Magazine article National Defense

Readers Forum

Magazine article National Defense

Readers Forum

Article excerpt

More Small Business Woes

The subjects of "Small Business Woes" and "The Function of Government" (Readers Forum, May 2000, p.8) are thought provoking.

Working for a small business that provides services to government and commercial customers for 22 years, has provided me the opportunity to observe the continually evolving relationship between government and industry.

I am looking for answers to the following questions:

How did U. S. Army acquisition logistics procurements that had been historically SIC code 8711-small business size $20 million (possibly 250 or so people in the technical services field) until about 1995-migrate to a SIC code 8731 small business size of under 1,000 people? Is an approximately $100 million revenue-a-year company really a small business? It has been explained to me by Army procurement personnel that all of the previous procurements had been mis-classified.

Was someone asleep at the wheel? Or was this change designed to make it easier to make more small business awards and help contracting activities meet their small/disadvantaged business award goals? Why are the Navy and Air Force still procuring acquisition logistics services using SIC code 8711?

Might there be a valid reason why "omnibus" and "consolidation" are words of concern primarily to small businesses? I am constantly meeting other small/small disadvantaged business owners/employees who were told to "pound sand" when attempting to join or form teams for recent naval aviation logistics procurements. A common theme is that each company is a `niche player' specializing in either a given weapon system or a very few systems. Small businesses rarely are the only company working in a given area, so it is easy for the large businesses to ignore us. Seventeen companies (plus or minus) perform half a billion dollars worth of support contractor logistics work annually for the Navy. A minimum of six to seven dozen companies have performed pieces of this work previously. Does this appear to be supporting small/small-disadvantaged businesses?

Why, in these days of electronic billing and payments, can a business get payment for services in 1-6 days from one government agency customer, and it take 45-60 days for another? Especially when both receive properly completed and submitted billing vouchers? When the government does not meet a self-legislated obligation to pay within 30 days, why it does not pay interest until challenged and then only grudgingly?

Does anyone in the government care that small business subcontractors routinely do not get paid by the primes for 75 to 120 days after submission of a valid and correct billing voucher? How many government personnel or large contractor senior managers have borrowed against personal assets like a 401 (k) or a home to make a payroll, because the government or a larger business is using the smaller business' payment as float to hold their own borrowing costs down?

Does the government really think that small businesses can afford the cost of subsidizing the federal government more easily than larger businesses? Is it any more risky to contract with a small business than a large business?

Many political appointees and the terminally naive in the federal government believe that allowing the large prime hardware manufacturers to displace government employees and support contractors-through Prime Vendor Support (PVS)-is really going to result in long-term savings on systems life cycle costs. What happens after the first `competitive' award is made? Is it too late to discuss "fair and reasonable" costs and profit? …

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