Small Business Training Week is the annual premier training event sponsored by the Defense Department's Office of Small Business Programs for members of the department's acquisition workforce.
At this year's event in Baltimore last month, more than 700 attendees representing 72 agencies and hailing from 45 states participated in skill-building workshops. The topics included enhanced acquisition strategies, legislative and regulatory updates, rebuilding the defense industrial base utilizing critical HUBZone, small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses and more.
More than 30 speakers lent their expertise, including leaders from the DOD, the White House, the Small Business Administration, General Services Administration and the Minority Business Development Agency.
Farooq Mitha, director of DOD's Office of Small Business Programs, briefed attendees on DOD's small business strategy and objectives at the first general training session.
There are three basic objectives of DOD's small business strategy, he said:
- Create more opportunities
- Align small business with defense and national security mission objectives
- Provide more resources to small businesses.
"I'm excited about the partnerships here to meet our small business objectives," Mitha said.
He also described the progress DOD has made, including making permanent the Mentor-Protégé Program, after a successful run as a pilot since 1990.
Mitha highlighted the 96 APEX accelerator locations, which provide technical assistance to businesses interested in selling products or services to federal, state and local governments, noting that they serve "as the front doors to industry." Formerly known as Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, the accelerators moved last year from the Defense Logistics Agency to DOD OSBP.
He provided an update on the status of the Market Research Center of Excellence, noting that tools will be rolling out to the acquisition community this fiscal year to support a streamlined process to take users from requirements inception through supplier identification to market research report creation.
With more than 30 total general and breakout sessions, the training agenda covered topics ranging from specific programs to hot topics such as facility clearances, small business risk, subcontracting plans and intellectual property.
Bianca Henderson, director of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Office of Small Business Programs, attended the event with members of her team, including their assistant director who is based in Guam. "We have not been together in person since 2019 and this training is important to learn the nuances of small business programs and engagement. This year I was especially looking forward to the legislative update and learning more about the change from PTACs to APEX Accelerators."
DOD Small Business Vanguard Awards
On the second day, winners of the 8th annual Vanguard Awards were honored. Each year, this program honors the exemplary contributions of defense acquisition individuals, teams, and a component organization that influence small business participation in defense acquisitions and make significant contributions toward assuring the preparedness of warfighters and DOD.
The 2023 Vanguard Award recipients for performance during the period of Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022, are:
- Revolutionary Leadership Award: Myaleca R. Malone, Department of the Air Force
- Tracey L. Pinson Small Business Professional of the Year Award: Heather I. Scherer, Army Materiel Command
- Small Business Innovation Research Award: Army Applications Laboratory, Army Futures Command
- Verdure Award: Defense Threat Reduction Agency
- Vanguard Award: Department of the Air Force Office of Small Business Programs