Don’t Make It All About Small

Small business

Small business? Fine. But don’t make it all about “small,” particularly if you’re a small disadvantaged1 business.

Too many companies just entering the Federal procurement market embrace their small size almost as a virtue in itself. Certainly, it’s important to register for whatever preferential program the small business qualifies. These include:

  • 8(a) Business Development Program
  • Small disadvantaged business
  • Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone)
  • Service-disabled veteran-owned small business
  • Women-owned small business

These programs, primarily through restricting selected acquisitions to small businesses only, ensure that the Government fulfills its commitment to provide an equitable opportunity for small businesses to compete in the marketplace.

However, to the Government customer, it’s not about being small, it’s about being good.

And never has it been more critical to be good or competent. Gallup CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton claims that for the first time in 35 years, American business failures outnumber business startups. Since 2008, employer business startups have fallen below the failure rate, prompting what Clifton calls “an underground earthquake.”

While the U. S. Census Bureau tallies the number of small businesses in America as slightly over 28 million, more than 80 percent of these (or 22.7 million) are “nonemployer” businesses. Nonemployer businesses do not have paid employees and must have business receipts of at least $1,000.

So how does an emerging small business avoid being part of this 6-year failure rate trend?

The incomparable management visionary Peter Drucker set the template decades ago in his classic work, The Effective Executive. Drucker wrote that the job of all company leaders is to be effective which he defined as getting the right things done.

To be effective, he said the company leader must learn five essential practices or “habits of the mind.”

  1. Know where your time goes. Account for it rigorously. Write down what you do and when you do it.
  2. Focus on what you contribute.  Ask yourself: “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and results of the organization I serve?” Focus where results are–outside your organization with the customer or client.
  3. Build on your strengths and those of your collaborators. Don’t focus on the things you cannot do.
  4. Force yourself to set priorities and stay committed to fulfilling them. The priorities are focused in those few key areas “where superior performance will produce outstanding results.”
  5. Follow a systematic process in decision-making. Hone in on the important “strategic and generic” decisions. Effective executives decide based on “impact rather than technique, they want to be sound rather than clever.”

Drucker offered this counsel in 1966. Do you find it any less relevant today?


1Generally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small disadvantaged business as one that:

  • Is 51 percent or more owned and controlled by one or more disadvantaged persons.
  • Has a disadvantaged person (or persons) who must be socially disadvantaged and economically disadvantaged.
  • Is small according to SBA’s size standards.

Economically disadvantaged individuals are socially disadvantaged individuals whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities.

Socially disadvantaged individuals are those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as members of a group.

Honor, Where Art Thou?

Maybe it’s because we just recently celebrated Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of

Honor GuardD-Day, but the concept of honor is heavy on my mind.

Lack of honor to be more precise. Such as in the Secretary of the Veterans Administration resigning  because of department employees allegedly tampering with patient-scheduling procedures and improperly reporting patient wait times. Such as in yet another Fort Hood shooting rampage during April 2014. Such as in the Secretary of Defense appointing a two-star admiral whose sole job is to monitor the declining ethics of high-ranking officers throughout the armed services.

And this lack of honor is not limited to the military. General Motors Company attributes over 50 crashes and 13 deaths to switch-related air bag failures.1 As a result, GM’s CEO fires 15 employees, more than half of whom are executives. And then there’s the Pennsylvania judge who was sentenced to prison for a “kids for cash” scheme that sent juvenile offenders to privately run detention facilities in return for kickbacks.

Whether military, industry, or public office, in each case you have positionally honorable people who routinely behave dishonorably.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines honor as “high respect” and “principled uprightness of character; personal integrity.” Character First® defines honor as “respecting others because of their worth as human beings.”

While honor is not dead, it is like many virtues in today’s culture. More talked about than done.  Unlike our baser emotions, such as anger, which come quickly to the fore when called upon, honor has to be carefully nurtured before you can summon it.

So, let’s individually nurture it.

Don’t wait for a natural disaster or other human tragedy to show your respect for others, to honor them. Be like Mother Teresa who once was asked why she worked so hard every day for others knowing that she could not meet all the needs. Mother Teresa responded simply: “I do what I can, where I am, with what I have.”

Like the real heroes in our world, she honored by serving.

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1Jeff Bennett and Mike Ramsey, “GM Takes Blame, Vows Culture Shift,” The Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014.

Government Contracts? No Thanks!

The allure of “yes.”  It’s magical in book titles.  For instance, Yes!  (Goldstein, Martin, and Cialdini) and the classic Getting to Yes (Fisher and Ury).  And, of course, in campaign slogans (“Yes, We Can”).  But often, due diligence points to the proper response as “no.”NO THANKS

Despite the countless companies that rush into the wide embracing arms of Government contracts, there are more than a few who choose to pass. Writers Research Group is one such company.

A recent interview I conducted with the two principals of the company reveals their story.  Writers Research Group manages writing and research projects for publishing companies.  Karen Tingle, CEO, and Lori Packwood, president, started the company in 2000. The company is all-virtual with employees working from their homes.

Following is an edited extract of the transcript of that interview. A YouTube version can be seen here.

Q:  What prompted you to pursue government opportunities?

Tingle:  We had heard that you should balance your business between the private sector and the government sector.  That is, when the private sector is down, the government sector will have more work.  So we were looking for a way to balance our workload.

Packwood:  To diversify.

Tingle:  Yes, to diversify our portfolio. Additionally, we believed we had something the government really needed.  It sounded like government program managers had started thinking along the lines of what we had to offer–virtual management.

Q:  So what were your initial expectations about  government contracts?

Tingle:  We knew that it would be tough.  But we also knew that if we marketed and talked to the appropriate people and learned the correct steps, we felt we could eventually submit proposals that would win us some contracts.

Packwood:  Right.  Also we’re a certified woman-owned business and an economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business.  We felt we could offer those two benefits as well as our unique concept of virtually managing a company.

Tingle:  During our meetings with government personnel, we had been told how much they could save through virtual management and that they were running out of office space.

Packwood:  We thought we’d be a perfect fit.

Tingle:  But we didn’t find them to be quite ready to jump into that.

Q:  To what do you attribute the government’s not being “quite ready”?

Packwood:  There were a lot of things happening at the time we were trying to get into government contracting.  For instance, there was the hiring freeze and the GSA scandal. So that backlogged everything.  And then the economy tanked. I mean, if the government goes bankrupt, how are you going to pursue contract opportunities?

Not only that, but the government is just very, very slow to move into innovative concepts.  They’re not like the free enterprise system, like the non-governmental much more flexible system that we’ve worked in successfully for over a decade.

Tingle:  We tried hard for two years to get into government contracts and had invested quite a bit of money and time.  We went to the trade shows, we visited government program offices, we networked like crazy. Our efforts were affecting our commercial business.  So, at some point we had to say “We can’t keep doing this.”

Packwood:  It had taken too much of our resources. So we chose to opt out of government contracts.

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iStock_000014046597_ExtraSmallBook Project Outreach

Still continuing with my book and still interested in real-life stories of small businesses who have been successful in overcoming challenges, problems, or barriers in entering the Federal market.  Or equally significant, if you chose not to become a Government prime contractor or subcontractor, what was the specific reason for your decision?

If you’re a small business willing to share “your story” or you know of a small business willing to do so, please contact me at (405) 739-6500 or oscarwomack@coherentcontracts.com.  Thank you.

 

Aircraft Maintenance Expert Shares Fifty Years of Insights

Larry J. Kennedy

Larry J. Kennedy

The Air Force’s B-52 long-range bomber has been flying since the early 1950s. Well over a half century.  Larry Kennedy’s experience in military aircraft maintenance covers a similar span. The B-52 was still in production during the early 1960s when Kennedy started working as an engineer for the company that manufactured the plane.

Kennedy’s half-century career includes over 32 years managing the maintenance programs for a variety of aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. In addition to the B-52, he oversaw the maintenance of the B-1B, B-2, E-3 and E-4B aircraft.

On retiring from the Air Force in 1995 as the Deputy Director for all Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center aircraft, he served as the site manager in Oklahoma City for the Boeing Company and later as an independent consultant.

This is an edited extract of the transcript of a recent interview. A subsequent YouTube interview can be seen here.

Q: What principle or key concept guided your management approach?

A.: The one thing I’ve learned whether working as an Air Force manager or as a contractor is that both Government and industry must conduct themselves with honesty and integrity at all times. Whether the situation involves good news or bad news, everything should be in the clear and “on the table” for examination. Don’t try to hide anything; be honest and create a respectful teamwork relationship between the Government and the contractor. By doing so, both sides avoid adversary relationships that undermine the trust vital for good program management.

Q: How would you define a successful small business contractor?

A.: I’ve run across all kinds of small businesses. The successful ones work hard at trying to understand what the Government’s expectations are and to understand that it’s hard work to be competitive. They understand how tough it is to put together a winning proposal and seek the necessary help they need–whether free or requiring payment–to be competitive. Too many small companies don’t understand just how difficult it is to obtain all the necessary resources to deliver a quality product on time. As a result, they don’t put enough upfront work and money into developing that kind of business.

Q: What differences have you noted between proposals written by major corporations and those written by small businesses?

First, the large companies all practice what we call capture management. That is, they research what is coming down the pipe in terms of Government solicitations and understand which customers fit their capabilities best.

Then a year or two before the Government issues a solicitation, the large companies use their dedicated business development component and their dedicated proposal writing team to attend various symposiums and visit customer offices to learn specifically where the customer’s heartburn is with a particular problem.

When the solicitation arrives, the large company’s proposal writing team literally cuts out  every “shall” statement, puts it on the wall of their project room, and prepares a relevant response.

Obviously, most small companies don’t have the luxury of large-company resources. The owner usually has to be Mister or Mrs. Everything. Still, the process is the same for large or small company. As I said earlier, the small business owner usually has to be selective in perhaps hiring short-term experienced help to fill the gaps necessary to submit a responsive proposal.

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iStock_000014046597_ExtraSmallBook Project Outreach

Still continuing with my book and still interested in real-life stories of small businesses who have been successful in overcoming challenges, problems, or barriers in entering the Federal market.  Or equally significant, if you chose not to become a Government prime contractor or subcontractor, what was the specific reason for your decision?

If you’re a small business willing to share “your story” or you know of a small business willing to do so, please contact me at (405) 739-6500 or oscarwomack@coherentcontracts.com.  Thank you.

The “Hollow Force” Revisited?

When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently announced the department’s 2015 budget reducing Army troop levels from 520,000 to possibly 420,000, he raised again the specter of the so-called “hollow force.” US soldier

In the defense secretary’s words, “the only way to implement sequestration is to sharply reduce readiness and modernization, which would almost certainly result in a hollow force — one that isn’t ready or capable of fulfilling assigned missions.”

As defense specialists Andrew Feickert and Stephen Daggett note:

“The term ‘hollow force’ was used initially in the late 1970s and subsequently in the 1990s to characterize military forces that appear mission-ready but, upon examination, suffer from shortages of personnel, equipment, and maintenance or from deficiencies in training.”1

A decorated Vietnam war hero who rescued his brother from a wrecked troop carrier while he himself was on fire, Secretary Hagel is more than intellectually familiar with military forces that are not mission-ready.  Certainly, there’s not a lot to argue against his drawing down forces from the Afghanistan ground war and focusing resources on the emerging cyberthreats from China and terrorist challenges from al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Africa.

On the plus side, the Pentagon’s procurement and research budget is expected to stabilize over the next several years reversing a four-year slide.  Procurement and research spending fell 14 percent to $168 billion in fiscal 2013 and by an additional 4 percent to $162 billion in the 2014 budget.2 In seeking to protect vulnerable areas of the industrial base, the Pentagon is proposing to invest $1 billion in next-generation jet engine technology.3  Still, uncertainty underscores all of this depending on how Congress handles sequestration.

Gone are the days when defense budgets would be reviewed by a large segment of Congressional members who had themselves served in the military. Today veterans account for a decreasingly smaller share of Congress.  The high point in recent times was the 95th Congress (1977-78) when, following an influx of Vietnam-era veterans, a combined 77 percent of the House and Senate had served in the armed forces.  Today twenty senators (20%) and 89 representatives (20.5%) are veterans.4

As we learned during the 1970s, military readiness is a condition precedent to real national security.  The next time an American president challenges with a “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” demand, will our adversary comply immediately or simply ignore us?

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1Andrew Feickert and Stephen Daggett, “A Historical Perspective on ‘Hollow Forces,'” CRS Report for Congress R42334, January 31, 2012: 1, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42334.pdf.

2Doug Cameron, “Weapons Proposal Brightens Contractors’ Outlook,” The Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2014.

3Marcus Weisgerber, “Jet Engine Technology at the Heart of DoD’s Drive to Preserve At-Risk Sectors,” Defense News, March 2, 2014,
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140302/DEFREG02/303020015/Jet-Engine-Technology-Heart-DoD-s-Drive-Preserve-Risk-Sectors.

4Drew Desilver, “Most Members of Congress Have Little Direct Military Experience,” Pew Research Center, September 4, 2013,
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/04/members-of-congress-have-little-direct-military-experience/.

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Book Project Outreach

iStock_000014046597_ExtraSmallYou might have noticed my blog stage has been empty for a few months. That’s because I’m trying to gain traction on the book I’m writing. However, I’ll aim to keep both on track going forward.

I’m still interested in real-life stories of small businesses who have been  successful in overcoming challenges, problems, or barriers in entering the Federal market.  Or equally significant, if you chose not to become a Government prime contractor or subcontractor, what was the specific reason for your decision?

If you’re a small business willing to share “your story” or you know of a small business willing to do so, please contact me at (405) 739-6500 or oscarwomack@coherentcontracts.com.  Thank you.

Poorly Prepared Proposals Still a Problem Chides Tinker Contracting Director

“I’m still not seeing quality proposals” from prospective contractors complained Robert K. Boyles, Director of Contracting, Air Force Sustainment Center, Tinker Air Force Base.

Speaking recently at the Tinker and the Primes requirements symposium, Mr. Boyles was echoing a concern he voiced at last year’s Tinker and the Primes event.  When I questioned Mr. Boyles privately after his presentation, he declined to specify the proposal deficiencies except to say they were not confined to small businesses.  He’s seen poorly prepared proposals from large businesses  as well.

One reliable solution to this problem is to use a proposal compliance matrix which ensures that your proposal responds to and complies with all the requirements of the request for proposal (RFP).  As shown below, the proposal compliance matrix mines through the RFP and grabs every single requirement by section and page. The matrix then shows where in the proposal–by paragraph, section, and page–that specific requirement is addressed.

An RFP may actually specify the use of some form of a proposal compliance or requirements matrix.  But even if such a matrix is not specified, it’s a good practice for the small business to use one if only as a checklist to make sure “everything is covered.”

On the other side of the ledger (that of the offeror), I recently designed and distributed a small business survey through SurveyMonkey®.  One of the questions on that survey was the following:

“Which of the following would you say creates the greatest challenge for small business bidding on Federal Government contracts?”

The response options were:

  • Contract bundling
  • Unclear solicitation documents
  • Insufficient capability of the small business
  • Limited access to Government procurement personnel
  • Other (please specify)

Forty-one (41) percent of the small business respondents selected “unclear solicitation documents.”

So, not surprisingly, the solutions to Mr. Boyle’s complaint require the active participation of both Government and industry.  But whatever we do, let’s not have this issue as a complaint at next year’s Tinker and the Primes.

Compliance Matrix  08-18-2013-1

Book Project Outreach

iStock_000014046597_ExtraSmallThis newsletter started over a year ago as a result of a challenge presented to me by a good friend, Rachel Wagner (www.etiquettetrainer.com).  Now I’m planning a book focused on problems faced by small businesses entering the Federal procurement market.

I’m particularly interested in real-life stories of small businesses who have been  successful in overcoming challenges, problems, or barriers in entering the Federal market.  Or equally significant, if you chose not to become a Government prime contractor or subcontractor, what was the specific reason for your decision?

If you’re a small business willing to share “your story” or you know of a small business willing to do so, please contact me at (405) 739-6500 or oscarwomack@coherentcontracts.com.  Thank you!

“You tell me!”

You’ll remember that last month’s newsletter ended with a text box (see below) announcing my book project and seeking your necessary support.

The book will be written around two components both of which will be input from small businesses pursuing or performing Federal Government contracts.  The first component will be a formal but brief online survey that I plan to distribute no later than Monday, 22 July 2013.  The second component will be a set of in-person and telephone interviews with selected small business leaders whose real-life stories provide useful if not compelling “lessons learned” about the Federal marketplace.

If you are an addressee for the brief online survey, please schedule some time to complete it as thoroughly as you can.  It should not take more than ten (10) minutes.  My purpose in this survey–to be distributed to a target audience of over 500 small businesses–is to glean three to five key trends that can help small businesses improve their experience with Federal Government contracts.

The overall focus will be on primary research with the online survey serving as the objective component and the interviews as the subjective, somewhat anecdotal component.  However, alert small businesses will be able to get effective direction from both components.

So, you tell me.  Share your insights, your successes, your “oops,” and any other comments based on your experience.  It’s your story.

Book Project Outreach

iStock_000014046597_ExtraSmallThis newsletter started over a year ago as a result of a challenge presented to me by a good friend, Rachel Wagner (www.etiquettetrainer.com).  Now I’m planning a book focused on problems faced by small businesses entering the Federal procurement market.

I’m particularly interested in real-life stories of small businesses who have been  successful in overcoming challenges, problems, or barriers in entering the Federal market.  Or equally significant, if you chose not to become a Government prime contractor or subcontractor, what was the specific reason for your decision?

If you’re a small business willing to share “your story” or you know of a small business willing to do so, please contact me at (405) 739-6500 or oscarwomack@coherentcontracts.com.  Thank you!

Don’t Apply If You Can’t Comply

Some of the best guidance I’ve ever received or given about executing Government contracts is captured in just six words:  “When in doubt, read the contract!”

Small businesses typically fixate on whether they can perform the statement of work or technical requirements.  They then make a bid/no-bid decision on that basis.

What gets less of their attention–and should get much more–are three other requirements generally highlighted in the instructions section of the solicitation:

  • Management Plan (to include project management capability)
  • Quality Plan
  • Past performance

It is difficult to be competitive for a contract award when you can’t demonstrate credibility and strength in these three core areas.

Management Plan

The management plan should include a narrative for each of the following objectives of the contract:

  • Planned technical accomplishments and end results
  • The performance schedule
  • Potential problems and anticipated solutions
  • Staffing, equipment, space, and materials
  • Government-furnished equipment
  • Resource allocation planning
  • Special contract provisions1

Some type of project management control system should be evident whether it be a Microsoft Project schedule or a more involved system such as Basecamp  or Pentagon 2000SQL.  The Government is not going to be satisfied with proposal statements such as “standard procedures will be employed” or “well known techniques will be used.”  You will need to specify precisely how you will manage the execution of the contract.

Quality Plan

As a contractor, you are responsible for controlling the quality of the supplies or services you produce or provide.  The quality control plan should relate to the specific requirements of the contract.  It should flow directly from an established quality control program and not just be a random template downloaded from the Internet.

Many Government contracts require higher-level quality management system standards such as those in the ISO 9000 series.  A key benefit of these more rigorous standards is that they compel you to have a strong customer-responsive quality control program.

Past Performance

It’s both wise and efficient (when developing proposals) to maintain a file of carefully written narratives describing how well you’ve performed in the past. When completing a contract, whether Government or commercial, always discreetly ask your customer to provide you narrative feedback.  Use that narrative feedback to build files from which you can respond to future past performance questionnaires.

As a small business prime contractor, don’t put undue reliance on a key subcontractor even if that subcontractor was the previous incumbent.  A recent General Accountability Office (GAO) bid protest decision ruled against an 8(a) contractor who protested a low past performance rating even though his subcontractor was the successful incumbent contractor.  The GAO held that the procuring Government agency properly focused more on the past performance of the 8(a) prime contractor.

Summary

A credible management plan, quality control plan, and past performance record are basic requirements for competing effectively for a Government contract.  They ensure you can comply with the contract.  When making your bid/no-bid decision, make sure you’ve addressed them completely.

1.  Dana B. Badgerow, Dominic F. DiClementi, Gregory A. Garrett, Barbara M. Weaver, Margaret G. Rumbaugh (ed.), Managing Contracts for Peak Performance (Virginia:  National Contract Management Association, 1990), pp. 35-36.

Book Project Outreach
iStock_000014046597_ExtraSmallThis newsletter started over a year ago as a result of a challenge presented to me by a good friend, Rachel Wagner (www.etiquettetrainer.com).  Now I’m planning a book focused on problems faced by small businesses entering the Federal procurement market.

I’m particularly interested in real-life stories of small businesses who have been  successful in overcoming challenges, problems, or barriers in entering the Federal market.  Or equally significant, if you chose not to become a Government prime contractor or subcontractor, what was the specific reason for your decision?

If you’re a small business willing to share “your story” or you know of a small business willing to do so, please contact me at (405) 739-6500 or oscarwomack@coherentcontracts.com.  Thank you.

What Would Happen If You Lost Everything?

Yesterday afternoon my wife, my adult daughter, my 20-year old grandson, and I were huddled in the above-ground shelter in my garage.  Our focus was my daughter’s iPhone which showed a local TV channel’s picture of a ominously gray 2-mile wide tornado hurtling through Moore, Oklahoma.  Headed directly toward us just south of Tinker Air Force Base.

I couldn’t help but notice how the 200-mile per hour tornado was ripping up everything in its path from their very foundations.  I started thinking of all the things I could lose. Oddly enough my life wasn’t first on the list.  Instead I thought of my work files, my books, my important papers, and a change of clothes.  I thought of a current client that I had contacted via e-mail, regular mail, and telephone and who nevertheless had not responded back to me.

I thought about how I had just had one of the worst weeks professionally last week.  In addition to the client who was not responding to any of my several messages, I discovered a commitment to provide small business teaming training on the West Coast had been postponed.  To paraphrase Charlie Sheen, “Not winning.”

What would happen if I lost everything?

From my daughter’s iPhone, KFOR’s meteorologist Mike Morgan was imploring the listening audience that we needed to be underground to survive this tornado.  “Too late to make that change,” I thought, as I squirmed in my above-ground shelter.  The massive tornado continued its destructive ripping toward us but roped out six miles away at Lake Stanley Draper.  We were spared.

What would happen if I lost everything?  It struck me that as long as I had my family, faith,  friends, and my life, I would simply move on.  I would have to. No matter how painful the process.  When everything is ripped away except the foundation, you must simply build again on that foundation.  The foundation, of course, is what centers your life–family, faith, friends.

In emergencies our family and network of friends expand to include those who need our help.  Please find a way to assist those harmed by the tornados. See today’s Oklahoman, page 3A, “How to help tornado victims.”

Defense Contracting Competition Falls Again, Fifth Consecutive Year

According to a March 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) competition rate for all contract obligations declined over the past five fiscal years, from 62.6 percent in fiscal year 2008 to 57.1 percent in fiscal year 2012.  Blue grafic downThe majority of the noncompetitive awards cited the availability of only one responsible source to meet the Government’s needs as the reason for using noncompetitive procedures.

Almost thirty years ago in 1984, the 98th Congress passed the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) which requires “full and open competition.”  Coincidentally, viewed from today’s suffocating focus on debt and limited procurement budgets, CICA was passed as a part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984.  “Full and open competition” simply means that “all responsible sources are permitted to submit sealed bids or competitive proposals on the procurement.”

The GAO also found that the competition rate for all contract obligations varied by DOD component in fiscal year 2012.  The sky is the Air Force’s operational domain, but not when it involves competition.  Of all the DOD components, the Air Force’s competition rate during fiscal year 2012 was the lowest at a ground-hugging 37.1 percent.  The Defense Logistics Agency had the highest competition rate at 83.3 percent.

A 2011 Air Force report on competition highlighted the primary reason for large sole-source awards as the Air Force’s reliance on original equipment manufacturers of existing major weapon systems.  This factor also impacted DOD’s competition rate overall as did budget uncertainty and noncompetitive purchases DOD makes on behalf of foreign governments.

DOD’s reliance on an original equipment manufacturer throughout the life cycle of a program tracks back to a previous decision not to purchase proprietary technical data.  Technical data is recorded information used to define a design and to produce, support, maintain or operate an item.  DOD recognizes the challenge of not owning technical data and is addressing this through its 2010 Better Buying Power initiative, a sweeping enterprise-wide program to increase competition.

In 2010, DOD introduced a new rule for solicitations that elicit only one offer (one-offer awards).  The rule attempts to ensure that:

  • Solicitation time is adequate.
  • Contract requirements are not unnecessarily restrictive.
  • Offers received are fair and reasonable.

The increasing and necessary focus on noncompetitive contract awards does not exclude small businesses.  Another recent GAO report highlighted how well DOD was implementing the new FAR requirement to write justifications for sole-source contracts over $20 million awarded to contractors in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program.

Competition won’t cure all that ails Defense contracting, but to borrow from Winston Churchill’s quote about democracy, it trumps “all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”