11 Steps to Doing Business with the Army
The Army awards billions of contracting dollars annually in order to support its mission. Historically, more than 20 percent of this total goes to small businesses. A strong small business industrial base is essential to supporting the Warfighter and accomplishing the Army mission. This guide to doing business with the Army is an effort to increase the number of small businesses capable of supporting the Army mission, thereby strengthening this industrial base.
It is very important that you first determine the exact product or service you wish to sell to the Army. There are different marketing strategies and customers within the Department for each product or service.
Once you have chosen your product/service, find the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code under which it falls. Then use the Small Business Administration (SBA) size standard table to determine your business size in that NAICS code. It’s not uncommon for companies to qualify as small for one type of product they sell, but as large for another.
You must be registered in the SAM in order to be awarded a contract by any federal agency. You will need a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number, which you can obtain from Dun and Bradstreet by calling 1-800-333-0505 or by visiting their website at http://www.dnb.com/get-a-duns-number.html.
Whenever there is a change in your business status, it is necessary to update your company’s profile in SAM (e.g. if your company attains 8(a) status).
Contracting officers, contract specialists, small business specialists and others utilize SAM as a tool to identify small business concerns for potential prime contracts and subcontracts.
- Review our “What the Army Buys” page, which provides a brief description of what each major buying command purchases, as well as a phone number for their small business office and a link to a list of their small business specialists who are there to answer your questions about doing business with their command.
- Use the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) to find past contracts relevant to you. This system contains records of all federal contracts since the 1970s. Begin by using the ezSearch tool to find recently awarded contracts in your NAICS code. As you progress, you may find it useful to create an account and put together your own ad hoc reports to hone in on past contracts that are set to expire soon. To request assistance in using FPDS, call us at 703-697-2868.
- Sell local. Use our Army Small Business Directory to locate small business specialists at Army locations near you. Call them or schedule a meeting to introduce yourself and ask for information on upcoming contracting opportunities.
There are regulations applicable to contracts that are awarded by the Department of the Army and the Federal Government that you need to be familiar with. Beware that they do change from time to time. Regulations applicable to the Army are:
The Army runs several socioeconomic programs that provide assistance to small businesses of various types. These are:
- Army Service-Disabled / Veteran-Owned Small Business Program
- Army HUBZone Small Business Program
- Army Small Disadvantaged / 8(a) Business Program
- Army Woman-Owned Small Business Program
- Army Small Business Innovation Research Program
- Army Small Business Technology Transfer Program
- Army Historical Black Colleges and Universities / Minority Institutions Program
- Army Mentor-Protégé Program
Be well versed on your company’s capabilities and ready to discuss in detail the product or service you provide. Always be ready to give an “elevator speech.” Know how your products/services support the Army mission. Fill out our Army Small Business Capability Briefing Template and bring this with you when you meet with an Army buyer, small business specialist, or contracting officer. Have an expanded version for those occasions which require a more in-depth understanding of your company.
Smaller acquisitions (typically below $150,000) are done via simplified acquisition procedures (SAP) and are set aside for small businesses (with some exceptions). Solicitations for these types of acquisitions are simpler, using a request for quote (RFQ) either over the telephone, by e-mail, or by some other electronic business system such as FedBid, Army Single Face to Industry (ASFI), or an RFQ via a combined synopsis/solicitation on FedBizOpps. The resulting contract from a SAP is a purchase order. The government can usually provide payment more quickly by using a Government Purchase Card (GPC) for acquisitions below $3,000. If you can accept a government purchase card, let your Army customer know. If you cannot, you may want to investigate this option. Some activities may provide you with a list of the purchase card holders to whom you can directly market your products or services.
There are numerous agencies that can assist small business firms seeking to do business with the Army and other federal agencies, including:
- The Small Business Administration (SBA), which provides a wide array of services to small businesses including counseling, certifications, financial assistance, small business management assistance and free or low cost training.
- Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC), which serve as a resource for businesses that are both pursuing and performing under government contracts. They are located in most states and are partially funded by the Department of Defense. Services provided by PTACS include counseling, registration assistance for systems such as SAM, identification of contract opportunities, help in understanding requirements, and training at minimal or no cost.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), which provide aspiring and current small business owners a variety of free business consulting and low-cost training services including: business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial packaging and lending assistance, exporting and importing support, disaster recovery assistance, procurement and contracting aid, market research help, 8(a) program support, and healthcare guidance.
- Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses gets off the ground, to grow and to achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They are supported by the SBA and thousands of volunteers and are consequently able to deliver their services at no charge or at very low cost.
Regardless of what you sell, it is important that you do not neglect the Army’s very large secondary market: Subcontracting.
Details on the Defense Subcontracting Program can be found here.
Large Defense contracts are typically required to have subcontracting plans. Large prime contractors negotiate goals with the contracting activities for subcontracting to small business concerns.
To find subcontracting opportunities:
- Visit the websites of large Defense prime contractors. Locate their Small Business Liaison or Supplier Diversity Office and make contact with them.
- List your firm as an interested party on sources sought notices, requests for information (RFI), and pre-solicitation notices posted on Federal Business Opportunities.
- Search the SBA’s Subcontracting Network, SUB-Net, a database where prime contractors post "solicitations" or "notice of sources sought" for small businesses.
As the Army downsizes its acquisition workforce, more and more acquisitions are being done through General Services Administration (GSA) schedules. If you are interested in obtaining information about GSA schedules, please contact:
General Services Administration
FSS Schedule Information Center (FM)
Washington, D.C. 20406