As Air Force officials focused on acquisition of weapon systems and related hardware, Air Force Materiel Command stands to make a noticeable contribution to a stepped-up effort by the federal government to increase awards of contracts to small businesses.
In summer 2009, Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration officials worked together to ensure small businesses received nearly one-quarter of all federal contracts funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Per these two agencies, the success of the ARRA initiative proved the government had the ability to meet or exceed a 23 percent governmentwide small business goal. In the three previous fiscal years, as well as fiscal 2010, the federal government overall had come up just short of the goal at an average of 21.95 percent.
An interagency task force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses has until Dec. 30 to report progress on implementing recommendations aimed at removing barriers and increasing the small business share of federal contracts. President Barack Obama established the task force earlier this year.
‘‘It’s not an exact science and sometimes very difficult to figure out why you’re not meeting the overall 23 percent goal,” said Carol White, the chief of the Small Business Office at AFMC headquarters. ‘‘The findings from the task force will provide new direction, either through policy or legislation, and it may take awhile to flow down. We’ll have to wait for the implementing guidance.”
In fiscal 2009, AFMC budget officials spent 11.75 percent, or $5 billion, on small business contracts, putting the command 6.25 percent shy of reaching its 18 percent goal.
‘‘The Air Force has assigned AFMC goals through fiscal 2013,” Ms. White said. ‘‘In each of these years, our goals increase until we’re aligned with the governmentwide goal of 23 percent. Our fiscal 2010 goal was 20.13 percent, yet preliminary contract-spend data indicate we are likely to finish the year close to where we finished in fiscal 2009. Our fiscal 2011 goal is 20.54 percent.”
AFMC officials are making progress toward those goals, but there is still room for improvement, Ms. White said.
‘‘Although we’ve shown an improvement trend in dollars awarded for small business prime contracts during the past five years, we’re not where we need to be, and we’re encouraging all of our acquisition personnel to step up their effort to maximize small business participation in our acquisitions,” Ms. White said. ‘‘The statutory goals fall into both prime and subcontracting categories.
‘‘The 23-percent overall governmentwide goal is for small business prime contracts only. We can’t meet this goal via subcontracting arrangements,” she said.
Small business office specialists are available to assist internal acquisition organizations in early acquisition planning activities and post award matters, and to assist external industry businesses in a number of different ways.
‘‘We provide one-on-one counseling and are available through telephone and office visits,” Ms. White said. ‘‘We are always encouraging large businesses to partner with small businesses through the Mentor ProtÈgÈ program or via subcontracting.”
Small business office officials also host and sponsor events throughout the year to attract and assist small-business owners in learning how to do business with the government.
‘‘These events are important and help us better understand how small businesses can help AFMC meet warfighter needs,” Ms. White said.
Because the federal government is the largest buyer in the world, spending more than $500 billion in goods and services each year, contracting a fair portion with small businesses just makes sense, Ms. White said.
The federal task force is co-chaired by the Small Business Administration, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Commerce. It includes 12 other federal agencies. Three priority objectives and actions were identified: