screw compressor technology that revolutionized the mobile compressor industry, puts it this way; “I’ve developed my own philosophy about innovation. It may sound corny, but you have to think you’re smart and try things. If you don’t, your competitors eventually will. The prize goes to the people with the guts to try” (The Innovation Challenge, Business Development Bank of Canada).”

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/kickstart-business-innovation-2947877

Navy Emphasizing Fast And Productive Small Business Innovative Research

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FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK

The Navy’s small business numbers are trending upward, and it wants to keep it that way to increase the number of new ideas coming into the service. To do that it’s shortening its small business innovative research process, and is attempting to get more of those technologies into production. “

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“We’re really pushing hard on increasing the agility of our small business innovation research program (SBIR),” James Geurts, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, told reporters Tuesday in National Harbor, Md. “We’ve reduced the requirement in terms of proposal length by 75% and we are looking at reducing the timeline to get to actual contract award by that amount.”

Geurts said to get those reductions the Navy looked at internal processes. The idea falls under the Navy’s broader NavalX initiative to make the acquisition process more agile.

“Many of our barriers are self-inflicted and culturally reinforced,” he said. “You’ve heard me talk about scraping the barnacles and really challenging ourselves to ensure any process time we have is adding value.”

The Navy’s work with SBIRs doesn’t stop at the initial contract though. SBIRs are grants for research and development, not for production, and the Navy wants results.

The service can award SBIRs, but they need a place to go to mature into an actual product sailors can use with an initial production contract. Geurts said the Navy is spending a lot of time identifying a need for a SBIR, and figuring out how to rapidly transfer a successful SBIR into a fielded program.

Obviously, not all SBIRs will make it big and some will die in the valley between research and development and actual production.

The Navy is thinking about what success means in terms of taking risk, while not wasting taxpayer funds on too many technologies that will never develop.

“Success to me looks like we are as efficient as we can be in generating ideas and evaluating ideas,” Geurts said. “It looks like getting our iteration speed up and our iteration costs down. I think we fail when we have cost imposing steps in the process that don’t add value.”

Geurts said it’s the Navy’s responsibility to sort out the parts of the process that protect the taxpayer and sailor and the parts that are duplicative and burdensome.

Geurts said failures in SBIR aren’t total failures, though.

“While the SBIR itself may or may not go forward, that doesn’t mean it didn’t add value,” he said. “It may have made a stink about a requirement in a different way. It may have challenged our way of thinking about an operational problem. SBIRs can be successful in a lot of ways, it can get a new startup familiar with how to work with the Defense Department.”

The Navy is trying to bring in more small business to shake up the status quo and bring in more ideas to the service. The Navy contends that in near-peer competition, the service will need novel technologies that give the United States the edge over China and Russia.

In 2019, the Navy beat its big goals for small business.

“Our small business rate was about 18.3% and that represents about $16 billion,” Geurts said. The Navy as a whole awarded $117 billion in contract obligations in 2019. “That’s above the goal. We had a goal of 14%. I think that’s important because we get some great innovation from our small business providers.”

Air Force Evolving To Buy Ideas Not Tech

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FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK

The Air Force is in the middle of a major acquisition reform. Part of that means trying to learn how to work with tech startups and small businesses.

Not going to need to own their product, just want to own it as a service and use the fact that they have commercial ambitions to help keep their prices down and keep their impetus to innovate up.

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“The Air Force experienced some success with that earlier this year at its first Pitch Day, where it awarded 242 contracts in two weeks. Will Roper, assistant secretary of acquisition for the Air Force, told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin that needs to become the new normal.

“Government credit cards are used to buy things that are considered pretty ordinary … buying cutting edge ideas needs to be ordinary for us today,” Roper said. “So we did our homework on the companies, we made sure that they’re U.S.-based, we made sure that we thought they were viable, that they had a good idea so that when we invited them to come pitch to us, they had already cleared our good-enough-to-get-through-the-gate criteria. But once they got in to pitching to us live, we were really scrutinizing their ideas. So the company had already passed muster. Now we want to understand about the idea.”

And to take that one step further, Roper said when you buy the idea, you’re also buying the team that supports it. Companies need to showcase their teams at a pitch day just as much as their ideas.

Another unique aspect of working with these small companies and startups is that they expect to own their intellectual property, rather than having the government own it. But that’s an aspect that can work to the Air Force’s advantage.

“Very different than if you’re a defense company that gets a hold of a unique, boutique-type capability where there’s not competition, and you expect to hold on to it for decades. In the commercial space, we expect there to be very energetic, in some cases, violent competition to try to be market-leading.

In this new acquisition paradigm, Roper said the Air Force needs to manage two things. First, there has to be a restriction process to keep certain technologies from globalizing. And second, the Air Force has to become a faster, if not the fastest, adopter of technologies open to everyone else, like with artificial intelligence.”

“It’s also important to remember that most startups and small tech companies don’t want to be defense prime contractors. But that doesn’t mean the Air Force can’t be a great first partner, Roper said. After all, the Air Force doesn’t want part ownership, equity, or IP.”

“So this is just the first step on really changing how we the Air Force work in a global ecosystem of commercial technology, and ensure that if you can buy something personally and have it on your phone today, that it’s available for our war fighters that fast,” Roper said

“Let’s take, for instance, self-flying cars. So I want to see the Jetsons happen on my watch. Those cars are awesome,” Roper said. “Where have they been? Think about the challenge of operationalizing something like that domestically, getting through all the FAA certifications, the safety certifications, versus coming into the Air Force sphere, where we can pay a higher price point than our commercial counterparts. And we can operate at a different risk profile. Now, why haven’t we put ourselves out as a bridging mechanism from someone that has commercial ambitions and wants to get there and they can walk our defense bridge as one of the paths to achieve it. So that’s an area that I’m working with our research lab right now to look for commercial partnerships, where our money’s important, but our marketplace equally is.”

Legislation To Help More Small Tech Companies Land Defense Contracts

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FEDSCOOP

The Domestic Investment Pilot Program would allow the secretary of Defense and service acquisition executives for each military department to make an SBIR award to a small business that is majority-owned by multiple domestic venture investors.”

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“Newly proposed legislation could increase the amount of work the Department of Defense does with small businesses — particularly those that get a majority of their funding from venture capital.

The Accelerating Defense Innovation Act would create a pilot project within the DOD’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to direct grant money to companies the department has otherwise avoided because of legal hurdles that stretch back more than a decade.

Created in 1983, SBIR provides small businesses with research grants to expedite their products’ development, as well as potential follow-on funding and assistance in meeting competitive requirements during the acquisition process. In 2003, courts ruled companies with more than 50 percent venture capital ownership are ineligible for SBIR grants. Congress created a waiver in 2011 for small businesses that are majority owned by multiple domestic venture investors, which requires congressional notification and Small Business Administration approval.

DOD has never used the waiver. Instead, the department “is turning away innovative small businesses with the most promising military and commercial technologies,” reads a fact sheet from the office of Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the new bill’s sponsor. For example, Thornberry’s office cites satellite technology from startup Capella Space that can see through clouds. The 50-person team came out of DOD’s Hacking 4 Defense program but failed to receive an SBIR grant because of venture capital investment.

The bill allows no more than 15 percent of DOD SBIR program funds to be awarded to small businesses owned in majority part by multiple domestic venture investors, and the program will end on Sept. 30, 2022.

Despite the limitations of SBIR, there are other ways for young tech companies to work with the DOD, regardless of their funding. The Defense Innovation Unit, for example, currently handles pilot projects for commercial innovations that any of the department’s branches may procure after testing is complete. The goal is to speed up time to agreement, which the unit generally reaches within 90 days of first contact with the company.

Thornberry, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, wants to include his legislation in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the release said.”

-In this Story-

DOD “TCM” To Team Investors With Small/Medium Companies In Defense/ Commercial Technologies

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FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK

The Defense Department (DoD) is setting up a new organization to find trusted companies to pair with investors to build critical technologies that could be compromised by foreign influence.

[Trusted Capital Marketplace] “TCM will support small and medium sized companies to manufacture emerging defense and commercial technologies

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“The announcement comes as DoD’s concerns continue to grow about companies like Huawei and ZTE using their ubiquitous products to spy on the United States.

DoD expects to roll out the entire program sometime in July and already has about 50 companies in mind that are trusted enough to join the marketplace.

“The first step is to set up a website infrastructure to bring providers of trusted capital together with businesses looking for capital infusion,” Lord said. “I’m constrained legally from introducing one company to one venture capitalist; however, what we can do is segment the marketplace and then put in companies that need capital infusions that we think have critical technology for us. We can also vet critical providers of capital.”

Lord said DoD put out a request for proposals two weeks ago through an other transaction authority to find a provider for the website.

“A lot of these companies are small innovative companies that don’t have the resources, sophistication or contacts to reach sources of capital,” Lord said. “What we are trying to do is enable that, so they don’t have to go through a lot of time and expense with legal firms to find out who is out there. Likewise, we have some incredible patriots who have come to us and said ‘We are interested in putting our money somewhere that will make a difference in our national defense.’ There are two willing sides there and there is an unmet need that somebody like government can provide the ecosystem to make it work.”

Lord said DoD is still deciding how much money it will put into the program, but she noted TCM will satisfy a requirement made by the 2018 defense authorization act to help secure the defense supply chain.

TCM isn’t the only thing DoD is doing to address the industrial base and supply chain issue for developing technologies.

“We are tightly coupled with the intelligence community to find out what is out there,” Lord said. “We will continue not to buy from sources that are not trusted. A prime supplier to the Department of Defense has responsibility to understand their supply chain. The security of that supply chain, whether its two or three levels down or six or seven levels down, is the responsibility of the prime. That’s why we are developing standards that are very, very clear.”

That ties into DoD’s “deliver uncompromised” initiative, which hopes to bear capabilities without critical information or technology being lost, stolen, denied, degraded, given away or sold. The initiative establishes security as a primary metric for acquisition. That puts more responsibility on industry to beef up cybersecurity and be more cognizant of its supply chain.”

Experimental Defense Unit Funds New Tech But Faces Skeptics

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Defense Innovation Unit Just Fine

Image: “Fast Company .com

“AP NEWS”

“Most of the contracts have gone to startups and smaller firms that aren’t among the big, traditional military suppliers, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing or Raytheon. 

And, under the military’s traditional purchasing process, the contracts likely would have taken years longer to reach the point they’re at now, by which time the technology would have become obsolete.”


“Secretary of Defense James Mattis made his first visit Thursday to the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, a two-year old effort that’s investing in private companies building experimental drones, new cybersecurity technology and advanced communications systems for soldiers.

Mattis said he expects the initiative, known as DIUx, will “grow in its influence and its impact” under the Republican administration. In recent weeks, his office has taken steps to secure DIUx’s place in the agency, including granting it greater authority to hire staff, negotiate contracts and promote its efforts.

“Big admirer of what they do out there, about the way they germinate ideas, the way they harvest ideas, from one breakthrough, rapidly, to another,” Mattis said before meeting with staff and local industry leaders at DIUx’s office in Mountain View, California, the hometown of Google.

The program also has offices in Cambridge; Austin, Texas, and at the Pentagon.

But DIUx continues to face questions from Republican leaders in Congress and others who view it as a still-unproven and possibly unnecessary venture.

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees defense spending, agrees the military needs to better keep abreast of the innovation happening in the commercial sector. But he’s unconvinced DIUx is the long-term solution and won’t overlap with other advanced technology offices, like the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, which dates to the 1950s and the space race.

“This question is: What is this office doing that’s different from what others are doing?” Thornberry said this month.

The proof that DIUx is working is the significant number of projects it has undertaken in a relatively short amount of time and with minimal taxpayer investment, said Col. Michael McGinley, who heads DIUx’s office in Cambridge, near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Since opening its first office in California’s Silicon Valley, DIUx has awarded $100 million in government contracts to 45 pilot projects.

The investments are modest since much of the heavy lifting has come from private investors, who have collectively pumped roughly $2 billion into the companies DIUx is working with, according to McGinley.

“This is changing the game in the way (the Department of Defense) operates and acquires new technology to support the warfighter,” McGinley said. “We’re not vaporware. We’re producing tangible results.”

The office, with roughly 45 civilian and military staffers, focuses on five general areas: artificial intelligence, information technology, drones and other unmanned vehicles, and space and life sciences.

Of the 45 projects being piloted, three account for about a third of all spending.

Tanium, in Emeryville, California, has been awarded $12.7 million to help the military better manage its information technology and cybersecurity operations.

Composite Engineering, in Roseville, California, in partnership with three other companies, has been given $12.6 million to develop high-speed drones.

And London-based online game developer Improbable was awarded $5.8 million for a simulation program.

Among the DIUx technologies already in use is software helping the Air Force make jet refueling more efficient, a $2.7 million contract that went to Pivotal Labs in San Francisco.

While DIUx may not be going away anytime soon, Congress has been reluctant to go all-in on in the effort.

After receiving $20 million to launch in 2016, DIUx was given just $10 million for the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30, according to a DIUx spokeswoman.

The Trump administration has sought roughly $30 million for it next year, but a key House committee has proposed slashing that request in half.

DIUx deserves more time and resources, considering it’s made “substantial progress” after initial confusion over its mission and pushback from traditional defense contractors prompted an overhaul less than a year in, said Andrew Hunter, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization.

But Thornberry, the House Armed Services chairman, said he’ll be looking for DIUx to make more compelling arguments.

“The question is how much does this advance our capability,” he said. “What are you getting for it? That’s what we’ve got to get our arms around.”

https://www.apnews.com/8b8a367c39224354a3d072ab87379ed9

 

Multiple Front Marketing In Small Business Federal Government Contracting

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Multiple Front Marketing

 SMALLTOFEDS  By Ken Larson

INTRODUCTION:

Your enterprise must market on several targeted government contracting fronts to be successful. Simply registering as a federal government contractor or acquiring a small business set aside designation does not mean that contracting officers will find you or that larger corporations will seek you out as a teaming partner. A GSA schedule or a multi-year IDIQ umbrella contract, purchase agreement or similar vehicle may look promising, but they are really no more than hunting licenses. The game must still be bagged (targeted sales of specific products or service projects to customers).

The prudent small business will target agencies and teaming partners that best fit its products and services, positioning itself to acquire developing information on requirements and displaying capabilities by conveying early solutions to customer decision makers. This article will suggest techniques, approaches and tools to conduct a multi-front, targeted, requirements-driven, marketing campaign for small business federal government contracting.


SELECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS SET ASIDE DESIGNATIONS CAREFULLY


Your small business designation by North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) Codes should be thorough and as comprehensive as possible when you register at the “System for Award Management (SAM) web site. Make sure your registration has the maximum number of codes for which you qualify, since the whole federal procurement system rides on those codes. Insure the narrative description of your services is complete as well. Please see the following link for further information on registration:


Federal Government Contracting Registration


The sub-categories of small business set-aside certifications should be chosen carefully and based on your company ownership and specific market research into which categories the agency or prime contractor favors, what their small business contracting plan includes in the way of targets and what their track record has been in awarding contracts. Good information on awards can be gleaned from the federal web site on federal government spending at:


USA Spending


You can also check the SBA small business goaling report at:


SBA Goaling Reports


For further details on each of the 7 small business set aside designations please see the following link:


Small Business Set-aside Programs


TARGET REQUIREMENTS EARLY


Government agencies, like companies, have long range plans and budget cycles. Keep abreast with the latest developments in trade magazines and journals regarding government contracting trends within agencies to develop and market solutions for anticipated requirements.


Monitor agency web sites and forecasts. Be constantly aware of the annual federal budgeting cycle, its development progress in the executive branch and its approval status in Congress. Agencies push to commit excess funding late in the fiscal year and at the same time forecast their next year needs for submittal to higher authorities. In the 1 October to September 30 fiscal year cycle, July, August and September are prime marketing periods.


Watch FEDBIZOPPS for sources sought notifications, requests for industry comments on draft RFP’s and similar early indications of programs taking shape which will later be advertised in full solicitation. Go after them early enough to market and get them set aside for your small business designation and influence the development of the project with constructive input creating a presence in the eyes of the customer and prospective teaming partners.


MAKE PRUDENT BID/NO BID DECISIONS


Develop a good fit in your bid/no bid decisions. The only thing worse than losing a contract bid is winning it and performing poorly, creating negative past performance notations on your record. Know what your company can do and cannot do. Acquire skilled personnel through contingent hire agreements or incumbent work forces as you grow and carefully choose what you bid. For information on bid/no bid decisions and proposal preparation please see the following link:


Government Contracting Bid/No Bid and Proposal Preparation


EXPLORE SERVICE CONTRACTING AND TEAMING


Other than FAR Part 12 Commercial Contracting for off-the-shelf items, entry into federal government contracting for small business usually occurs through service contracting direct to an agency or teaming as a subcontractor with another firm for a major program. Even for commercial products, particularly new ones on the market, the best way to introduce your solution to a customer is to become involved in a service contact supporting the client’s operations.


With regard to larger government contracting corporations to whom you could subcontract, cover the waterfront. Find out what they are bidding and aggressively market a piece of the action as a small business. Find the locations for the largest government contractors nearest you and register at their supplier business sites. Everything they buy for their facilities, their personnel and their operations counts toward the small business goals required contractually of them by their enormous government contracts.


Research their web sites and locate their small business liaison officers. Make appointments and visit them. While visiting, seek the names and titles of managers internal to their companies who manage prime contracts involving expertise your business can supply. Go after those managers.

Form teaming agreements early with good industry partners and begin to develop a winning message to the customer while he is defining his program. The following article provides further details on teaming:


Teaming in Small Business Contracting


OBTAIN A GSA SCHEDULE


The below link is an article on how to apply for and utilize a GSA schedule:


Achieving and Utilizing A GSA Schedule


There are 3 major challenges to going through the GSA schedule application process:


1. Finding an open solicitation that fits your product line


2. Establishing a good working relationship with the GSA Contracting Officer on the schedule solicitation and getting his/her assistance in working the system expediently.


3. Presenting viable, auditable cost history on what you have previously sold your products for to pass the cost/pricing audit portion of the process.


Most companies continue to bid work to the government through FAR Part 12, Commercial Contracting procedures or other contract vehicles discussed this web site while their GSA schedule application is pending. Please examine this site for articles on teaming, marketing, IDIQ contracts, negotiations, subcontracting and many others.


Remember there are thousands of companies out there going through the system, so you will have to be patient. Very few applicants get through it in any less than 6 months. A GSA Schedule is a very valuable item to achieve, but it takes time to do so and there are other forms of government contracting you can use while your application is in process.


DEVELOP A DYNAMIC CAPABILITY STATEMENT


A capability statement (CAPE) is an absolute necessity. It contains the specific information a contracting officer needs to place an order. This information includes such items as your D&B Number, your government registration numbers, your North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes and the like. These items are selected or provided by you or determined by the system when you register your company for government contracting.


Your electronic capability statement (CAPE) for government contracts should be short and hard-hitting. It should be 1or 2 pages and should highlight the salient points of your products and offerings, your personnel and your qualifications. Please see the following link for an example of a capability statement:


Your Capability Statement


WRITE RESPONSIVE PROPOSALS


Writing a winning proposal is an art form. It takes practice and the more proposals you prepare and submit the more artful you will be. You will find yourself utilizing the same materials over again on successive proposals. Management approaches, personnel profiles, win strategies and other major components of a good submission will fill your library and extend your CAPE to specific solutions for specific customers.


The following link contains guidance on writing effective proposals:


Proposal Preparation


SUMMARY


Your reputation as a reputable performer in the small business federal government contracting community is important. Be selective and high performing. Agencies, past performance data bases and other companies will be observing you, recording your performance and passing the word along to others directly and indirectly.


Then insure your web site, your capability statement and your marketing plans are maintained current alive and dynamically reflective of your successes as you pursue new business and carefully develop your library of past performance records by project with accessible profiles to use in your government proposals.


Please see the following link on meeting the past performance requirements challenge in federal government contracting:


The Past Performance Challenge

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ken Portrait - Copy (2)

Small to Feds is maintained by Ken Larson a Veteran of 2 tours – US Army Vietnam.
As a Volunteer Counselor, he assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes.
Subsequent to his military service Ken spent over 30 years in federal government contract management and 10 years in small business consulting. He gets many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting or grow their commercial enterprise. This site is intended to assist in answering those questions and others small businesses have in developing and operating a successful firm.
Those wishing a free counseling session may contact Ken at: Micro Mentor Ken Larson