Army leaders encourage small business to continue pursuing government contracts
November 24, 2010
By Kris Osborn
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 24, 2010) -- Army leaders have encouraged small business owners to continue to innovate, lean forward, and work with large businesses to pursue the many contract opportunities available with the Army and federal government.
"Small businesses are critical to warfighters and those civilians who are serving on the front lines of our freedom," said Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. "If you look at small business, there is tremendous opportunity today."
Phillips spoke during the 14th Annual National Defense Industrial Association Small Business Conference, Nov. 17, in McLean, Va. During the conference, Army leaders explained that the Army conducted at least $27 billion in contracts with small businesses during fiscal year 2010.
"Clearly small business is a key contributor to our industrial base," said Tracey Pinson, director, Army office of small business programs. "We are here to maximize opportunity for small business and we are here to support the warfighter."
Explaining that the Army can spend as much as $400 million on a given day, Phillips told an audience of small and large business members that the Army accounts for 25 percent of total federal contracting dollars.
Citing examples of small business successes and emphasizing that many large businesses such as Apple started off as small businesses, Phillips explained that small business plays a large role in key Army contracts, such as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program contract.
The Army spent as much at $5.5 billion on LOGCAP last year, Phillips said.
"LOGCAP involves a number of large companies -- DynCorp, Fluor and KBR -- supported by a number of small businesses; because you [small business] can do things cheaper, faster and better in some instances," Phillips said.
Phillips said Betsy Ross' contract to make a flag for the United States and the Wright brothers' deal in 1907 to build an airplane, both represent early examples of the importance of contracting and small business to American history. The Wright brothers, for instance, operated under a fixed price incentive contract.
"They said if you can get it to fly 5 to 19 knots faster we will pay you more money," Phillips said. "If you can get it to stay up a little longer we will pay you more money -- I would argue that is probably the first major systems contract done with small business. So the innovation that exists with small business is tremendous."
Pointing to the Army's contract with Boeing to build the next-generation Apache Block III attack helicopter, Phillips praised collaborative efforts between small and large businesses as well.
"We want to partner with both large businesses and small businesses," Phillips said. "We are all in this process together. Large businesses, you need to make sure ... that you are talking to the small business owners. That is why we have these kinds of events."
Phillips also praised Boeing's efforts to subcontract with small businesses.
"24.3 percent of the dollars (in FY 2009) that Boeing Mesa has put on contract have gone to small business," Phillips said.
Also, Phillips praised small business for helping the Army respond to a request from Gen. David Petraeus, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, to acquire as many as 10,000 muzzle-flash suppressors so Soldiers could fire their M4 rifles at night with less chance of being detected by the enemy.
Overall, Army leaders at the conference urged small business innovators to continue their efforts to bring new technologies to the service.
"If you have a product that can help us take care of Soldiers and Families, we are very interested in talking to you about it," said Lt. Gen. James Pillsbury, deputy commanding general, Army Materiel Command.
(Kris Osborn writes for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology)