By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, June 26, 2015 – The U.S. Small Business Administration today recognized the Defense Department for its leadership within the federal government and commitment to improving small business procurement.
During a news briefing with Pentagon reporters, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, was joined by SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet to announce the results of the fiscal year 2014 Small Business Federal Scorecard.
DoD Earns ‘A’
Contreras-Sweet said DoD improved upon its previous grade. Last year, she said, “we gave them a ‘B.’ This year, they received their first ‘A’ for awarding $54.3 billion in prime contracts to small businesses.”
“More than any other single agency,” she said, “it was the Department of Defense’s outstanding progress that allowed us to reach this new level. In fiscal year ’14, the department accounted for about two out of every three dollars deemed small business-eligible.”
Contreras-Sweet said it takes “leadership and coordination at the highest levels of government” to grow small business economy, and DoD is a “shining example” of what leadership can do.
Small Businesses Practical
Kendall said the Defense Department’s emphasis on small business procurement began five years ago with the Better Buying Power initiative, and that it was a practical way to leverage “great ideas” and economic stewardship.
“The department doesn’t encourage the use of small business just because we like small businesses,” he said. “We do it for very practical reasons. One of the greatest engines for innovation in this country is small businesses. Some people have great ideas and want to take them out and make them into businesses.
“The other,” he continued, “is the fact that small businesses, particularly in the services industry, tend to be leaner and more anxious to get work, and thus, tend to be more economic in many cases for the department.”
But it is up to DoD to reach out to these businesses, he said, and to present opportunities while embracing small businesses and finding vehicles to attract them to do business with the department.
‘Engine’ Driving DoD Efforts
Kendall credited Andre J. Gudger, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy, for carrying DoD “through most of this journey.” His dedication and commitment, he added, “are really the engine that has driven this effort.”
Through consistent, tenacious emphasis on small business over a protracted period of time, Kendall said, Gudger has led “steady progress” over the last few years.
The acquisition chief also recognized Kenyata L. Wesley, acting director for the Defense Department’s Office of Small Business Programs, for leading the small business force.
“We're continuing our progress,” Kendall said. “The small business community in the Department of Defense, the small business professionals who help everybody make the connection, to help organize the events and reach out, are a big part of this.”
But at the end of the day, he said, it’s the contracting people, managers and people spending the money at all levels across the department who actually do the work of awarding contracts to small business, and including small businesses in their procurement plans.
Services Embraced Progress
Kendall lauded the Army, the Navy and the Air Force’s willingness and enthusiasm in embracing bringing small businesses into doing business with DoD for the department’s ability to achieve progress.
DoD Not Satisfied
Kendall made it clear the department isn’t satisfied with an “A.”
“We’re going to go for an A-plus next year,” he said. “We’re on the track to get an ‘A’ again this year, but we can do better. And we have one category -- HUBZone -- in which I think we’ve got to stretch a little bit, but I think we can get there, and we’re committed to doing that.” The Historically Underutilized Business Zones program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities.
Another area Kendall said he is also particularly passionate about is disabled veterans. “That’s an area in which we have made a lot of progress, but I think we still have some ways to go,” he said. “And that one is obviously of particular concern to the department.”
Kendall thanked the SBA for recognizing the Defense Department, and he noted that over time, he’s learned the federal government goes as the Department of Defense goes with regard to small business.
“We have tried to deliver,” he said. “We came very close last year. In [2013 and 2014], we made it. We’re going to keep on that track.”