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Small Business Training Week 2023 (SBTW23) held June 20-23, 2023, in Baltimore, Md. is the annual premier training event sponsored by the Department of Defense Office of Small Business Programs for members of the Department’s acquisition workforce. Over 700 attendees representing 72 agencies and hailing from 45 states, participated in skill-building workshops about enhanced acquisition strategies, legislative and regulatory updates, and how to rebuild the defense industrial base utilizing critical HUBZone, Small Disadvantaged Businesses, Women-Owned Small Businesses, and more.
Over 30 speakers lent their expertise including leaders from DoD, The White House, U.S. Small Business Administration, General Services Administration, Minority Business Development Agency, and others.
The Color Guard from Joint Base Andrews 316th Force Support Squadron launched the event, followed by a welcome message from the Lt. Governor of Maryland, Aruna Miller. The Lt. Governor talked to attendees about Maryland’s commitment to increase government partnerships and ensuring that those partnerships are equitable and representative of entrepreneurs across all backgrounds.
The training event also featured keynote remarks from leading authorities on bringing equity to the center of all decisions, engaging underrepresented communities, and being community connectors:
On the final day, Torres rolled the messages from all three keynotes into a single call-to-action for attendees, “I want to encourage you to continue to be our community connectors. You have vital experience about what’s needed on the ground as small business professionals. Let’s keep up this good work and keep doing it for the people who need it the most.”
Mr. Farooq Mitha, Director, DoD Office of Small Business Programs briefed attendees on DoD small business strategy and objectives at the first general training session. "I'm excited about the partnerships here to meet our small business objectives," Mitha said in his opening remarks.
There are three basic objectives of our small business strategy, Mitha explained:
1) Create more opportunities.
2) Align small business with defense and national security mission objectives.
3) Provide more resources to small businesses.
Mitha also described the progress being made, including making permanent the Mentor-Protégé Program, after a successful run since 1990 as a pilot. He also highlighted the "96 APEX Accelerators that are serving as the front doors to industry" and last year's successful move and re-brand of these former Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to DoD OSBP. Mitha also updated the community on the status of the Market Research Center of Excellence and said tools will be rolling out to the acquisition community this fiscal year to support a streamlined process from requirements inception, supplier identification, to market research report creation.
Another popular general session every year is the Small Business Directors' Town Hall -- a rare time when leaders from the DoD OSBP, Services, Defense Agencies, and SBA all gather on the same stage. This year representing the Defense agencies was the Defense Reduction Threat Agency (DTRA). Collectively, these directors oversee 750+ small business professionals providing outreach and guidance to the Defense Industrial Base consisting of almost 35,000 small businesses out of a contractor pool of over 47,000 firms that procure about $300 billion annually from DoD. As part of DoD’s efforts to strengthen support of small businesses, the small business directors shared mission specific requirements opportunities that support: Build A Better America. Help Improve Supply Chains, Increase Competition, and Create Economic Opportunity.
With over 30 total general and breakout sessions, the training agenda covered topics ranging from specific programs to hot topics such as facility clearances, small business risk, subcontracting plans, and intellectual property. Session topics were carefully curated by the SBTW23 steering committee from acquisition community input and previous SBTW surveys.
Bianca Henderson, Director for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Office of Small Business Programs, attended SBTW23 with members of her team including their assistant director who is based in Guam. “We have not been together in person since 2019 and this training is important to learn the nuances of small business programs and engagement. This year I was especially looking forward to the legislative update and learning more about the change from PTACs to APEX Accelerators.”
The slide decks and training materials presented at SBTW23 cleared for public release are available on the website next to each training session.
Pictured at right: Colleagues from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Office of Small Business Programs swap stories and tip during a break. From left, Andrew Tiedeman, Program Analyst; Bianca Henderson, Director; and Norma Borja, Assistant Deputy Director.
On the second day, winners of the 8th annual Vanguard Awards were honored. Each year, this program honors the exemplary contributions of Defense acquisition individuals, teams, and a component organization that influence small business participation in Defense acquisitions and make significant contributions toward assuring the preparedness of warfighters and the Department of Defense.
The 2023 Vanguard Award recipients, for performance during the period of October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022, are: