I attended a briefing this week by the Director of Small Business with the Air Force Space Command. It was very enlightening to see the status of small business contracting within this section of the Air Force. Yes, the budget cuts and sequestration has reduced the amount of money being spent in this sector. But the good news is that the small business goals are being met in a lot of areas despite the reduction in dollars (on a percentage basis). The Air Force is using some creative tactics to insure that small business has an opportunity and that the small business goals can be met. I think that the Air Force realizes that small business is the best hope for job growth as well as the best chance for new innovations.
The briefing focused mainly on the deparment's focus in 2013, not only toward the goals, but also compared to 2012 performance. What stood out to me is that the Space Command overall was either close to their 2013 goals for small business contracting or exceeded them in some areas. For instance, Space Command exceeded goals for SDB and WOSB contracting and came very close to the goals for SB and SDVOSB. Space Command also exceeded the percentages issued to SB, SDB and WOB from 2012 to 2013. Basically, a good job. The briefing also touched on the major facilities within the Space Command and obviously there is a mixed bag with some facilitiues doing better than others.
What was also refreshing to me is that Space Command is looking for unique ways to make sure opportunities exist for small business. For instance, Space Command is looking to break out work from larger contracts. An example would be with some of the large operational contracts for facilities that are going to larger businesses because they may handle several faciliites. But there are parts of the operations, maybe janitorial for instance, that could be easily a small business set aside. Space Command is also looking for all 100% set asides that they can find but they need at least 2 qualified suppliers in order to do that. They are encouraging all small businesses to express their interest so that this will open up new opportunities. As a matter of fact, if you are a small business it may behoove you to bring your competitor into the picture because this could cause a 100% set aside where if they are not involved you would be competing against all businesses. There are plans for more industry days and other ways to improve communications between the Air Force and small business. Finally, the Air Force is talking about developing a market research cell to help the Air Force chain of command make better decisions that would allow moving contracts from large business to small business.
I found this refreshing to see that the government, albeit this is the Space Command division of the Air Force, is making efforts to improve the ability to contract with small business. I really think that this is indicative of actions going on all across the DoD and these types of actions will benefit small business going forward. So there is a light at the end of the sequestration tunnel after all.