Redefining the concept of the term "customer," Maj. Gen. Randolph P. Strong, commanding general of the U. S. Army Communications-Electronics Command gave a group of more than 350 business representatives from the Mid-Atlantic region an overview of the mission, priorities, and needs of his organization at a procurement conference in Frederick, Md., Oct 21.

Rather than defining a customer as an organization which is buying a product or service, Strong instead defined customers of CECOM as those who are selling something to the command. "I see you as my customers," he said to the audience, "but I don't want to sell you something, I want to buy something from you."

The SMART (Strengthening the Mid-Atlantic Region for Tomorrow) Procurement Conference and Exposition is designed to foster partnerships and a better understanding of business requirements from public sector institutions among the private sector in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This tenth annual event focused on the needs and interests of small businesses. It was hosted by Congressman Roscoe B. Bartlett of Maryland who told the audience, "I want to increase the federal government's purchase of innovations developed by small businesses because that will provide the best value for us as taxpayers."

Strong said that CECOM was "moving out to meet warfighter's needs" and that the demand for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems is going to grow. He told the audience that the Army's focus on the "big five" weapons systems…the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Abrams Main Battle Tank, the Apache Helicopter, the Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer and the Patriot Air Defense System…is changing.

The number one focus for the Army is now the Network, according to Strong. He said that C4ISR systems give our Soldiers a combat edge. And, our edge largely is that capability. "If you ask Soldiers in the theater of operations what tools give them their edge over the enemy, they will tell you it is their communications equipment, the sensors and the mission command applications," he explained.

Strong; Lane D. Collie, director of CECOM's Logistics and Readiness Center; Stephen F. Kovacs, deputy director of CECOM's Software Engineering Center; Eugene W. Baker, director of the CECOM Information Systems Engineering Command office at Fort Detrick, Md.; Judith L. Haff, chief of contract operations at CECOM's Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa.; and Kenyata L. Wesley, chief associate director of CECOM's Small Business Programs held a panel discussion to give the audience of contractors and government officials a better understanding of business opportunities within the command.

In fiscal 2011, the C4ISR Center of Excellence obtained more than $1.4 billion in goods and services from small businesses through more than 11,000 separate contracting actions for items ranging from data management services to security engineering services and from information technology test equipment to audio-visual systems. For example, Strong showed the audience an obsolete circuit board. A small business was used to reverse engineer the circuit board for Tobyhanna Army Depot so the Army could acquire spare parts for it. The depot, in fact, awarded 44% of its contracts to small businesses last year while the Logistics and Readiness Center awarded 22% of its contracts to small businesses. A veteran-owned, small business under contract to the Logistics and Readiness Center has a $5.8 million contract for rechargeable batteries that power sensors, computers and radars in the field. The batteries can get their power from a variety of energy sources, including solar and wind.

Wesley summarized CECOM's efforts at the SMART Procurement event by saying "We want to utilize small business resources and innovations as much as possible. We are here to give them a fair opportunity to compete for business."

Page last updated Fri October 28th, 2011 at 00:00