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Small businesses’ agility, ingenuity, innovation impact Navy in big way

By Naval Sea Systems Command Office of Corporate Communication | Sept. 1, 2016

Speakers, panelists, exhibitors and guests attended NAVSEA’s second Small Business Industry Day, Aug. 18, at the Washington Navy Yard.

The forum created a dialog between Assistant Secretary of the Navy Research, Development and Acquisition; Department of the Navy’s Small Business Office; NAVSEA Contracts; large business industry partners; and small businesses to discuss the contracting processes and procedures.

“On average, NAVSEA puts about $2 billion a year into small business,” said NAVSEA Commander Vice Adm. Tom Moore. “As the new NAVSEA commander, what I’m focused on are three elements – on time delivery of ships and subs, culture of affordability, and cyber security.”

The audience, made up of 210 small business representatives, expressed their need to connect with the right group of technical experts once a request for information (RFI) is issued.

Emily Harman, director for the Office of Small Business Programs with the Department of the Navy, explained when responses to RFIs are issued, small businesses and technical requirement holders can discuss what the industries' can provide to assist in the acquisition planning process.

Harman said technical experts can not engage in conversation with small businesses about the procurement when a request for proposal (RFP) is submitted to potential suppliers.

“Contracting officers should communicate back to industry after an RFI, at least letting them know what the next steps are,” said Harman. “Once the RFP comes out the technical people are not going to talk to you, because the competition has started.”

Cindy Shaver, director for NAVSEA Contracts, addressed past performance and offered a suggestion on how a small business can build their record.

“One of the things that we have seen in our technical community is how many times small businesses get in at a subcontractor level where the risk is lower and successfully perform for a prime,” said Shaver. “Then we look back and say, ‘Wow we have a lot of great success and execution in this area, and it’s subcontracted to a small business. Why don’t we break that out?’ That’s a way to build past performance and also give that program manager some confidence that this work is capable of being performed very successfully by a small business.”

The future of Seaport-e – NAVSEA’s contracting electronic platform for technical, engineering and other professional services – is planned for replacement with a next- generation procurement writing system by 2021.

According to Shaver, the Navy is in the process of collecting lessons learned from Seaport-e and will analyze alternative strategies for enterprise solutions to acquire services.

“In developing the acquisition strategy for the future of Seaport-e, we want to consider all options for efficient and effective services contracting across the broader Navy community,” she added. “An RFI has been issued to current Seaport-e vendors and Navy government users for response so we may gather feedback.”

Seaport-e Multiple Award Contracts (MAC) are scheduled to expire by April 2019. Tasks orders awarded by April 2019 can have a period of performance five years after the MAC expiration.

Shaver’s then addressed the lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) by asking small businesses to bid the rate they feel is takes to do the work and then stick to it.

“From a source-selection perspective, most of our Seaport-e source selections are done on a best-value basis,” said Shaver. “I can tell you we pay a premium more often than we don’t. Often it is not a big premium, be we do pay premiums.”

“The goal is to look at the technical work and look at the risk of performance based upon the proposal and trade off what we think the actual end cost will be on a realism analysis versus that technical ability,” she added. “So that is the philosophy that we want to stick to.”

Shaver’s advice to small businesses to find potential opportunities at a prime or subcontractor level is for them to take a look at NAVSEA’s long range acquisition forecast, posted on NAVSEA’s website, then reach out to those program offices to create a dialog about where their services fit in at helping solve technical problems.

The Department of the Navy (DON) Office of Small Business program wants to help build a culture of small business inclusiveness, according to Harmon.

“It’s through efforts like our stakeholders, our DON small business professional community, that makes this effort obtainable,” she added. “We believe that small business inclusion is, and will continue to be, an integral part of the acquisition process. When you get a contract, you’ve got to deliver. Your ability to deliver is critical to providing our sailors, Marines and their families the support, services and equipment needed to win the fight,” said Harman.

To learn more about small business opportunities at NAVSEA visit http://www.navsea.navy.mil/BusinessPartnerships. Questions can be emailed to ">NSSC_SBIR@navy.mil.