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The lure of $19.5 billion draws more than 1,100 to Aberdeen Proving Ground

DefenseSalesBusinessU.S. ArmySmall BusinessesAberdeen Proving Ground

Concerns about cutbacks in defense spending notwithstanding, there are plenty of business opportunities on the horizon connected to activities at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Last week, more than 1,100 business and economic development representatives from across the country attended the proving ground's first installation-wide Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry, where APG commands presented more than 180 potential contracts worth an estimated $19.5 billion over the next five years.

According to the post command, the Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry brought industry representatives from large and small businesses to a forum held Dec. 4-6 in the post theater and recreation center, where representatives from Aberdeen Proving Ground organizations provided information about potential and future contracting opportunities with the Army.

"The entire Aberdeen Proving Ground Team relies on healthy relationships with industry and small business to accomplish our mission and the APBI is absolutely essential to building and maintaining those relationships," Maj. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, explained.

"The APBI provides transparency of potential business opportunities provided by the Army at APG," Kenyata Wesley, chief associate director of small business programs for CECOM, said. "The APBI provides an environment where companies providing service, products, and technologies are informed of anticipated contracting opportunities. This event gives every business, large or small, access to the same information at the same time."

The Army is required by statute to provide projections of all anticipated contracts of more than $100,000. An event such as the Advance Planning Briefing for Industry meets the statutory requirement for sharing information.

While individual commands have held their own APBI events in prior years, this is the first time the installation has hosted it as a multi-functional event with a dozen commands representing the post's main mission areas: Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR); Research Development, and Engineering; Testing and Evaluation; and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Explosive (CBRNE) as well as Army Contracting.

"It's clear we can't execute this mission without you," Dave Jimenez, director of the Army Evaluation Center, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, said to the audience. "You are integral to our being effective."

Jimenez added it was the commands' jobs to make sure the requirements leading to the procurements are clear, and contractors know what the Army is looking for. "Take advantage of the opportunity of being here and ask questions - join the team."

Bryon J. Young, executive director of the Army Contracting Command-APG, discussed changing business processes in the defense acquisition community by highlighting the Better Buying Power initiative from the Department of Defense, the continuing effort to deliver better value to the taxpayer and warfighter by improving the way the DoD does business. Young described the initiative as a "sea change to the way we have done business."

"For the last 10 years, we have focused on getting capability to the warfighter at any cost," he said. "That cost is now unsustainable."

The three-day event was also aimed at raising awareness of the value and need for small business participation in meeting the needs of the warfighter.

In fiscal 2012, the Army provided $3.2 billion in contracting opportunities to small businesses. The Small Business Program directors from the Headquarters, Army Materiel Command; the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense all participated in last week's forum to emphasize the Army's focus on contracting with small businesses, as did Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, Principal Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition Logistics and Technology). Phillips said, "The innovation that comes from small businesses is simply tremendous."

The theme of the APBI was "Teaming for Tomorrow." Phillips summarized the overall need for the APBI to the hundreds of industry attendees, whether small or large business, in a simple way. "We are here to help our soldiers and we can only do that by working with you," he said.

Ferrell, the ranking general at APG, also built on the teaming theme during his remarks. He said commands on APG have a great relationship with the communities and industries outside the installation's gate. "In fact, I tell them that it's just a gate. It's never going to become a barrier to our great relationship."

A number of local small businesses made the first of its kind event a huge success, according to Linda Edwards, who led the support from the post's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program.

Evans said the buses which transported the attendees from parking lots to the post theater, the fest tent in which food was served, the food caterer, the signs, the decorations and the porta-potties all came from local small business vendors.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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