COLUMBUS, Ohio –
The 2018 Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Supplier Conference and Exposition concluded June 20 with discussions on evolving industry partnerships and small business opportunities.
The national two-day conference provided opportunities for senior military, government and industry leaders from across the nation to participate in a variety of panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions covering topics across the military logistics enterprise.
The second day focused on future manpower and technology needs as well as the role of small businesses in supporting Warfighter readiness.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s head of government contracting discussed pending legislation and initiatives to increase small business participation in federal procurement across all socioeconomic categories. The administration ensures its goal of 23 percent of all government contracts are awarded to small business, resulting in about $90 billion to small business in the last four years, David Loines said.
Nevertheless, Loines cautioned that obtaining certifications and meeting goals does not negate that small businesses need to offer quality solutions and supplies.
“We’re trying to improve the quality and integrity of small businesses so we become the first option and not necessarily just a goal,” Loines said. “We want the 23 percent to be the floor and not the ceiling. But we have to make sure the quality solution is there.”
Further developing small businesses through training, sharing best practices across government, hitting small business targets, improving opportunities for small business to work with the federal government and subcontracting were key topics for several speakers throughout the day.
Department of Defense Small Business Programs Acting Director Dr. James Galvin opened the afternoon session stating the U.S. is on the precipice of a new “Sputnik moment,” referring to the Soviet Union’s launch that ignited the space race more than 60 years ago. Only today’s Sputnik involves innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics and quantum sciences depending on which official you speak with, Galvin said.
Small businesses can provide the agile logistics the nation’s military needs most, he said.
“Our nation’s strategic objective is to preserve peace through strength. The objective among my government colleagues and I is to ensure the office of small business contributes to our military strength,” Galvin said. “It’s an exciting and challenging time to be involved in defense procurement.”
Besides training and leadership, the final day focused on the changing technological needs of today’s military.
Air Force Brig. Gen. John Kubinec discussed the challenges facing Air Force sustainment from his perspective as the commander of the Georgia-based Warner-Robins Air Logistics Complex.
As the Air Force – and the military overall – grapples with legacy weapons systems sustainment, he said leaders need to find the right balance between readiness today versus readiness tomorrow. In this area, Kubinec said industry partnerships are critical.
“We’ll have to sustain ever-aging weapons systems well into the future. Weapons systems like the B-52 will hit the century mark before we’re done flying them. How will we sustain these 100-year-old aircraft going into combat for our nation? The only way we do it is by partnering with you,” Kubinec said, speaking to the crowd of industry and small business professionals.
He called on business and government leaders to evolve past transactional agreements to grow true partnerships to support today’s military needs.
“I give a lot of credit to DLA – they’re on the cutting edge of how we develop these partnerships with industry. The fact we’re having this conference is a testament to that,” he said.
DLA Land and Maritime Deputy Commander Steve Alsup closed out the day, saying that connections built during the Supplier Conference will last beyond the event.
“Our alliances and networks are critical to our success,” Alsup stated. “This is a team sport and it’s a very difficult sport. It takes large businesses, with those long-standing relationships, and small businesses, who provide the agility and fresh ideas we need, and it takes bureaucrats like me to nudge this machine along, all with a common goal – which is to support our Warfighters.”