Magazine article National Defense

'Single Face to Industry' Will Level Defense Field

Magazine article National Defense

'Single Face to Industry' Will Level Defense Field

Article excerpt

At $70 billion, the electronics business arena is impossible to ignore The information infrastructure of businesses will soon be part of the suitability criteria for defense contracts.

The message to small business is clear-if you are not online, you will be left behind. It comes from government and large business partners.

Most small businesses are sophisticated enough to handle the information technology required in the defense industry, said Carl McNair Jr., vice president of enterprise at DynCorp, Reston, Virginia. He warned that small companies that do not invest in the latest hardware and software "will be left behind and not just by us."

The small companies he teams with tend to use the web as a fact finder, or information gatherer. "It becomes market intelligence when they start putting things together" said McNair.

When a base maintenance contract DynCorp had won in the past was set-aside for an 8(a) small business, a qualified company approached him about a teaming effort. It found out about DynCorp and the company's past experience on the contract via the web

The small business served as the prime contractor and used the past experience and reputation of DynCorp to sell its proposal.

A common mistake for small business is to go after everything they see, said McNair. The number of contracts offered on the Internetwith 95 percent of defense contracting offices on the web-can distract small businesses from the "narrow focus" they need.

His company recently bid on a $550 million postal service contract, and the proposal cost $385,000 to produce.

With that kind of investment upfront his company cannot afford to team with someone who is technologically behind the times. "If you are one of my partners, then you have to work in that medium," McNair said.

"Is the Army going to stop putting all the fancy graphics on its website?" asked an owner at a recent Army-small business tutorial. "It takes me forever to find what I am looking for and then to download it."

Contractors had similar problems when technical data packages were transferred as a whole via a 14.0 baud modem, said Mike Williams, engineering tech project manager with the National Institute of Standards and Technology

"Some contractors miss half of their bid opportunities because it takes two weeks to get the technical data," he said "Now that process is down to one day using commercial off-the-shelf products and the Internet."

For $6 to $35 per document contractors can pull the information off www.specfinder.intessera.com.ntis.gov /tdmis, he said.

"We have to get the technical data to the mom and pop shop today because it has to make that part for delivery tomorrow," said Chris Yunkins, partner in the law firm of Holland and Knight LLP Washington, D.C. "Government can't be behind the power curve anymore."

The Defense Department's goal is to implement paperless contracting by January 2000. All three military branches and the Pentagon say they are on track to meet this deadline.

The first purchases to go paperless are those below $2,500. About 80 to 90 percent of defense purchases fall below that line

The Pentagon already buys all its Microsoft products online, said John Connors, chief information officer of the Seattle-based company. The Defense Logistics Agency links through www.beyond.com to purchase the software

Most contracting offices post requests for proposals on the web. Interested businesses can print copies off the Internet. …

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