Like most organizations, the government has procurement process miscues. Primarily, lack of communication and differing proposal rules and regulations within the 13 federal purchasing agencies.
The communication issues between government contractors and Project Managers (PMs) on the government’s side seem to be two-fold. First, contractors are often left without updates or responses from their PM and have no idea where their proposal “sits”. This “up in the air” experience leaves a company “spinning its wheels” for long periods of time and hinders the businesses ability to move forward in other ways, if necessary. The second communication breakdown happens when PM’s do communicate with the contractor, but provide little to no value through the communication. This happens due to the fear of crossing ethical lines and showing partiality to one contractor over another. The outcome of both issues is lack of guidance when building and submitting proposals, which leads to wasted resources on the small businesses part.
A request for the participating SBIR government agencies that procure goods and services to become more uniformed in their proposal process was also mentioned as a concern. The experience relayed by one of the attending business owners detailed the level of bureaucratic nonsense that still exists. For example, one federal agency requires a blank page to be present at the beginning of their proposals, if this page isn’t present, the proposal is immediately denied, often without an explanation. Likewise, if a blank page is present at the beginning of a proposal for a federal agency that doesn’t require it, the proposal is immediately denied.
Larger issues that would require heavy investigation and congressional changes were discussed as well. For example, SBIR businesses are finding difficulty in commercializing technology back to the federal government due to the government’s preference to meet socio-economic spending goals with set-asides. The companies that do not qualifying for anything other than “small business”, encounter a much greater challenge when attempting to sell their technology. From their experience, not being able to hold a classification of 8(a), Veteran Owned, HUBZone, et cetera, puts them at a severe disadvantage in the government marketplace.