Magazine article National Defense

DHS Small Business Chief Gives Insights into Winning Contracts

Magazine article National Defense

DHS Small Business Chief Gives Insights into Winning Contracts

Article excerpt

* Landing a contract for the first time with the Department of Homeland Security can seem like a daunting challenge, but there are plenty of opportunities to break into the market, the head of the department's small business office said.

"Newcomers are welcome," Kevin Boshears, director of the office of small and disadvantaged business utilization, said at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association homeland security conference.

DHS exceeded its small business contract award goals in fiscal year 2014, he said. Thirty-five percent of DHS prime contract awards went to such firms, he said. It also doubled its goal for disabled veteran-owned company contracts by reaching 6 percent tor the first time. Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones) contracts also reached an all-time high of 3.9 percent, he added.

About 13,000 companies had DHS contracts in 2014. Of those, 9,400 were small businesses with prime or nonprime contacts. And of those, almost 1,800 of them earned their first DHS award last year.

One of the key takeaways from these statistics is that: "You don't have to have DHS past performance to secure a contract," Boshears said.

"We have prime and subcontracting opportunities for small businesses. It's not one or the other. It's both," he added.

Once a contract comes up, the office has to be convinced that small businesses are capable of serving as a prime contractor. If that is the case, it sets the award aside for them.

When moving on to full and open competitions where it expects to award the contract to larger companies, it facilitates a mentor-protege program for the small businesses or paves the way for subcontracting opportunities.

For those companies that want to break into the DEIS market, Boshears said it was no different than selling to any other agency or customer: they must understand the market and customer and they must put themselves in a position to compete.

As for the latter, he has queried thousands of small businesses to find out what steps they took to grab their first federal contract, and four answers have come up repeatedly.

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The first hallmark is that they do their homework. Boshears recalled receiving a phone call recently from a small business owner who was trying to find out about an overdue contract award, which turned out to be from the FBI. He had to explain that the agency was not part of DHS. …

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