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CHIPS Articles: Q&A with Faye Esaias, SPAWAR's director of small business programs

Q&A with Faye Esaias, SPAWAR's director of small business programs
SPAWAR Office of Small Business Programs recognized for innovation
By Kara McDermott, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Public Affairs - April-June 2016
The Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) with the Verdure Award for innovative and proactive approaches in promoting the use of small businesses in SPAWAR acquisitions throughout fiscal year 2015.

The Verdure Award is a part of the DoD's Vanguard Awards Program which recognizes the exemplary contributions of small business professionals or members of acquisition teams that influence small business participation in defense procurement.

In FY2015, the DoD procured 24.64 percent of all prime contracting with small businesses and exceeded the goal of 21.6 percent for the second consecutive year.

SPAWAR OSBP's use of innovative approaches to build relationships, increase communications and provide tailored trainings improved awareness and understanding of their objectives across the organization.

All Vanguard awardees will receive formal recognition during the DoD Small Business Innovation Training Week, May 9-13, in Atlanta.

Faye Esaias, SPAWAR's director of small business programs responded to CHIPS’ questions.

Q: Being recognized with a Verdure Award is very impressive. Can you discuss the innovative methods that you used to engage with small business owners?

A: In addition to holding counseling sessions with each small business that is interested in doing business with SPAWAR, the OSBP team sponsors quarterly industry roundtables that are attended by small and large businesses, technical staff, contracting personnel and SPAWAR leadership.

Prior to each roundtable, industry is asked to provide topics of interest or concern they would like to have addressed. The OSBP team then coordinates with command competencies to get subject matter experts on the topics for the roundtable, in addition to participation by SPAWAR leadership.

As a result of industry feedback, SPAWAR OSBP has facilitated several government industry working groups that have resulted in process improvements to the command’s business practices and policies. An example is the market research working group comprised of industry representatives from small and large businesses, and personnel from the contracting and technical competencies across the SPAWAR enterprise. The outcome of this collaborative initiative was a standardized request for information for services requirements that resulted in more qualitative responses and set-asides for small businesses.

Q: Some small businesses are reluctant to work with federal procurement programs because they are confused by the federal acquisition process and fear they will not be paid in a timely manner. How do you work with small business owners to persuade them to participate in defense procurement?

A: During each one-on-one counseling session the small business professional (SBP) discusses how to do business with SPAWAR, Department of the Navy and the federal government. During these meetings a review the company’s System for Award Management and Small Business Administration profiles is done to determine if they are complete, which is critical for them to be successful in participating in the federal procurement process. Additionally, the SBP provides a fresh look on the firms marketing materials to ensure they are providing sufficient information to leverage the market they are targeting and reviews the SPAWAR forecast of procurement opportunities to identify potential contracting actions within their capabilities.

The SPAWAR OSBP has also developed a training module titled “Contracting 101,” which covers the basics of understanding federal and DON procurement regulations, policies and an overview of each stage of the contracting process including contract types, source selection methodologies and post award. The training addresses how the businesses should adjudicate contract issues with the procurement contracting officer (PCO) and the assistance our staff can also provide as a small business advocacy if they encounter problems after contract award.

Q: Can you explain what the contracts data requirements list (CDRL) is that is being used in high-visibility contracts like the DoD Healthcare Management System Modernization, Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services and the Next Generation Navy Marine Corps Intranet contracts?

A: We only use the CDRL when our market research indicates there are no possibilities for a partial small business set-aside or potential for breaking out work for small businesses as prime contractors on large acquisitions. In instances such as the contracts mentioned above, the SBP works closely with the cognizant procurement contracting officer to determine the appropriate subcontracting goals. The CDRL that we developed requires prime contractors to provide subcontracting details that are not available in the electronic subcontracting reporting system. This approach allows us to accurately track subcontracting accomplishments, which has been useful in our incentive type contracts and also in assessing contract performance in the CPARS (Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System).

Q: What are some of the organizations that you work with?

A: The SPAWAR OSBP team engages with many industry organizations to foster awareness of how small businesses can do business with the federal government. Examples include but are not limited to active involvement with the National Defense Industry Association, Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association, North San Diego Small Business Development Center, the San Diego Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the San Diego State Regional Innovation Cluster.

Q: Can you talk about the composition of the OSBP team and the training they have had?

A: The OSBP team is comprised of four personnel with extensive training and experience in contracting. Prior to being appointed as a SBP all candidates are required to complete Defense Acquisition University (DAU) CON260 (The Small Business Program) and other relevant continuous learning modules, in addition to demonstrating they possess knowledge of acquisition and program management policies, procedures and business skills that are necessary for representing SPAWAR and supporting the Small Business Program.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to discuss?

A: I would just like to mention that the SPAWAR OSBP team embraces a culture of shared responsibility that recognizes the critical role of small businesses in advancing our naval capability and the strength of our nation’s economy and security by seeking qualified small businesses at the earliest stage of acquisition planning.

Kara McDermott, from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Public Affairs office, conducted this interview.

Faye Esaias, left, Director, Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) pictured with small business deputies Mary Lake, Angela King and Mark McLain.  The SPAWAR OSBP was recently awarded the Department of Defense Verdue Award for Innovation. U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt
Faye Esaias, left, Director, Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) pictured with small business deputies Mary Lake, Angela King and Mark McLain. The SPAWAR OSBP was recently awarded the Department of Defense Verdue Award for Innovation. U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt
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