October/November 2008

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SD in defense
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Supplier diversity

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Supplier Diversity


MBEs, WBEs and others step up as important partners in defense

Where super-sized contracts tend to be the norm, a number of subcontractors may be employed to help get the work done

“Many of our small-business teammates work side-by-side with us to develop solutions and prepare proposals for the government.”
Mark Connel, SRA International

Ensco’s Sheryl Reed: the push for supplier diversity comes from within the company. You can’t overstate the importance of subcontractors
in the defense industry. There are regulatory goals to
be met for underrepresented categories like MBEs, WBEs, VBEs and DVBEs as well as small businesses, HUBzone businesses and more.

And that’s only the beginning of the story. The partnering of big companies with small and diverse firms, originally begun mainly to meet regulatory goals, has often resulted in mutual respect, accomplishment and continuing business relationships.

In the defense industry, small contractors often fill important technical niches like hardware, software or networking for the super-sized contractors.

Ensco meets and beats its goal

IMC’s Jerome Hawkins in discussion with DTRA contracting officer Karen Bundy. Ensco, Inc (Falls Church, VA) is a science and technology company that provides defense services to the U.S. government. One current contract is with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the Department of Defense. Many subcontractors are employed to help get the
work done.

Sheryl Reed, director of procurement for Ensco, explains that the push for supplier diversity comes from within the company. “The diversity that is present in our own employees lends itself to working with diverse subcontractors,” she says.

“Diverse businesses can visit our website, If they believe there is synergy we encourage them to send us an email with their qualifications.” Reed keeps all the emails on file, “and if I hear of a program of ours that might use anyone’s services I bring them in.”

Finding small M/WBE subcontractors in the defense industry isn’t always easy, says Reed.
“We are involved in highly technical programs with a lot of R&D. We’ve found that as complexity increases there are fewer subcontractors to choose from.”

But the challenge hasn’t stopped Ensco from meeting and exceeding its goals. From 2004 through 2008 the company was required to procure about $11 million in small-business contracts, but it actually gave out contracts totaling $28 million. In that time Ensco bought
from more than 830 small businesses of various classifications.

Ensco works with IMC

One of the beneficiaries of Ensco’s small-business procurement is Information Operations Management & Consulting Co, Inc (IMC, Fort Belvoir, VA), a small MDVBE. The company
is providing operational support needed to protect the government’s national and
international assets.

The working relationship of Ensco with IMC began in 2001. IMC president Jerome Hawkins was working for another Ensco subcontractor. When the opportunity arose for him to strike out on his own, he started his solo career working on the same government contract.

“This has been nothing but a pleasant experience,” says Hawkins. “Had this opportunity not come along I might have remained an employee. But this has opened up a world of owning my own business and working on government contracts.”

SRA International: appreciating the dynamics

Mark Connel. Mark Connel is VP and executive director of contracts for SRA International, Inc (Fairfax, VA), which provides cutting-edge technologies, strategic consulting services and solutions for customers in the national security, civil government and global health markets. Connel believes SRA’s strong support for small businesses begins with the company’s own history.

“SRA was once a small business itself. We understand and appreciate the dynamics of being a subcontractor and teaming with a large integrator. We look for partners who share our business culture and values and focus on quality work and commitment to the highest ethical behavior,” Connel says.

SRA not only hires underrepresented businesses but mentors them as well. “We have mentor/protégé relationships with six small businesses to enhance their growth.

“The enthusiasm and confidence demonstrated by our small-business subcontractors have been particularly impressive,” says Connel. “Many of our teammates work side-by-side with
us to develop solutions and prepare proposals for the government.

“SRA is committed to maintaining positive work experiences with these companies to enhance the capabilities of each organization.”

SRA works with Data 2000

Sandi Henderson. Sandi Henderson, president of Data 2000 (Ventura, CA), appreciates the opportunity for entrepreneurship SRA has given her. “They have annual vendor conferences where we get to meet the procurement team. SRA is behind small businesses,” she says.

She particularly likes SRA’s understanding of the problems of a small
business. Just one large unpaid invoice can literally put a smaller firm
under, and knowing this, SRA works to pay their small-business
subcontractors in timely fashion.

Henderson established Data 2000 in 1989. The firm now earns some $3 million a year providing computers, servers, printers and the like. Its contracts with SRA could range from a $50 cable to $250,000 for complex computer equipment and software.

Always working to grow her business, Henderson responds to many, many requests for proposals and competes with companies large and small. She’s up for the competition. “Our know-how, customer service, quick turnaround and good prices help keep us on the preferred vendor lists,” she declares.

TSI: VoIP and UC for SRA

Lee White. When Lee White took over Technology Specialists, Inc (TSI, Annapolis, MD), the company already had a working relationship with SRA. TSI is a provider
of technology products, services and support. The company specializes in infrastructure lifecycle solutions, the necessary components and services to help networks adapt and scale as needs and services change over time.

TSI employs ten people. All its work comes from government contracts as a prime or subcontractor. Last year’s revenues were just over $16 million.

White’s hopes for the future of TSI include more involvement with larger projects and higher value-side services for secured data storage and professional staffing. “It’s not just me,” he says. “I bring in people who bring in ideas. When I help them grow, I win too. The best organizations help their people take an idea and make it great.”

Encouraging relationships

“SRA recently partnered with another small business to deliver a comprehensive technical solution to the government,” Connel notes. “The niche capabilities of the small business augmented SRA’s experience with systems design and development. The result was a
world-class solution.”

To maintain and encourage these productive relationships SRA hosts its own small-business outreach conference, attends industry conferences, and gets involved in organizations like Armed Forces Communications and the Electronic Contractors Advisory Forum. Small businesses interested in teaming with SRA can visit its website at, and email information to the company’s small-business manager at

During proposal development, SRA’s small-business team actively assists with sourcing qualified small-business partners. “Capability statements and contact information are maintained in a database that is available to proposal mangers, business developers and contracts and procurement staff,” Connel discloses.

ACC is a long-term SRA sub

Reza Zarafshar. Advanced Computer Concepts (ACC, McLean, VA) has teamed with SRA since 1988. ACC generates its $47 million revenue with private and government contract work. “We can provide a wide range of IT services,” explains Reza Zarafshar, president of ACC. “We also augment companies’ IT departments, particularly in specialty areas.”

A new and exciting service area for ACC is server virtualization. Multiple servers use up costly floor space, eat up electricity and require burdensome software licenses. ACC combines them into a single virtual server which remains on the client’s premises but with much less cost and impact.

ACC began as a retail outlet for computer equipment. When SRA was looking for a product that was difficult to find, “We were able to find it,” Zarafshar explains. The current twenty-year relationship grew out of such services. “We consider SRA a partner, not just a customer,” says Zarafshar.

Lockheed Martin: diversity and inclusion are key

Nancy Deskins. At Lockheed Martin Corp (Bethesda, MD), the drive to diversity comes from the top. Nancy Deskins, director of supplier diversity, explains that “It has a lot to do with leadership from our CEO. Diversity and inclusion within the company are key to our success and this extends to our suppliers.”

Lockheed Martin sponsors events for small and minority businesses to educate them on doing business with the giant enterprise. The company also sponsors virtual communities and supplier matchmaking sessions where folks from its technical and procurement groups can get to know potential subcontractors. SupplierNet, available at, lets potential suppliers create a profile for review by Lockheed Martin supply chain professionals.

DUA: “A big contract and a big responsibility”

Ammu Warrier, president of DUA Computer Resources, Inc (Boca Raton, FL), notes that “The kind of contract we have with Lockheed Martin could not succeed without the support of supplier diversity. People at Lockheed stand behind the program.

“Lockheed Martin is really a bunch of companies and each has its own specific requirements,” explains Warrier. “Some hold contracts with the Department of Defense, the Army or the Navy.” DUA, she says, plays the key role of managing Lockheed’s contractors and suppliers, “from initial plans to bring in them in, through selecting and onboarding, until the project is finished and they walk out the door.”

DUA uses its own SmartTrack software to manage the contracts. Warrier sees her company’s ability to customize the program as one of its strongest assets. “Because we’re a small company we can modify the program very easily. And because we own the system and don’t partner with anyone, there’s no waiting for a decision on who will pay for the changes and the request doesn’t end up in a long queue.”

DUA began its association with Lockheed Martin by responding to a request for proposal. “We were competing with all kinds of companies,” Warrier says. “It started with many presentations and was a very lengthy process.

“It’s a big contract and a big responsibility.”



Company and location Business area
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp
(Boulder, CO)
Spacecraft and instruments
Ensco, Inc
(Falls Church, VA)
Services and advanced technology solutions for homeland security, aerospace and the transportation industries
Lockheed Martin Corp
(Bethesda, MD)
Advanced technology
SRA International, Inc
(Fairfax, VA)
Protection for physical and virtual environments

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