DHS small-business efforts surpass goals, agency says

The Department of Homeland Security awarded 27 percent of its prime contracts to small businesses in 2004, a senior DHS official said today.

"That exceeds our 23 percent goal," Elaine Duke, deputy chief procurement officer for DHS, said at an industry conference in Washington. "And we are looking to do better than that this year."

A good small-business program is essential to building a world-class organization, said Duke at the event sponsored by King Publishing.

The department has experienced success in linking small businesses with large companies in its mentor-protégé program, according to Duke. Since January 2004, when the program was established, 47 mentor-protégé agreements have been executed by DHS, a number exceeded only by the Defense Department's program, Duke she added.

Mentors who participate receive "extra credit" on their eligibility scores when responding to departmental acquisition proposals, Duke said. As for the protégés, "It helps to be on a team," Duke said. The protégés typically receive not only subcontracts from their mentors, but also technical or financial assistance and coaching, she added.

The department, formed in March 2003 from 22 agencies, inherited seven existing procurement offices and has created an eighth office, the Office of Procurement Operations, to oversee purchasing for the department's 35 new units that did not have previous contracting support, according to Duke.

The new units include Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection; the Science and Technology Directorate; the Office of the Chief Information Officer; and the Office for Domestic Preparedness, she said.

"With all our agencies combined, we have about $11 billion in procurements annually," Duke said. About $5 billion to $6 billion of that amount is technology-related, she added.

According to Duke, the major procurement goals for the department in 2005 are the hiring of federal acquisition personnel for the Office of Procurement Operations; executing improvements to information technology purchasing under a strategy being developed by CIO Steve Cooper; integrating the department's eight procurement offices more fully; integrating procurement-related websites and portals; and integrating departmental grants management.

To publicize its small-business outreach programs and other industry initiatives, the department's procurement office has established the Working With DHS Web site. The department also holds periodic vendor outreach sessions for contractors to meet with its eight procurement officers and will sponsor an Industry Day in the second quarter to announce its plans for upcoming departmental acquisitions, Duke said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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