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FCW : August 30, 2015
ANDREW CHANG is managing partner at Eastern Foundry. Commentary | ANDREW CHANG The federal government’s procure- ment pathway is riddled with road- blocks for companies seeking to do business with agencies. That restrictive climate makes it difficult for startup companies to pursue and win contracts, and it is the catalyst for a slow and costly process for prime contractors and agencies to locate new partners. In other words, that route is not the fast track to innovation that the gov- ernment needs. Many startups launch with a tech- nology that they know can make our nation safer, more efficient or healthier. Those entrepreneurs pur- sue government contracts believing that the market’s needs and the inge- nuity of their solutions will propel them forward. But they immediately run into 1,800 pages of the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the need to register with the System for Award Management and request a Commercial and Government Entity Code, to name a few. Many are deterred by those com- plexities and simply turn away from government contracting. The companies that are not deterred still face costly challenges. Federal business expert Olessia Smotrova-Taylor said it best: “Com- panies that believe that they can find an opportunity on FedBizOpps when an RFP comes out, submit a proposal and win the contract are wasting a lot of energy.” Instead, entrepreneurs are often frustrated when they find them- selves directing their efforts toward identifying the correct agencies to target, establishing professional relationships with the right procure- ment officers and properly position- ing their companies to achieve a competitive advantage. Even when companies are fortu- nate enough to win a contract, many are not equipped to handle the bureaucracy that permeates every level of government contracting. Some reach out to their colleagues for guidance. “I had to talk to others going through the process to learn how to handle it,” said Matthew Stanton, co-founder of energy startup Sole- Power. “That peer-to-peer advice was invaluable.” Until recently, that protracted procurement process has been the only way. Essentially, the message was: Play by the rules or go home. But with the appointment of Sec- retary Ashton Carter, the Defense Department’s plans to engage Sili- con Valley, particularly with regard to cybersecurity, are poised to evolve. Technology incubators and accel- erators along the Eastern Seaboard are providing entrepreneurs with the knowledge and network to get started. Those initiatives all have a common objective of identifying a more collaborative approach to pro- curement that, when successful, will save agencies time and money and enable entrepreneurs to bring their technologies to bear. For an example, I’ll point to Wor- den Technology Solutions, a con- tractor that specializes in streamlin- ing IT services. Worden has won several contracts, including one for the Navy’s Space and Naval War- fare Systems Command, and owner Chris Worden believes in the power of collaboration in the government contracting space. “Instead of slogging along alone and becoming bitter, you have other companies around you to network with and take advantage of those relationships,” he said. “It’s a game-changer.” Cases like Worden’s attest to the idea that it is time to apply a more collaborative approach to govern- ment contracting. Even successful contractors face roadblocks that include protracted payment cycles after winning con- tracts, but helping them get to the door is a start. With collaboration, entrepreneurs and agencies could achieve a more accelerated innova- tion pace to keep our nation on the cutting edge of progress. n Removing acquisition roadblocks — together Government innovation is a no-go unless agencies, prime contractors and startups come together to clear the path Many companies are not equipped to handle the bureaucracy that permeates every level of government contracting. 12 August 30, 2015 FCW.COM 0830fcw_012.indd 12 8/10/15 4:15 PM
August 15, 2015
September 15, 2015