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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Laser expertise lands sole-source contract for Schafer

Sometimes it pays to be really good at what you do.

Schafer Corp. recently received an $8.4 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory for work supporting the High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office.

The contract was awarded without competition because the Air Force determined that Schafer is the only company that had the expertise to provide the advisory and assistance services the research lab needs. Specifically, it needed experts in the advanced high energy lasers the Navy, Army, Air Force and the rest of the Defense Department are developing.

Some of the activities shown in the justification document include technology assessments, developing research paths, establishing technical requirements, publishing calls for proposals, and initiating and evaluating research programs. Definitely not run of the mill stuff.

Schafer captured the work because of its expertise with high energy laser weapon systems and has been supporting the Air Force for many years, the Air Force said.

The company, now part of Belcan after the April acquisition, also has specialized services in consolidated algorithms, integration and test capabilities and insights into “revolutionary concepts.” What those concepts are was redacted in the justification document.

Schafer has supported the high energy laser office since 2001, just after it was formed. The Air Force estimated that it would take six months for someone new to learn the systems Schafer is an expert in. The Air Force compared it to learning a new language and quoted an article from Quora Corp. that it takes 23-to-25 weeks to learn a new language.

“Such a delay… is unacceptable to support current schedules,” the Air Force wrote.

In 2015, the Air Force issued a sources sought notice looking for companies that could do the work Schafer is providing and received five responses, including one from Schafer. The justification document reviews each response, but redacts the names of the companies except for Schafer. The respondents -- all small businesses -- did not have the level of subject matter expertise or the right set of capabilities the Air Force said it needed.

The Air Force also discussed the work at several conferences where they spoke with large businesses but many of these also had organizational conflicts of interest that the Air Force said would preclude them from bidding on the work.

The justification document also outlines some of the steps the Air Force is taking to open the work to future competition.

They want companies to participate in the Directed Energy Professional Society conferences and to teach and attend classes produced by the society. This will help build their credentials as subject matter experts, according to the Air Force.

The Air Force also said it is working with the Directed Energy Professional Society to help educate potential venders about the requirements needed to support this kind of work, which includes opportunities beyond this one contract.

Schafer's contract is for 18 months, so the Air Force is already gearing up for another round of market research for the next contract. Maybe with some competition this time.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 15, 2017 at 12:36 PM

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