It’s been said that in America, small business is a big deal. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Office of Small Business Programs Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, or OSBP-APG. As trusted advisors to customer organizations serviced by the Army Contracting Command, or ACC, OSBP is tireless in its efforts to ensure that from acquisition planning to program compliance it not only adheres to national policy, but that the conduct of its business is firmly aligned with Army sustainment and readiness goals.
The role OSBP plays in providing small business support to Army readiness is anchored in opportunity. These opportunities were further enhanced when the Army Materiel Command, or AMC, Operation Order 16-268, “Reshape and Consolidation of the Office of Small Business Programs at APG,” called for the OSBP at the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, known as CECOM, and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, or RDECOM, to consolidate. The consolidation was made in an effort to improve efficiencies, reduce redundancies, and optimize delivery support to ACC-APG.
Under the leadership of Director Andrea S. Armstrong, the office stood up October 2016, and is now known as OSBP-APG. The program has the monumental challenge of linking small business to Army readiness by advocating for the maximum practicable utilization of small business concerns in federal contracting.
OSBP-APG works directly with AMC to establish annual fiscal year small business goals that are assigned to AMC Major Subordinate Commands, known as MSC, at APG.
“As we continue to streamline and synchronize our combined efforts, we advise on all small business matters from acquisition planning, market research, program reviews and training, to policy reporting,” Armstrong said.
The strength of those efforts has yielded positive results with ACC-APG averaging more than 34,000 actions and $12 billion in obligations annually.
“CECOM has, for the last three fiscal years, achieved all of its assigned small business goals, and the OSBP-APG will work toward continued success” said Armstrong. “Additionally, the OSBP-APG is one of the first AMC supported SBO to successfully establish individual customer goals to the activities of the MSC and APG program executive offices, or PEOs.
“We’ve found that establishing goals at the individual customer level is in direct support of the mandatory performance requirements of general officers and senior executives as they ensure small business awareness, outreach, and support are incorporated as part of the command’s overall mission and establish performance measures that reflect that commitment,” she said.
Supporting customer base
Toward that end, with a staff of nine permanent business professionals, the CECOM OSBP is unwavering in its support of a large and diverse customer base – which consists of 10 MSC activities and four PEOs, as well as the Army Test and Evaluation Command. That support runs the gamut, and includes advocacy and liaison support to Small Business, or SB, firms through SB training, special initiatives, teaming with the Small Business Administration Technical Advisor Procurement Center Representative, and liaison support between small business firms and government officials such as commanders, government program managers, and technical advisors.
Armstrong said that SB also teams with local community leaders and chambers of commerce as guest speakers at various outreach events. She said these community leaders are invited to APG small business events as well.
Central to the SB and Army readiness effort is the ability to develop and maintain sound relationships with community leaders and industry partners.
“Getting the word out to small businesses — that have never had a contract opportunity with APG, on all of the diverse contract opportunities on APG, is critical,” Armstrong said.
The expansiveness of small business support is found in the service-disabled veteran-owned small business; small disadvantaged and women-owned small business concerns; as well as the historically underutilized business zones that make up the socio-economic category of SB firms. Understanding the social and economic factors associated with these concerns are central to successfully achieving those desired small business outcomes that mirror ACC-APG goals and objectives.
“At OSBP-APG, our customers’ mission is shifting. They’re not doing the ‘exact’ same thing they were doing five years, three years, or even one year ago in some instances. Therefore, to remain relevant, outside of our regulatory program review responsibilities, we have to shift how we do business as well,” said Armstrong. “We face the same challenges as most organizations, and that’s lack of personnel resources. As the OSBP director, I have to grow my existing staff by shifting the old way of thinking and doing business; creating innovative solutions; hiring the right mix of talent as vacancies arise; changing the culture, and using my current resources to operationalize the small business office mission in order to meet Army readiness, today.”
Successfully meeting the Army readiness requirement is a priority, Armstrong added.
“As a SB professional, one way of measuring success is when a new entrance Small Business firm that we’ve been working with, wins and successfully manages a government contract. That is great, and we will continue those achievements,” she said.
“With the newly consolidated OSBP-APG, my vision for the office is to strategically create a premier team of small business professionals that are not only accessible — which we are very good at, but output and efforts are specific. They are doable, quantifiable and include measurable targets that are relevant to Army readiness and meet the short-and long-term mission of the Warfighter. I want to grow a sustainable, forward thinking, high performing team that can take the small business mission well in to the future.”
Story by Mary B. Grimes, CECOM