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Hanscom-based PEOs make big gains with small business

Hanscom-based PEOs make big gains with small business

Hanscom-based Air Force Life Cycle Management Center program executive officers combined to award a record $860-plus million to small businesses during fiscal year 2019. This far exceeded the two directorates’ previous record of $610 million, a mark established just last year. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Lance Beebe)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Hanscom-based Air Force Life Cycle Management Center program executive officers sent more contracting dollars directly to small businesses during the recently concluded federal fiscal year than ever before.

“The Digital directorate and the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks (C3I&N) directorate soared to new small business-contracting heights,” said Jeff Emmons, director of Small Business Programs at Hanscom Air Force Base.

During Fiscal Year 2019, the two directorates combined to award a record $860-plus million to small businesses. This far exceeded the two directorates’ previous record of $610 million, a mark established just last year.

Yet such lofty statistics only tell part of the story. The value proposition for working with small businesses clearly runs both ways, with the companies and the Air Force benefitting.

“Our ability to stay ahead of emerging threats rests squarely on our ability to innovate quickly,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Schmidt, PEO for C3I&N. “Partnering with startups and small businesses gives us access to diverse, innovative thinking across the defense and commercial industries at low overhead rates, thus significantly increasing our buying power and ability to tackle tough challenges.”

In fact, both PEOs aided overall Air Force efforts to reach out to small businesses, helping organize the first few Air Force Pitch Days while also developing most of the topics and challenges addressed. They also participated on the Safety and Security Track of MassChallenge’s extremely selective annual startup competition and undertook several other initiatives.

“If we’re going to accelerate technology adoption, which is absolutely critical, we need to do business with leading-edge companies that are factoring new technologies into the equation at every step,” said Steven Wert, PEO for Digital. “We’re seeing very good performance from small businesses across the board. I’m pleased with the great strides we made in 2019, but we’re not satisfied yet. We have to keep pushing and expanding our outreach.”

Focused on “early and often” engagements at the directorate, division, and branch level, the Hanscom Small Business Office assisted the PEOs in exceeding these goals. One key way: by providing training on potential courses of action for the acquisition authority to consider when making a decision on the appropriate acquisition or contract strategy.

“No longer are large defense contractors, via their subcontracting departments, the only entities able to leverage what small businesses bring to the table -- innovative technology, flexibility and efficiencies,” Emmons said. “Now the large defense contractors have a competitor for small businesses.”

The Fiscal Year 2019 achievement can be traced to the program managers and contracting officers in each of the Digital and C3I&N divisions using various market research techniques in locating capable small businesses, Emmons said. Then these same individuals created acquisition and contract strategies offering innovative, agile and efficient small business solutions.

Still, Emmons noted, leadership enabled all of this by setting the right tone.

“The PEOs have really created a small business-friendly environment for us all to operate within,” he said.