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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Small Businesses Causing Big Headaches for SOCOM Acquisition (UPDATED)
Small Businesses Causing Big Headaches for SOCOM Acquisition (UPDATED)
By Stew Magnuson
 


The head of U.S. Special Operations Command’s acquisitions organization, speaking before a crowd of industry leaders, had some blunt words for small businesses: “You guys make my life miserable.”
 
The problem, said James F. Geurts, acquisition executive at Special Operations Command, is the number of protests that follow every contract award that was set aside for small businesses.
 
“I can’t think of a small business award I have done that hasn’t got at least one or two protests,” he said at an April 1 National Defense Industrial Association breakfast in Washington, D.C.
 
“You guys protest each other more than anybody,” he said. Every time this happens, it can take three months to sort everything out, he added.
 
SOCOM needs a large variety of technologies in small quantities, which, should be the strength of small businesses. He said he believes in the goal of ensuring that not all contracts go to the big primes. “We’re working hard for that,” he said.
 
“But I’ve got to tell you: the protest rate for small businesses is exponentially higher than on other awards. That’s a challenge for us. That’s a challenge for us to want to keep doing it. I believe in it, but we have got to work together on that,” he said.
 
SOCOM will eventually ask what the advantage is of going to a small business,
Geurts said. “So you got to be careful that you’re not purposefully just fragging each other and overall giving yourselves a bad name,” he added, referring to the Vietnam war era slang for tossing fragmentation grenades into a the tents of officers who were unpopular with troops.
 
Geurts at the same time touted SOCOM’s Small Business Innovation Research achievements. SBIR awards are used to foster innovation and support small companies that have ideas that have the potential to become commercialized. The knock on the program is that many of the funded technologies never transition the so-called “Valley of Death,” where good ideas never make it out of the experimentation phase.
 
SOCOM is the leader within the Defense Department for funding SBIR programs that make the transition to products used in the field, he said.
 
Not everything is a small business set aside, he said. “We try to find the right balance between them and the primes,” he added.
 
Read more about SOCOM’s acquisition plans in the May issue of National Defense Magazine.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled
James F. Geurts' name.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Comments

Re: Small Businesses Causing Big Headaches for SOCOM Acquisition (UPDATED)

Has Mr. Geurts looked in the mirror recently? I remember conversations with Air Force leadership (SAF/AQ) not too many years ago when they were facing a similar problem on a much larger scale (not small businesses but their institutional industry partners) and they looked inward to determine in most cases the protests were justified in some capacity. My question is, how many of the SOCOM protests were sustained and how many required some level of corrective action?

I wasn't in the room for these comments, but Mr. Guerts comes across as infallible. If this is the case, I would love to meet him and shake his hand as I didn't think such a person existed.
Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition at 4/2/2014 9:41 PM

Re: Small Businesses Causing Big Headaches for SOCOM Acquisition (UPDATED)

When a large business files a protest the agencies are afraid cause they have expensive lawyers . But a small business more often does not have access to expensive lawyers  so agencies tend to give small businesses grief just because they think they can.
Reality is small businesses provide the best value and price to the agencies and the tax payer while creating the most jobs .
I went to the GAO website and if you go and look you will see that the number of protests filed on each acquisition large or small is quite similar.
Obviously if there were 200 RFPs for small business set aside and 50 for large business with ceiling limits 10000 times higher than the small bus aside.It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why there are more number of protests under the SB set aside????
But if agencies did their math right the no of protests are the same irrespective small or large!
So please the real problem affecting the agencies are LPTA's.
The agencies need to abolish lowest price proposals .
When you pay peanuts you only attract monkeys!!!!!!
We should work together to stop the talented federal brain drain moving to the commercial sector because of lowest price!!!
Michelle D'Souza at 4/6/2014 2:50 PM

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