TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
To keep critical combat aircraft like the F-15 Eagle and a few dozen more combat platforms ready to defend the nation, the Air Force Sustainment Center routinely contracts with the defense industry giants that build them.
But with roughly 32,000 military and civilian personnel primarily spread across Air Force logistics complexes in three states, the AFSC contracts will hire thousands of smaller businesses for everything from cleaning bathrooms to performing high-tech jet engine work.
Each Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Tinker AFB, Okla., and Robins AFB, Ga., staffs a Small Business Office dedicated to helping small businesses find and win federal contracts for which they qualify.
Twelve employees in the three offices also actively look for and encourage small businesses they find to bid on Air Force or other government work when it appears that they can perform the job. Their motto is “Small Source, Right Value, Big Performance.”
“Our goal is to find the right source to support the warfighter, but we are definitely the small business advocates,” said Tracy Nicholson, director of the AFSC’s small business and source development programs and head of the Small Business Office at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex. “We want small businesses to win as many contracts as they can.”
The contracting experts say small business success can happen fast for sharp companies.
Source Development Specialist Chip Chambers met an entrepreneur in April at a small-business outreach event in Lawton, Okla. The businesswoman’s company provides services including information technology, project management and staffing augmentation.
During what the offices call “match-making sessions,” Ms. Chambers guided the entrepreneur on the fundamentals of seeking government business and taught her how to navigate the key government websites that can lead to contracts.
Over the next four months, the company was awarded four contracts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Altus Air Force Base and with a private defense contractor, Ms. Chambers said. The contract awards totaled more than $500,000.
Ms. Chambers credited the company for putting in the time online (and off) to inform contracting decision-makers all the details about their capabilities and credentials.
“They did their homework,” Ms. Chambers said. “I would also attribute it to listening to our instructions, going to the outreach events, using the resources that we gave them, and using the online resources. That’s what drove them to their success.”
Debbie Jackson, Small Business Office director at Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, gave an example of a small business that helped to solve a big problem on base. Some sizeable, antiquated bunker doors were hard to open and were setting off repeated false alarms. The complex considered replacing them.
“That was before we found out a local small business in the middle of Georgia actually did that kind of work,” Ms. Jackson said. “After the repairs, we no longer had the false alarms and it only took one person to open and close the doors. They did it under the allotted time and budget.”
The three Small Business Offices can also point to successes of their own. They’ve exceeded their small business contracting goals every year since 2013, Ms. Nicholson said. She attributed the achievements to the offices’ staffs.
“They’re professionals. They’re talented. They’re patient,” Ms. Nicholson said. “They just have an incredible wealth of knowledge and they are supportive and responsive.”
James Dean, Small Business Office director at Ogden Air Logistics Complex, Hill AFB, said the Air Force and other government organizations that want more small business participation are aiming toward a longer-term benefit.
“Our ultimate goal is to increase the industrial base of suppliers and service providers,” Mr. Dean said. “More small business contracts are our goal, but by increasing the industrial base for our needs, it helps increase competition, which helps our bottom line and enhances our ability to satisfy the warfighter.”
Mr. Dean also emphasized that “small business” doesn’t necessarily mean a five-person shop or office.
“Depending on the industry type, if you’re providing an aircraft part, a small business is defined by the Small Business Administration as any company up to 1,500 employees,” Mr. Dean said. “It’s not just the mom and pop businesses we’re dealing with.”
Doing business with the AFSC
The Air Force Sustainment Center’s Small Business Office recommends the following resources for companies interested in federal government contracts.
• Primary AFSC Small Business Office site: At the website Afsc.af.mil/units/sbo.aspx, the links under “Doing Business with the AFSC” are a good place to start. Contact information to reach employees at all three AFSC offices also is available there.
• The federal government uses the Dynamic Small Business Database to find companies that fit criteria for awarding or bidding on contracts. Companies can input details about their capabilities. The experts advise filling out all the indicated fields and updating the information regularly. The address is http://dsbs.sba.gov/dsbs/search/dsp_dsbs.cfm.
• The Federal Procurement Database Service – Next Generation is a great resource to find out what products and services federal agencies are buying, plus other ways to find federal contracting opportunities. Go to https://www.sba.gov/content/federal-procurement-database-systems-next-generation.