DISA Success Says Small Business is Key

The governmentwide small business contracting goal has been at 23% since 1997. Agencies have done well for the most part in meeting this goal in the last five years, though there are still many hurdles facing small business contractors as primes and subcontractors. One notable contract vehicle which makes this fact evident is 8(a) STARS II, though there have been many others that have gone awry.

The Defense Information Systems Agency’ (DISA) has taken a unique approach to small business contractors, one that puts them at the forefront and holds large firms accountable. In its SETI contract, DISA has taken steps to ensure that small businesses can and will be successful. For this effort, DISA was awarded the 2020 Verdure award from the Defense Department for demonstrating fresh approaches to balancing the development of efficient procurement methods and the utilization of small businesses.

What is so different about SETI? One prominent feature of this contract is the removal of the clearance barrier. To recap, security clearances have often served as a barrier to entry for many small businesses, as sponsorship is required to obtain a clearance. Here, DISA decided to be that sponsor for small businesses and joint ventures. Also, they have removed the requirement for the cost accounting certification. SETI also allows small businesses to submit for a requirement despite not being able fulfill every task on the SOW. This allowed DISA to reach more than 100 offerors, about 80% did not have experience with DISA.

This move by DISA to be more inclusive and accommodating to the small business contracting community has undoubtedly strengthened their pool of capable contractors but has tapped a well of ingenuity and innovation that would have previously been lost. Small businesses have been hailed by many administrations as the “engine that runs the economy,” and DISA is a prime example of that sentiment being a reality. Look for more agencies to follow suit.

Author: Paul McVeigh

Source: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/reporters-notebook-jason-miller/2020/10/disa-sends-message-to-large-companies-meet-small-business-goals-or-risk-getting-off-ramped/

Pentagon officials see ‘troubling’ small business decline since COVID

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a decrease in the number of small businesses competing for contracts as disclosed by the Pentagon contracting arm. Although the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency has awarded lucrative contracts in response to COVID-19, it is questionable whether the department’s regular vendors, notably its small business vendors, have been substantially benefited.

Dwight Deneal, the director of the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency’s Office of Small Business Programs, conveyed that, “participation level from our supplier base’s standpoint has steadily declined” in reference to small businesses during a small business panel at the Association of the U.S. Army’s yearly meeting. To stimulate involvement from smaller suppliers, the Department of Defense has planned virtual outreach efforts for November. As of late, the Pentagon has faced controversy for awarding substantial contracts to inexperienced companies for disposable medical gowns as opposed to awarding them to vendors with considerable experience completing federal procurement contracts.

Furthermore, the Pentagon has faced contention for allocating $688 million for aircraft engine part suppliers, shipbuilding, electronics, and space launch services over implementing those funds to augment the nation’s medical supplies. Deneal did not mention either controversy at the small business panel and instead applauded the DLA’s commitment to reviving the domestic supply chains for personal protective equipment. This move, he communicated, would benefit not only the nation as a whole due to the pandemic but also would benefit small business suppliers.

In addition to the Department of Defense, there has been a decline in small business participation within the Navy, according to Jimmy Smith, the director of the Navy’s Office of Small Business Programs. To combat this, Smith will urge contracting officers to open a direct line of communication with small businesses. Also, he aims to ensure that large contractors will “flow work” to smaller partners.

Author: Donny Sunny

Source:

https://www.defensenews.com/2020/10/13/pentagon-officials-see-troubling-small-business-decline-since-covid/

DoD’s new data strategy

Department of Defense, the Pentagon has finished drafting a new data management strategy and it is likely to release within next 30 days, the Defense Department’s chief information officer said Wednesday. The draft will attempt to answer some of the department’s key questions about becoming a “data-centric” organization , including how a more disciplined approach to data will impact the department’s acquisition programs and how to harness the vast amounts of data it already generates to train future artificial intelligence algorithms, Dana Deasy, the DoD CIO said.

Additionally, “The biggest challenge to getting the flywheel of AI really going across the department is data. And people say to me, ‘the Department of Defense has lots of data.’ Yes, but just having lots of data doesn’t mean it’s accessible,” he told reporters. “How do you secure it the right way? What are the policies, the different classifications? How do you ingest it? … It comes from different sources in different formats. And what that data was originally created for maybe have slightly different purposes. So [the challenge] is curating that data in a way that it’s then usable for the algorithms to learn from.”

David Spirk conducted a “listening tour” across various DoD components to ensure the CIO’s office was asking and answering the right questions about data management.

“The things everybody constantly talked about — and that we needed to build our goals around — were, How do you ensure all data is visible? How do you make sure it’s accessible to everybody at the right classifications and authority levels, and how do you make sure it’s more understandable? How do you make sure that data is better linked? How do you make sure data is trustworthy?” Deasy said. “How do you make sure the data you’re working with is the right source? And then finally, how do you make sure that data is interoperable and secure?”

The forthcoming document will also mark the first time the department has had a full data first time the department has had a full data maturity model that involves every level of the department in a single approach to data governance, Spirk, said in a September interview with the Federal News Network. The data strategy is emerging at the same time the Joint Chiefs of Staff are restructuring their approach to thinking about data requirements for weapons systems.

Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said last month that the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), which he chairs, will soon begin promulgating joint standards for data interoperability. The new approach will insist that the military services comply with the standards from the beginning of a new system’s development, rather than letting them develop platforms first and send them to the JROC for validation of what they’ve already done.

“They’re not going to be the traditional requirements and capability description documents and capability production documents that you’ve looked at for years,” Hyten said. “They’re going to be capability attributes that programs have to have. If you do not meet those, you don’t meet the job requirements, and therefore you don’t get through the gate and you don’t get money.”

Reference:

The Pentagon: Defense Assisted Acquisition Cell (DA2C) – Born of COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the world in many ways, not excluding the United States’ federal procurement strategies. During the pandemic, the US federal government spent nearly $17 billion on COVID-related contracts. Due to the overwhelming nature of this beast, a new assisted acquisition organization has been born from the Joint Acquisition Task Force the Pentagon set up. This task force was responsible for acquiring $3 billion in contracts and agreements for other agencies, namely HHS and FEMA.

Starting in 2021, the Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) will become the Defense Assisted Acquisition Cell (DA2C) and will be part of the existing Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC). Besides the $3 billion in contracts the JATF helped process for end items like personal protective equipment, it also helped HHS use the new Defense Production Act authorities that department gained under the CARES Act to help build domestic production capacity for critical medical items.

DA2C will serve an entity responsible for building and maintaining interagency relationships and fostering swift assisted acquisitions support services. Stacy Cummings, the assistant secretary of Defense for acquisition enablers, states, “With our hundreds of thousands of acquisition professionals, we’re in a position to respond quickly and robustly. But we do need to have that framework and frankly, that trust, to quickly establish the ability to take the authorization and appropriation another executive branch department receives from Congress and take advantage of the depth and breadth of capability DoD can bring to a crisis. So the lesson learned was that we need to always be thinking about how we support the interagency process and be that one stop shop.”

Author: Paul McVeigh

Source: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/defense-main/2020/09/pentagon-transitioning-its-covid-19-acquisition-task-force-to-permanent-office/