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Sequestration, small business and the federal marketplace

I rarely write directly about the contracting process, this is primarily because it isn’t my area of expertise. I’ve been working with public sector clients for almost 20 years but I still don’t claim any particular expertise in the business of doing business with the government. I’m prompted to write today for two reasons; the first is just selfish, I’m hoping someone who knows more than I do will jump in and help me understand what is going on; and the second is that I think there are some things happening because of sequestration that are going to have long term impacts on both small business and the quality of the services the government receives.

For our SDVOSB, the past year has been the slowest year we have ever had in the public sector. Despite growing requests for services in both our public sector and private sector practices, the only place where we have seen interest materialize into real growth has been in the private sector. In the public sector we have fielded more requests for meetings than we’ve ever fielded, and responded to more RFPs than ever before, but it hasn’t translated into actual work. A big part of this has been that many procurements have been delayed or cancelled. The answer from the prospective clients on why has been almost universally the same “Sequestration.”

A recent report produced by the House Committee on small business includes the following statement “While the impacts are far-reaching, they will be particularly significant for small businesses.” I agree that we have felt negative effects, but I think the federal marketplace is going to suffer as well. I think you are going to begin to see highly qualified small businesses shift their marketing efforts towards private sector engagements. This isn’t necessarily because they don’t want to be a part of working in the federal space—they may very well. In fact in our case our website has a piece written by our Managing Partner, Erik Ballinger a former Navy pilot on “Why SDVOSB?” that carries in it his belief that part of the reason we do work for the federal market is because it is part of our continuing public service. This patriotism and dedication to the mission carries into our performance and that of other veteran owned small businesses, and make us a valuable part of any public sector contracting strategy. You can disagree with me, but I think you will be hard pressed to find another group of organizations that are as dedicated to the mission and to this country as this group.

In summary I feel that the public-private partnership particularly on the small business side has been significantly challenged by sequestration. I’ve had some really heartfelt conversations with people in public service recently about this and there doesn’t seem to be many answers or much of a sense that we can expect positive change any time soon. I believe that if agencies don’t take steps, they are going to see some of the best and most dedicated businesses—those that have private sector options – shift their resources away from doing public sector work. Not because they want to, but because they have to because of the conditions that sequestration has put on the market. I’d love to hear from other people on their thoughts about how sequestration is effecting service provision, private sector partners and the mission.

Interested in learning how to work with your local Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business? Check out our “SDVOSB Contracting 101.”

Looking for qualified SDVOSBs? Take a look at Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization’s (OSDBU) VetBiz web site. This site provides information about the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) efforts to verify Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDBOSBs) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs).

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