Feature   Partnerships

Defense Logistics Agency Closes Out Fiscal 2020 With Small Business Partnership

Nov. 21, 2020 | BY Chris Erbe, Defense Logistics Agency Public Affairs

The Defense Logistics Agency exceeded its small business contracting goal for the eighth consecutive year by awarding more than 40% of its annual contract dollars to small businesses. Fiscal 2020 also marked the third year in a row that DLA exceeded $15 billion in contract awards to small businesses.

DLA surpassed its Defense Department-mandated small business goal of 32.36% of eligible contracting dollars while promoting participation in DLA contracts by small businesses owned by women and service-disabled veterans, as well as small disadvantaged businesses and those in historically underutilized business zones.

"Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy," said Dwight Deneal, director of DLA Office of Small Business Programs. "These small entities can deliver on time and at the right price, which allows DLA to provide optimum support to the warfighter and our whole-of-government partners."

A man in a forklift transports supplies.
Gown Shipment
The Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Center in San Joaquin, Calif., receives gown shipments March 11, 2020 in support of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Annette Silva, DLA
VIRIN: 200311-O-ZZ999-0011C

DLA's engagement with small businesses in fiscal 2020 was largely driven by the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. DLA awarded contracts worth $2.04 billion to support the COVID-19 relief effort and 81%, or $1.66 billion, went to small businesses.

DLA Troop Support in Philadelphia, which supports military and federal customers through five supply chains, managed nearly all of the COVID-19-related contracts for items like eye protection, shoe covers, face shields, cots, aseptic facemasks, surgical masks, exam gloves, hand sanitizer, goggles and nose and throat swabs.  

In September, DLA awarded 37 contracts for disposable and reusable isolation gowns. Fourteen of the 15 prime contractors awarded were small businesses that received contracts worth $280 million, with about $120 million going to woman-owned small businesses and about $90 million to small, disadvantaged businesses. 

The gown contracts are just one example of how DLA leaned on small business suppliers to meet rapidly escalating demands for COVID-19 supplies, said Mike McCall, the associate director of Small Business Programs at DLA Troop Support.

During the pandemic, small businesses have been able to fulfill our country's most urgent needs."
Dwight Deneal, director of DLA Office of Small Business Programs

"Many competitive offers came in from companies we had never dealt with in the past," McCall said. "Our people did a thorough job vetting firms to make sure they could perform the contracted actions. DLA buyers and contracting officers, as well as our quality assurance and technical people, worked tirelessly to ensure that we completed the process to get the personal protective equipment where it was urgently needed, and which also resulted in a broadened domestic supply chain for these products."

Adapting to the pandemic environment, many small businesses have pivoted to pursuing government contracts for the first time. The DLA-managed Procurement Technical Assistance Program addresses small business concerns and advises them on competing for contracts with DOD, other federal agencies and state and local governments. At the same time, it generates new suppliers for DOD, which helps build a stronger industrial base and creates greater competition. 

PTAP operates 94 centers, called PTACs, assisting businesses in 49 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and in regions established by the Indian Affairs bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

When a craft brewery in Montana saw sales decline early in the pandemic due to mandatory restaurant shutdowns, the owners started producing hand sanitizer to meet local demand. After initial success, company officials turned to the Montana PTAC for help finding additional customers. 

A man inspects a shipment of goods.
Medical Shipment
Bryan Ward, a supervisor and supply technician for Special Commodities at the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Center in Susquehanna, Penn., inspects hand sanitizer shipped to the distribution center for shipment to military customers in support of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo By: Diana Dawa, DLA
VIRIN: 200311-O-ZZ999-0012C

PTAC employees led them to local Department of Veterans Affairs clinics, Army National Guard units and Malmstrom Air Force Base. They also helped owners register in the System for Award Management and develop its Small Business Administration profile, so it was more visible to federal buyers. 

"In fiscal 2020, the PTACs were a critical part of enabling first-time sales to the government and connecting businesses with the government agencies buying COVID-related products and services," said Sherry Savage, PTAP Program Manager. 

In fiscal 2021, DLA small business specialists are reaching out to small business owners to increase their knowledge of the agency's mission and share contracting opportunities. The outreach program includes monthly free webinars with representatives from each of DLA's major subordinate commands outlining current needs and providing advice on how to get started. Participants can also have one-on-one conversations with MSC representatives. 

"During the pandemic, small businesses have been able to fulfill our country's most urgent needs," Deneal said. "Whether there's a pandemic or not, we're doing all we can to make sure, as we execute support for the warfighter and the nation, that small businesses are at the table and winning those opportunities."