Small Business Grows Within DISA
Its penchant for innovation draws agency attention.
Adapted from an online report
The very qualities that define small businesses—agil- ity, flexibility, inherent innovation—are driving the Defense Information Systems Agency to increase its efforts to bring those capabilities under the big tent of
defense network services.
Small businesses provide the agency, known as
DISA, with the opportunity to access technologies
and services it ordinarily would not receive from
large companies, states Sharon Jones, director of the DISA
Office of Small Business Programs. She elaborates that small
firms own proprietary data and software that have provided
capabilities unavailable elsewhere. Also, small businesses
have more flexibility to tailor their goods and services to suit
DISA’s needs, she notes.
“Small businesses show up willing to customize and wanting to work with their customers,” Jones relates. “They show
up wanting to give the best possible products and services
they have to ensure our mission success. They bring in leading technology trends, they have more of a pulse of what’s
going on in the community, and they bring that talent
and information to the agency through their products and
“They do have access to innovation, whether they’re in
the SBIR [Small Business Innovation Research] program or
whether they’re in the Rapid Innovation [Fund] program,”
she continues. “They have become an integral part of how
we do business here at this agency. And, at the end of the day
for us, it really comes down to, ‘Are we doing everything we
can to support that warfighter?’”
For multimillion-dollar procurements, DISA usually has
a small business suite for firms with leading technologies,
strong performance accountability and access to innovation.
“Those contracts are going to be right in their sweet spot to
pursue,” Jones says. “Having our large procurements with
a separate suite for small business really opens up our door
to innovation in ways that it never had before. [Small busi-
nesses] can bring in smart solutions and services that can
support all of DISA’s endeavors.”
Jones views her office as the primary gateway for small
business involvement with DISA. She urges small firms that
have not done business with the agency to reach out to her
office rather than contact individual program managers.
Facility clearances, certifications and apps are just some of
the capabilities that companies should bring to the table as
part of their value proposition for a contract, and the office
can direct small businesses to the appropriate program
DISA is striving to engage more Historically Underuti-
lized Business Zone (HUBZone) small businesses within its
contracting opportunities, Jones reports. Her office seeks to
achieve DISA’s HUBZone small-business goal of providing
enough contracting opportunities for HUBZone companies
to attain the $100 million level. Other small and disadvan-
taged business categories have reached that level, but HUB-
Zone firms have not, she admits.
DISA has begun to engage more HUBZone
companies in its contracting process to achieve its
goal. This effort includes new marketing research
techniques to identify and reach out to these
The agency also is pushing its large prime contractors
to include more small businesses in meeting government-mandated targets. Efforts include establishing small-business participation plans so that prime companies can commit to using small firms within their own large contract
One outreach thrust is an agency leadership speaker series
known as Leaning Forward. Jones will ask a DISA senior
leader to have a conversation with small businesses about
what his or her part of the agency is doing. Such insights
into DISA’s technical direction helps firms provide better
proposals, she says. A separate monthly orientation session
features agency guest speakers to improve small business
In the future, Jones wants a better website for the agency’s
Small Business Office. Her wish list includes a more interactive site with more information—a My Own Small Business
Website approach to companies.
Social media may play a greater role. Jones wants to use
Facebook as a means of becoming more involved with small
businesses. Her office also will implement small business
webinars using DISA’s You Tube channel.
Federal regulations restrict her office’s activities, so it must
work on different ways of outreach rather than types of contracting. “We’re going to do everything we can to highlight
small businesses within our environment,” she says.
She urges small businesses to review DISA’s November
2016 Forecast to Industry for key updates on upcoming
acquisitions. In addition, they should check the Federal
Business Opportunities website for contracting opportunities, she adds, if for no other reason than to become familiar
with DISA’s small business requirements. “It is critical, for
small businesses to really pursue opportunities here, that
they understand what the agency’s needs are,” Jones declares.
“Small business should not be a wallflower,” she continues.
“Don’t wait to be watered—given a contract—you’re going to
have to earn that contract and be awarded it.”
BY ROBERT K.