Small Business Office has big impact on nation’s industry

By Christian Deluca DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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In fiscal 2019, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support hit a milestone, making $19.1 billion in contractual sales, $1.5 billion more than last year. A large piece of that, roughly 45%, or $7.8 billion, supported by awards to small businesses within the United States through the DLA Troop Support Small Business Office.

The SBO acts as a liaison, mentor and partner to small industries who want to do business with Troop Support’s five supply chains. Through outreach, facilitation, resources and programs, they walk them through the sometimes confusing process of becoming a vendor for the government.

“Small business is the life blood of what we do here, and we work to keep that industry base active,” said Michael McCall, SBO director. “This year we awarded $7.8 billion to small businesses … that’s more than the other Major Subordinate Commands did combined.”

According to McCall, the SBO was able to achieve their record breaking sales by applying initiatives to increase contract performance and aggressively taking steps to stimulate small business activity in each of the supply chains.

The tactics worked increasing contract awards by approximately $200 million from last year.

To be considered a small business that can compete for government contracts, a company must be a for-profit business, be independently owned and operated, be physically located and operated in the U.S. or its territories, not be nationally dominant in its field, and fit the size standards set by the Small Business Administration.

Those organizations that do business with DLA are then broken down into socio-economic programs. These include veteran and service-disabled veteran owned, 8(a), or socially and economically disadvantaged businesses, Woman owned, and HubZone small businesses, which are located in underutilized business zones. 

McCall recommends any small business that’s interested in selling products or services to the government to first go to one of the many Procurement Technical Assistant Centers across the nation. Partially funded by the Department of Defense and the responsibility of DLA, PTACs assist with the basics of doing business with the government, such as registering in the System for Award Management and applying for a Commercial and Government Entity code.

“They can’t do business without a CAGE code or registering in the SAM system,” McCall said. “So the PTAC will walk them through the process prior to them coming to talk to us, or talking to our reps.”

Once geared with the essentials, small businesses can interact with the SBO in a variety of ways, but many begin on the website. There they find information on programs, seminars and resources the office provides, as well as contact information for the five small business specialists, one for each supply chain, and the program manager for the AbilityOne and UNICOR programs.

These specialists have a multi-faceted job, providing outreach programs, connecting business reps to buyers and reviewing acquisitions to decide if they will go out as set-asides or unrestricted. If an acquisition is unrestricted, any organization can bid on it. A set-aside, as the name denotes, is set aside for small business program bids only.

“Set-aside determinations are made by the contracting officer,” said Joann Gatica, Small Business specialist for the Clothing and Textile supply chain. “We concur or non-concur with the determination based on market research done for the particular acquisition.”

McCall agreed the pace of work can become demanding at times, but says his team has the knowledge and the background to keep up and produce quality outcomes.

“They are all seasoned contracting people. Some with 20, 30 years of experience, and you really need that kind of background to do this job and do the acquisitions,” he said.

The SBO also manages Troop Support’s involvement with the AbilityOne and UNICOR programs. AbilityOne employs blind and disabled individuals to create products and services.  UNICOR, is a federal prison industries program providing products from within the prison system.

“We’re the largest provider of products in the AbilityOne program and a major customer of the federal prison industries as well,” McCall said.

Tyrone Lyles, AbilityOne and UNICOR program manager, said his position is demanding but rewarding.

“I work in the allocation process for what goes on the AbilityOne procurement list, which determines what products we have to purchase through that program,” Lyles said. “I also do site visits and that is a gratifying part of my job. Meeting new people and seeing the pride they have in their job and the quality work that they put out is just great. It’s a great job.”