John Hale III, Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Utilization (OSDBU) at the Department of Energy (DOE), is energized about his department's growing achievements in awarding business to woman-owned small business (WOSB).
While he says that “across the board cuts complicated every agency’s ability to meet missions,” in 2013 DOE was at 13.1% achievement for their WOSB goal at the subcontracting level, the highest since they started tracking in FY2000.
DOE has the second-largest contracting budget in the federal government, second only to the Department of Defense. DOE fulfills it four-fold mission – spanning energy security, nuclear security, environmental responsibility, and scientific discovery and innovation – through program offices, national laboratories, Power Marketing Administrations, and operations offices.
Last year, contract awards to WOSBs were concentrated in computer systems design services, administrative management and general consulting services, environmental and remediation services, engineering and construction services, facilities support, and information technology services.
The OSBDU office at the DOE advocates for contracts to be set aside for small and disadvantaged businesses, and encourages DOE small business program managers to meet with small businesses to provide more opportunities. The program managers and contracting officers in the program office and site office may also be involved in development.
Clearly there are plenty of big dollar business opportunities for WBEs as well as WOSBs within the department's programs as subcontractors. In 2013, the department's $23 billion in contract spending supported approximately 40 managed facilities, 17 of which are national laboratories, in addition to headquarters operations. That's important to remember: Most of DOE's spending takes place beyond Washington, DC. The vast majority of the department's prime contract dollars were awarded to the contractors that manage those sites and facilities.
Such a structure creates a unique challenge for DOE in reaching its 5% goal for WOSB prime contract awards. DOE awarded only 1.24% of its contract dollars to WOSBs in 2012. That's also why DOE has one of the highest subcontracting goals of any federal department: to ensure that small businesses, including woman-owned small businesses, benefit from participating in its programs despite its unusual contracting profile.
This year, Hale's team plans to keep following through with program offices to ensure they’re focused on market research, especially for WOSB. They’ll not only consider setting aside new bids right from the contract planning process, they’ll also go over expiring contracts line by line to get a sense of which recompetes can now be set aside.
The OSBDU office at the DOE advocates for contracts to be set aside for small and disadvantaged businesses, and encourages DOE small business program managers to meet with several businesses to provide more opportunities. The program managers and contracting officers in the program office and site office may also be involved.
Who should WOSBs call on at the Department of Energy to propose that a contract be set aside for WOSB?
Contact the small business program manager in the program/site office(s). They have small business contacts by site and program, and you can find them all listed through the links on DOE's web page for the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity.
What can WOSBs do to make it easier for contracting officers to set aside contracts for WOSB?
Do everything you can to raise awareness of the capabilities of your business. Bring proactive marketing materials (e.g., with the WBENC logo) to industry days or conferences, and provide names of other WOSBs in the relevant NAICS code.
Successful DOE primes and subcontractors reach out for help to the small business specialists in Hale's office and their counterparts in each facility. But before they do that, they start by drilling down through DOE's web site to dig up the missions and requirements of those 40-odd facilities and labs. Which ones have needs that are most similar to the clients and customers you are serving today?
When you do have the chance to be in front of a program manager, focus on how you’ll add value. Look at the requirement and line that up with your skill set and unique value proposition. Look at the challenges they're having executing the mission, and ask to schedule an in-depth meeting so you can demonstrate how your products or services will help. “I’ve actually done that,” said Hale, “A woman business owner came into our office a couple weeks ago, scheduled a meeting like that, and we made it happen.”
Hale advises: Know the mission of the facility you want to do business with. Build relationships with the program managers. Expect to invest one to two years before you win your first contract. Be sure to respond to "Sources Sought" notices so they know you can do the job. And engage your Procurement Technical Assistance Center for help.
How can WBEs build relationships with DOE decision makers?
DOE hosts regular business opportunity sessions in Washington DC, and participates in many regional and national events where you can meet its small business team and program managers.
Hale's team is hard at work on their major event of the year: the 13thAnnual DOE Small Business Forum & Expo on June 10-12 in Tampa, Florida.
- Learn more about the Department of Energy (DOE) at http://www.energy.gov
- Connect with the small business program managers and sites via the DOE Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at http://energy.gov/diversity/small-business-support-doe-mission
- Visit the DOE Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization at http://www.smallbusiness.energy.gov
- View the DOE Acquisition Forecast at http://hqlnc.doe.gov/forecast
A version of this article originally appeared in the WBENC President’s Report and was adapted and reprinted with permission.