This is another one of those entries where I decided to hold the candle under the feet of both parties involved, which usually means I'm not getting dinner invites from either side any time soon.
On that note...
Without hesitation, I have a great deal of respect for the DoD as a whole, and for a number of the civilian and military professionals who without fail do their best to get the job done while giving fair opportunity to federal contractors, regardless of size. Ultimately, these civil servants and military members are looking for industry partners that can answer the call on various fronts such as relevance to the task-at-hand, quality of the product/service being acquired and, of course, price.
In that same spirit, as a small business owner, I have the utmost admiration for small businesses who exist to do a good job by providing solid products and services at a fair price and with good support as an accompaniment. Typically, these companies are not in business because they are a small business, but because they can deliver the goods. This, as opposed to small businesses who operate under a sense of entitlement and think they deserve to be moved to the front of the line based primarily on their socioeconomic designation(s). This mindset is a problem that continues to be manifested by Government, Industry and the advocates and lobbyists who serve themselves first while driving a wedge between the various segments of the small business community.
Just the other day, FCW's Matthew Weigelt posted an article in which officials from Air Force, Army and Navy reference the additional gut-punch small federal contractors will receive as a result of sequestration and operating under a continuing resolution. In the article, SAF/AQ Military Deputy LTG Charles Davis announces Air Force is $170 million behind its small business goals, Navy Assistant Secretary Sean Stackley remarks "they [small businesses] are core to the way we do our business," and Army Assistant Secretary Heidi Shyu testified "that large prime contractors have the capital to survive the downturn, but small firms, particularly those that serve a niche area, do not have those same resources."
Based on these and similar statements that echo throughout the industry, one could say things don't look good for small federal contractors based on the current heading.
Here is where things get a little tricky.
Looking at YTD competitive awards made via a definitive contract or purchase order, DoD accounts for $12 billion in awards to "other than small business" across more than 700 NAICS Codes. How different things would be if more of the $2.175B contribution by Air Force could have been awarded to small business? If you deduct Air Force's small business shortfall from this total, they are still left with over $2B awarded to medium and large companies in this way.
A cursory review of this spending does not reveal many unique products or services. Generally speaking, much of what was purchased is available from capable and competitive small federal contractors. At the same time, I also wonder how many of these opportunities were missed by small businesses simply because we were not looking?
I don't believe there is a single prevailing stone of fault to be cast, everyone involved has a role in what is happening, good and bad. Just as Air Force and DoD at-large can do a better job of collaborating with and conducting meaningful outreach to small businesses, those companies represented by the commodities purchased and/or the defense organizations in their backyard doing this business, need to do a better job of making themselves visible.
The "visibility" I refer to is a combination of awareness activities with the agencies, wherever they are located and doing business, and being educated in the acquisition methods being leveraged in order to attain the right state of readiness. The saying goes, if you hear of it first as an RFP/RFQ on FedBizOpps, you are often too far behind the power curve to be a viable contender.
That is, when they come out that way, but that's another topic for another day.
For anyone wondering how many big buys account for this $12B in spending, FPDS-NG shows 569K contract actions reported. The three (3) largest actions were all for DoD/Tricare Management Activity averaging $1B each (based on obligations this fiscal year). Just over 9K of these buys were for under one million dollars each.
The review I did looked solely at full and open competitions and excluded follow-on awards. Additionally, I did not include awards to existing contracts such as BOAs, BPAs, GSA Schedules, IDIQs and GWACs. The $12 billion I'm referring to represents buys from other than an existing contract vehicle. Also keep in mind DoD information is reported ninety (90) days in arrears for operational security concerns, so there is still quite a bit we're not seeing. By comparison, DoD has awarded $18.5B to "other than small business" vendors via follow-on and non-competitive awards including contract vehicles.
While the current economy is stressed beyond means, and the political climate is focused on small business for the wrong reasons, there is a way to appease the political beast while serving the best interest of our national defense mission and the small business community. We just need to see if anyone is willing to act on it.
I have the pleasure of knowing and working with a number of small federal contractors whose focus is no less (and often more so) on "completing the mission" than the big guys. These small companies strive to complete tasks and move on, rather than seeing how many bodies they can throw at a problem, and prolonging it.
Oh heck! Was my mic on again?
Peace.The Chief Visionary
"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."
Visibility and Opportunities for Growing Small Federal Contractors. SAP Task Force™.