As acquisition professionals, we know that small businesses are a key part of our Defense Industrial Base (DIB). In fact, they make up 73 percent of firms in the DIB, and last year more than 25 percent of all Department of Defense (DoD) prime contracts were awarded to small businesses. Their smaller size enables them to experiment and implement change more rapidly than larger firms. Small businesses thus are incredibly important to our technological advantage, economic strength, and military superiority.
Since 2015, the DoD has met or exceeded its small business prime contracting goal. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, $84.6 billion in obligations went directly to small businesses. While it is important to celebrate these victories, we must also recognize that it is not always easy for our small companies to do business with the DoD.
Improper bundling and consolidation of contract requirements, burdensome regulations, and confusing points of entry have all contributed to the steady decline in the number of small businesses in the DIB. This decline presents a national and economic security risk, so now is the time to strengthen our domestic supply chains, increase competition, and reduce dependence on single and/or foreign sources of supply.
In January of this year, DoD published its latest Small Business Strategy
, which lays out a Department-wide approach to unlocking the full potential of small businesses. We will do this by streamlining points of entry into DoD for small companies, ensuring that small business activities align with efforts to sustain and expand the DIB and modernization priorities, and improving our engagement and resources to support industry. We thank everyone across the small business community and DoD for creating and supporting this important strategy.
Reducing barriers and creating more opportunities to participate in defense acquisitions will allow DoD to unlock new innovation, strengthen our supply chains, increase competition in the marketplace, and grow our economy here at home. The strategy outlines three major objectives:
Objective 1: Implement a Unified Management Approach
Much like the entire defense acquisition community, DoD’s small business programs and workforce are distributed across the military branches, defense agencies, and other offices. This causes confusion and leaves small businesses searching for where to start, wondering how various programs and initiatives work, and ultimately possessing little insight into the resources available to them. To address these issues, DoD is standing up a small business integration group to bring various stakeholders together, credentialing small business professionals from across the military branches and defense agencies, and making the Office of Small Business Programs’ (OSBP) website (business.defense.gov
) the primary point of entry for small businesses looking to work with DoD.
Objective 2: Align Activities With National Security Priorities
Most small business programs lack either long-term authorization or consistent funding. To address this, the Biden administration put funding for the Mentor Protégé Program, a developmental assistance program for small businesses, back into the President’s budget for FY 2022 and worked to make the program permanent in FY 2023. Additionally, the administration worked to ensure reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research program, and DoD is reinvigorating the Rapid Innovation Fund in FY 2023, which has been unfunded since FY 2019.
Last fiscal year, the Biden administration introduced new initiatives
to reduce barriers to entry for small businesses and boost contracting opportunities for underserved small businesses by reforming category management. Revised guidance was issued on the use of category management to help federal agencies, such as DoD, conduct more equitable buying practices and reinforce the importance of small businesses’ achievements to advance equity in procurement. This will allow for more set-aside competitions for small businesses in socioeconomic categories and will begin reversing the current trend of more dollars going to fewer small businesses. The goal of these changes is to re-establish a balance between gaining efficiencies through enterprise-wide buying and the need for a robust, diverse industrial base.
Improper bundling and consolidation of contract requirements, burdensome regulations, and confusing points of entry have all contributed to the steady decline in the number of small businesses in the DIB.
Objective 3: Strengthen Engagement and Support
To effectively support our small business suppliers, we must increase our engagement and provide them with the necessary tools and resources to not only understand our requirements but keep their intellectual property safe from strategic competitors. One resource we are making available is Project Spectrum, a cybersecurity education, awareness, and compliance tool to ensure companies are “DIB ready” and can be leveraged for national security priorities (more on Project Spectrum below). Further, enhanced training and engagement will be led by our APEX Accelerators, formerly known as the Procurement Technical Assistance Program, which was recently streamlined and successfully realigned from the Defense Logistics Agency to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
APEX Accelerators will serve as a resource for small businesses to increase their readiness, help them find opportunities to do business with the DoD, and accelerate their insertion into the defense marketplace. Currently, more than 90 APEX Accelerators are assisting businesses in 49 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Guam; the U.S. Virgin Islands; the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas; and in regions established by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. To learn more about APEX Accelerators, visit its website at https://www.apexaccelerators.us/
Finally, we will look to increase our support for small business cybersecurity resources through Project Spectrum (http://www.projectspectrum.io
). An estimated 43 percent of small businesses fall victim to cyberattacks every year. Project Spectrum’s mission is to improve cybersecurity readiness, resiliency, and compliance for small- and midsized companies in the supply chain, and provide a one-stop shop for training, self-assessments, and other resources needed to improve cyber readiness and compliance with the latest standards. Companies can connect with cyber advisors, who will help improve their cyber posture, and can then share best practices with other small businesses in the DIB.
To learn more about these objectives and initiatives, and how to help small businesses as part of your duties as a defense acquisition professional, please read DoD’s new Small Business Strategy
. We are committed to bringing more small businesses back into our supply chain while creating economic growth. They are invaluable, important partners in our mission.
During this time of strategic competition, three of our key assets are innovation, agility, and ingenuity. Our small business partners are ready and willing to answer the call for support.
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is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs. She is also currently performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy, serving as the principal advisor to Departmental Leadership on industrial base policies. Her principal duty is the overall supervision of DoD’s efforts to develop and maintain the defense industrial base of the United States and ensure a secure supply of materials critical to national security. Rosenblum has a strong background in global security, specifically reducing nuclear and biological threats, homeland security, and peacekeeping operations and support. Rosenblum holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College.
The author can be contacted at www.businessdefense.gov/contact-us.html