DoD seeks to continue Mentor-Protege Program

DoD Seeks 10-year Extension of Small Business Mentoring Program

By Claudette Roulo  in  DoD News          January 22, 2015.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2015 – The Defense Department intends to request a 10-year extension of a program that improves the ability of socioeconomically disadvantaged small businesses to compete for defense contracts, the program’s manager said yesterday.

The Small Business Mentor-Protege Program began in 1991 as a way to foster small businesses and improve technology transfer between the Defense Department and industry, Robert Stewart said in a DoD News interview.

Despite having been in existence for nearly 25 years, the program is still categorized as a pilot and must be reauthorized in a National Defense Authorization Act every few years, he said.

Stewart said that through regular outreach with industry representatives, his office has learned that the periodic reauthorizations give the impression that the program isn’t permanent. This has a chilling effect on participation — particularly as the reauthorization period approaches, he said.

“Whenever we’re about a year, year and a half out from an authorization — since it’s a pilot program and it’s still crafted in language as a pilot program — industry does what’s called a chilling-off,” Stewart said. From the perspective of a business owner, he said, “If I’m not sure something’s going to be reauthorized, I’m going to be less apt to put business development dollars into helping facilitate small business.”

Extending the program’s authorization period would provide stability, reassure industry and save the department money, he said.

How to Participate

Small businesses seeking to become prime contractors with the department first choose a mentor from one of the more than 50 larger companies participating in the program, he explained. Part of that selection process is ensuring that the strategic goals of the two companies align, Stewart noted.

“We try to put them in a position to be as successful as possible,” he said.

The larger company provides training and mentorship, and in exchange, receives credit toward their small business contracting goals, Stewart said. If the training is provided through a procurement technical assistance center, a small business development center, minority institution or a historically black college or university, they can claim up to four times the amount spent for credit toward their actual small business participation levels.

The agreements may not last longer than three years, and once an agreement is fulfilled, the small business graduates from the program and is able to serve as a prime contractor for DoD contracts.

“Now you have a small business who’s a prime contractor [and] whose overhead is significantly lower than your traditional government contractors,” Stewart said. “They can do the exact same work, sometimes faster, sometimes cheaper, oftentimes better than larger, more cumbersome agencies or entities.”        More……..

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