Army Futures Command, the Army’s new center for testing and developing next-generation weapon systems, needs to better manage its small business outreach effort, according to a Government Accountability Office report published Wednesday.
Small business outreach has been at the core of Futures Command since it was launched in 2018. Its Austin, Texas, headquarter was selected to be close to science and technology innovators, and the command has conducted ample outreach to those organization. But according to GAO, Futures Command needs to coordinate with Army small business offices; track its small business engagement; and develop commandwide goals and a plan to use them to assess the effectiveness of its small business engagement.
“If the Command does not formalize coordination roles and responsibilities, it risks potentially duplicating small business-related work and creating overlap and fragmentation,” the report states.
Dollars flowing to small businesses through Army research and development contracts have been increasing over the past few years, according to data compiled in the report. That work is in part the result of institutional knowledge in the Army Office of Small Business Programs, an office not tapped by Futures Command. The lack of coordination with the office was a result of other priorities — like setting up the new command — taking precedent over coordination with offices with small business expertise.
The command is now actively working with the office to organize its small business outreach following the GAO recommendation. The command also established a director of operations to streamline command activities, but there is no permanent director in place yet.
The command has done considerable outreach through industry days and challenges but does not track participation or the outcome of its outreach. Without tracking its own data, improvement will be blunted, according to the report.
Not only does the command need to better track its data on its interactions with small businesses, but it should also place objectives to meet small business goals. Clearly defined performance measures could help maximize its small business outreach potential.
The Army agreed with the GAO’s assessment and recommendations and is working to implement them, the report states.