There are very few in this business who have earned and deserve the respect (including mine) Stan Soloway has achieved. He is a true thought-leader and a force of nature within our industry.
In a recent WBJFedBiz Daily blog entry, he addresses a strategy in use by the Air Force and what he sees as the downside to a well-intended effort.
This article makes solid points about the impacts to small businesses in other segments and the fact it appears compliance takes precedence over smart strategy. In my opinion, the smart strategy that was forsaken is solely from an acquisition impact standpoint versus an ability to deliver standpoint. However, given the long, winding and hazard-filled roads small federal contractors have been traveling since I entered the business in the eighties, we'll take what we can.
It's a shame discussions have to be about the size of the companies rather than the character and capability of the companies. Small federal contractors will just have to continue proving themselves.
I disagree with the statement "And those firms that do well in the set-aside environments will soon find themselves out-growing the size standards and no longer eligible to work in the very market segments in which they grew up." being problematic. As I've seen it, smart business leaders will plan for this and create opportunities for themselves. I always perceived business growth as something to be viewed in a positive light, but for many years groups of mid-tier companies have been seeking a way to be "small" again to the point of pushing activities that would chip away at the current structure of small business programs in the name of those "other than small businesses" continuing to participate in federal contracting as small entities, effectively diminishing the effectiveness and intent of the small business programs.
Instead of trying to slice through the Achilles' of the community from which they have "graduated" why not engage in more meaningful partnership activities? I've spoken to mid-tier companies whose demeanor towards Small Business was no different than the worst attitudes and practices of large prime contractors which I have seen and still hear about.
While the strategy selected by the Air Force may create challenges for some small and "other than small businesses" and may hinder new ideas and talent by simply moving incumbent staff to the next successful contractor, closing the door on new small businesses by top-loading industry segments through legislative activities and NAICS Code gamesmanship doesn't help either.
While it is unlikely (for now) that a small business would be the systems integrator on a major weapons program, there is tremendous capability, commitment, knowledge and talent in the community of viable small federal contractors and we are doing what's necessary to earn the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to efficiency and value.
Peace.The Chief Visionary
"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."