AIR FORCE NEWS
JUST IN: Air Force Chief Wants to ‘Break Barriers’ for Small Businesses
Air Force photo
The new head of the Air Force, Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, wants to make it easier for small businesses to work with the service, he said Sept. 22.
During the recent Air Force Association’s Virtual Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Brown — who took the helm of the service in August following the retirement of Gen. David Goldfein — met with a number of small companies to better understand some of the challenges they face working with the military.
“One of the things I want to do is break down barriers to make it easier for them,” he said during a virtual event hosted by DefenseOne.
Brown noted that small businesses often have to walk through what he called a “paperwork maze” that makes it difficult for companies to work with the military.
Part of solving the issue will be continuing to further use the authorities the Air Force already has at its disposal, such as middle-tier acquisition processes, Brown said. Middle-tier acquisition is meant to enable the services to rapidly acquire capabilities in two to five years and was granted through the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.
AFWERX — which works to connect industry and academia with the military to get after innovative technology — is another avenue, as well Air Force Ventures, he said. AFVentures is a collaboration between the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Program, AFWERX and the service’s acquisition shop which is meant to help the it work with small business and fund critical technologies.
“We're making some progress but there’s more work to be done,” Brown said.
Key to that will be engaging with small companies, he said. The service will also need to reconsider how it can incentivize its acquisition professionals to “look at things a little bit differently than we have in the past,” he said. “I don't know ... [if] the incentives are quite aligned.”
Brown said he is looking for acquisition experts who are of the same mindset as Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology. They can “help break down some of the status quo in how we’ve done things in the past and then make it easier” for small businesses to work with the Air Force, he said.
Meanwhile, Brown noted that the service is preparing for a potential continuing resolution for fiscal year 2021. Analysts and experts are expecting that FY 2021 — which starts on Oct. 1 — will kick off with a CR unless Congress can pass an appropriations bill before the start of the new fiscal year. A CR would freeze funding at previous fiscal year levels and prevent new-start programs.
“The impact [of a CR] is we can't accelerate change,” he said. “It's going to take us a little longer to do some of … [our programs]. We won't be able to do some of the new starts.”
However, Brown noted that the Air Force has weathered a number of continuing resolutions in the past. “We know how to plan,” he said.
The service intends to have a constant dialogue with Congress and Defense Department leadership on how to best posture itself for a continuing resolution, he said.