Hicks says DOD will take ‘meaningful action’ to remove barriers for small contractors

Deputy Secretary of Defense nominee Kathleen Hicks reacts to the start of her Senate confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C. Feb. 2, 2021. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

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The Department of Defense is working with the White House and other agencies including the Small Business Administration to create more opportunities for small businesses to join federal contracting vehicles, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said Wednesday.

Small companies still face major challenges when bidding on military technology contracts, but the DOD will do more to streamline the process, Hicks said during a speech at the 30th Annual Pennsylvania Showcase on Commerce.

“I realize that doing business with the DOD is not always easy. Because of our unique security requirements and procurement practices, we can be a challenging customer,” Hicks said. “But we are committed to examining the administrative barriers that small businesses face in working with us. And we will take meaningful action to remove barriers where we can.”

She argued that small businesses lead the nation in innovation “producing 16.5 times more patents than large patenting firms. They deliver rapid operational concepts, prototypes, and demonstrators that allow DOD to respond with agility and efficiency when needed.”

In her speech, the deputy secretary noted that the number of small businesses in the U.S. defense industrial base shrank by over 40% over the past decade and warned that if the trend continues, the country could lose an additional 15,000 suppliers over the next 10 years.

She also announced a new intiative published in the Federal Register through which DOD will seek input from industry to understand the barriers that small companies face.

Federal government regulations, including those relating to cybersecurity, can pose a greater challenge for smaller companies because of the financial resources and risk management expertise required to achieve certain levels of compliance.

Hicks’ comments come after the DOD in June said it would address concerns that the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a new contractor cybersecurity certification process, will impose additional costs on small businesses as part of an ongoing internal review.

In July, sources speaking to FedScoop described further changes to CMMC on the horizon and said they were likely to increase compliance costs.

The deputy secretary added that DOD has set up an innovation steering group focusing on the work of small contractors. DOD is also in the process of enhancing its network of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, she said.

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Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), Department of Defense (DOD), deputy secretary of defense, Kathleen hicks, Small Business Administration (SBA)
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