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Contracting expert transitions to small business

Robert Walter, 50th Space Wing small business specialist, takes notes Feb. 11, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Walter, a former contracting officer here, started his new positon Feb. 2, 2020. The small business specialist is the 50th Space Wing's catalyst to provide business counseling in support of securing contracts or other business relationships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Amanda Lovelace)

Robert Walter, 50th Space Wing small business specialist, takes notes Feb. 11, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Walter, a former contracting officer here, started his new positon Feb. 2, 2020. The small business specialist is the 50th Space Wing's catalyst to provide business counseling in support of securing contracts or other business relationships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Amanda Lovelace)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Robert Walter, formerly a 50th Contracting Squadron contracting officer here, began his new position as the small business specialist Feb. 2.

The small business specialist is the 50th Space Wing's catalyst for providing business counseling to small businesses to support securing contracts and business relationships.

“As a contracting officer, I worked directly with small businesses on a regular basis,” Walter said. “I enjoyed seeing those folks have the opportunity to be awarded contracts or take part in some of our acquisitions.”

Walter now reviews contracts prior to their signing for compliance with Department of Defense directives to ensure small businesses have fair opportunities to compete for wing and base requirements.

“Whatever our requirements are here at Schriever, I make sure there’s equality for different types of businesses,” he said. “Whether that’s service-disabled-veteran-owned small businesses or women-owned small businesses, we make sure those different socioeconomic categories are equally distributed.”

Every fiscal year, the Department of Defense sets goals for each agency to meet.

“Our goal is to award almost 76 percent of contracts to small businesses,” Walter said. “We’re probably closer to 70 percent already, so we’re going to achieve that goal. The other work is trying to achieve it in each small category (service-disabled-veteran-owned small businesses or women-owned small businesses). That gets a little tougher.”

The wing has no trouble meeting their goals when working with small businesses as a whole. However, challenges arise when it comes to women-owned businesses and service-disabled businesses due to the smaller market.

“A lot of the time, those small businesses are already disadvantaged in terms of competing for government contracts,” said 2nd Lt. Nicole Guzman, 50th CONS contract manager. “Sometimes they can’t provide the capability we need in the full terms of conditions of the requirement. The law requires us to use those small businesses, but at the same time, sometimes they aren’t able to give us what we’re asking for.”

When that’s the case, the 50th CONS can put in a Justification and Approval form, which explains why they weren’t selected.

With goals in mind, the contracting officers perform market research during the early stages of the acquisition period.

Walter then reviews market research to see if he’s met with vendors in the past, through outreach programs or interviews, to see if they’ve captured the right audience.

“I see a request come up and, we try to find a local company,” he said. “That brings money to that company, it employs those workers and boosts our economy here within the state and the nation. That’s the magic that happens when we’re able to do that.”

To provide outreach, Walter goes to the Colorado Technical University monthly and attends a Procurement Technical Assistance Center conference, which is an organization that assists small businesses, preparing them to do business with the state and federal government.

“We go down there and provide a briefing [about] the base, sharing our goals and any upcoming opportunities,” he said. “We show them what we currently have a need for, so if a vendor is there that we don’t know about, they can say, ‘Hey Robert, I’m interested in that, I think that’s something our company can do.’ That’s an avenue that gets them in the door.”

In conjunction with the contracting squadron, Walter also conducts industry days that host vendors at Schriever and show them some of the requirements the wing has, solicit their interest and possibly learn if they can identify a business to fill the gap.

“We also do one-on-one interviews here,” he said. “They contact me directly and we give them a half hour to provide an introduction on their company. We go through what they can do here, [and] if we have a need for it.”

Walter said the biggest take away is that they’re here to assist our military at all levels, and the local community.

“The greatest reward is our relationships with the local communities,” he said. “We also employ companies in the surrounding states and anywhere within the country. It helps to grow not only our local economy, but also the nation’s economy. Right now, small businesses make up roughly 48 percent of the [nation’s] work force. That’s why it’s important that we take notice of small business and provide them opportunities so the nation’s economy stays healthy.”

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