Small businesses gain insights, connections during virtual panel

  • Published
  • By Patty Welsh
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Hanscom officials offered insights on ways small businesses can work with the Air Force during a virtual Small Business Panel April 27.

Presented by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center-Hanscom Small Business Office, the panel also included representatives from the Small Business Administration and General Services Administration.

Scott Hardiman, deputy program executive officer for Nuclear Command, Control and Communications, or NC3, noted his organization is working on modernizing nuclear command and control infrastructure and he sees that as an area where small businesses can play a role.

“We want to harvest good ideas and systems to help keep our NC3 system ahead of our competitors, our adversaries,” he said. Hardiman added that security requirements can potentially cause challenges, but said they will work through those to enable bringing in the best ideas.

The technical director for Contracting at Hanscom, Mariah Blaine, mentioned some ways non-traditional industries can get involved, from pitch days to Broad Agency Announcements, or BAAs. Many of the Hanscom personnel also spoke about Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, opportunities.

Steve Wert, the PEO for Digital, said the SBIR program has been “really invigorated” recently.

“We’re actually leveraging SBIR efforts for very forward technology in areas where we don’t actually have dedicated program dollars,” he said. “And being able to do that is very helpful.”

Wert also said previous SBIR technology tended to be stand-alone and got handed off to a program office or industry to integrate, but as the Air Force moves forward with the Advanced Battle Management System, he thinks having more “plug and play” capabilities will make a significant difference.

During the panel, a pre-submitted question asked if there is a predominant contract type used at Hanscom. The Hanscom panel members all agreed that they look at as many options as possible.

Blaine said it depends on the requirement and a wide variety of types are used. She added contract types are more flexible than they used to be, including ones that were often “not in favor” in the past, such as ‘time and materials.’

“We use any existing contract available,” said Pete Izzo, contracting senior functional for the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate. He added that often contracts can be modified, or for his area, especially with regard to information technology, there are on-ramps where vendors can be added fairly quickly.

Other questions addressed varied from specific ongoing acquisitions to Federal Acquisition Regulation and legislative updates. In addition to providing some general information about their organizations, the representatives from Hanscom’s program executive offices provided updates to some of the business opportunities presented during the March New Horizons event.

Jeff Emmons, Hanscom’s Small Business director, said there was some “great dialogue” that took place during the event and he hoped it provided “quality information” to those looking to work with Hanscom and the Air Force.

Emmons expects to return to an in-person event next year.