DAHLGREN, Va. –
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way nearly all organizations accomplish their goals, but through it all, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s (NSWCDD) Small Business Office has kept up its outreach and continued to work in attracting small businesses for partnership.
But what exactly does the Small Business Office do?
According to Kris Parker, NSWCDD deputy for small business, the overarching goal is to provide small companies with an overview of the type of work Dahlgren does, as well as where it plans to go in the future. Each warfare center has a Small Business Office; in fact, any activity executing over $100 million annually in contracts is statutorily required to have a Small Business Office. The program came about because the industrial base was being depleted during World War II as smaller companies were merging into larger conglomerates, or were unable to compete. So, Parker said, the federal government in the years after the war was looking for a way to increase small business participation and incentivize their participation in the government sector. All of these came into fruition in the Small Business Act of July 30, 1953, which Parker says is still evolving and in use today.
“We know that small businesses are the backbone of our national economy. In Dahlgren, we also know that they are they are key partners in delivering innovative solutions - game changing capability – to the warfighter,” said NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Casey Plew. “We are a big proponent of the program. Attracting small business investments into our division really amplifies the regional ecosystem. It keeps us sharp. It keeps us agile. It keeps us flexible and adaptable to the needs of today’s Navy and our future Navy.”
Parker, who holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Mary Washington, and is DAWIA Level III certified in Government Contracting, agrees money obligated to small business contracts helps support Dahlgren’s immediate economy. “We are very successful when it comes to small business participation, in not just the number of contracts we award, but also the dollars obligated to them. That money helps create a vibrant local business base.”
Businesses are classified as small under the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS). The NAICS code not only identifies the size threshold for the work being performed, but also the type of work. The majority of Dahlgren’s acquisitions are categorized under the engineering services subset. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, NAICS is used by federal agencies to help collect, analyze and publish statistical data. Nearly 75% of all contracting dollars at NSWCDD awarded during fiscal 2019went to companies within the engineering services subset.
“For companies to qualify as small businesses under the 541330 NAICS engineering services at Dahlgren, businesses must have a gross revenue under $41.5 million over the last five years,” said Parker. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that our small business partners are tiny companies, but that’s not true – the majority of our efforts fall under the ‘Small Business’ category.”
Parker, a native of King George County, has been the division’s small business deputy since August of 2007; he worked in the contracts department before that and has won awards and been recognized by the Navy and industry for the division’s small business efforts. Plew, as commanding officer, is responsible for the execution of the small business program.
Last year, NSWCDD awarded 16 SeaPort Next Generation task orders, 11 of which have been awarded to small businesses. Four of those businesses have never worked with NSWCDD before. In fact, the program is so successful some businesses “graduate” out of it.
“A lot of our existing small businesses are about to graduate the program. Now, we need to restart the cycle with new companies. It’s good news because it means the program works,” said Parker. What he means by that is that companies eventually grow outside of the threshold of being a small business. They essentially “graduate” to a larger business.
Despite the numbers, Parker says there is still work to do. The command hosts small business industry days to get the word out about Dahlgren. He admits that Dahlgren historically has some of the highest obligations to small businesses of any field activity in Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). “We are measured against obligations, so our NAVSEA assigned goal for FY21 is 40% and we are at 46%,” he said pointing out the division’s program consistently exceeds the NAVSEA assigned goal.
Although the office is very successful, it is not without challenges. Over the last 10 years for example, the program has led some business partners to grow and “graduate” out, so the challenge is growing new companies into the regional ecosystem while meeting the goals of the program.
How does Parker intend to do that? “Through increased outreach and one-on-one discussions with companies, industry, ecosystem partners,” Parker said. He noted the future of the program as the world emerges from COVID-19 really is getting back and face-to-face engagements and discussions; Plew agrees.
“We have done a great amount of work here raising the awareness over the years of small business opportunities here at Dahlgren, and we are striving to grow that list through efforts like our digital ecosystem,” Plew said. “The future is awesome for our division and our small business program is a key to our success.”