Industry Liaison Office Opens Door to Doing Business With SOCOM
TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. Special Operations Command awards $3 billion in contracts each year. For companies that have a product that could help special operators accomplish their missions, SOCOM’s technology and industry liaison office offers them a chance to get a piece of the pie.
TILO serves as a conduit between industry, academia, and the command. It can be especially useful for companies that that have never done business with the command, one of its leaders said at a National Defense Industrial Association conference in Tampa on May 19.
“We’re one of the primary ways [for businesses] to get into SOCOM,” said Shelvin Watts, a program support specialist at TILO. “It doesn’t matter if you’re mom and pop at home working out of your garage or a large multimillion dollar [or] multibillion dollar company.”
To be seriously considered, products need to that fall within one of the command’s listed “capability areas of interest,” she said.
“Know your customer [and] do your homework,” Watts said “What we don’t want is for you to call or send us a white paper that says, ‘I build things. Tell me what you need and I’ll build it.’ We want to know what you’ve already built, what your capabilities are.”
Through the online portal, companies can submit a white paper. A good synopsis is key, according to Watts.
“A synopsis is what gets your white paper read. [The subject matter experts] look at that first to determine whether or not they want to go in and pull the whole paper and see it,” she said.
Length matters. Watts said 35 pages should be sufficient. “If it’s too long, no one is going to read it,” she cautioned. “Make it short, sweet and give them what they need.”
There’s no official white paper format that companies need to follow, but there are some key points to make. “Tell us what your value proposition is,” Watts said,” and “what is so unique about your widget that we gotta have it.”
The most important information is the technical specs. “You don’t have to be a great writer” and “you don’t need an engineer to write your white paper,” Watts said. “If you can just give us the technical details, we’ll be okay with that.”
Other important items to include: test results from any product testing that has occurred; a dissemination of control statement; and a list of government contracts the company received that are relevant to the proposal.
Items to leave out of a white paper: a company overview, personal biographies and copies of patents.
Putting the SOCOM emblem on your document is an especially bad move. “Never, ever put the SOCOM emblem on your paper,” Watts said. “It implies that we are endorsing your product your capability, and our lawyers are not very happy with that.”
Companies will typically hear back from SOCOM approximately 30 days after submitting their white papers, Watts said. If it generates interest, company representatives may be asked to meet with officials, which could lead to a product demonstration.
Even if SOCOM passes on an idea, TILO will still keep the rejected white papers on file for at least two years in case capability requirements change. “No interest today does not mean no interest tomorrow,” Watts said.
TILO's online portal:www.socom.mil/Sordac/Pages/SubmitYourIdea.aspx.