For the Veteran

Various information for Veterans different government programs available to assist Veterans in starting a business. Veterans benefits programs. This is not a political blog but we will speak our minds about current treatment of Veterans returning from the Gulf.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Important information for Service-Disabled Veterans Who Own Small Businesses

Volume 64 No. 6
November - December 2005

How We're Reaching Out To Service-Disabled Veterans Who Own Small Businesses

Next Stop: Hitting At Least Three Percent

by Ron Hall, Office of Communications

About six months ago USDA formally launched an initiative to increase the number of contracts the Department awards to service-disabled veterans who own small businesses. So, how is that initiative going thus far?

"We haven't met our goal yet--but things are looking better for Fiscal Year 2006," affirmed Barbara LaCour, associate director for small business development in the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

As background, the Department issued Secretary's Memorandum 5090-001, dated July 12, 2005 and titled "USDA Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Strategic Initiative." It is an approach to assist disabled veterans--whose disabilities were incurred in the line of duty in the active service of the U.S. Armed Forces--who own small businesses. As stated in the memorandum, the specific intent is to "expand their ability to grow their enterprises utilizing Federal contracting opportunities."

The Secretary's Memorandum was an outgrowth of Executive Order 13360, dated Oct. 20, 2004, and titled "Service-Disabled Veterans."

"Our intent," advised OSDBU program analyst Stella Hughes, "is to increase the number of prime contracts and subcontracts that we at USDA award to service-disabled veterans who own small businesses."

"Specifically," added Joe Ware, deputy director of OSDBU, "our game plan is to make sure that three percent or more of the contracts, that USDA awards, go to small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. That's not just a goal--it's a federal requirement."

According to OSDBU program analyst Linda Epstein, there are currently an estimated two million service-disabled veterans in the U.S. and about 310,000 small businesses owned by them.

Ware pointed out that the Department has undertaken a number of steps in support of this initiative. First, specialists from OSDBU have conducted briefings for USDA agency heads, senior officials, the head contracting officers and the small business coordinators for USDA's 12 contracting agencies, agency-level chief information officers, and agency-level deputy administrators for management on their roles, responsibilities, and suggested "best practices" with regard to this initiative.

Second, USDA has increased the number of information technology-oriented contracts that it is setting aside for small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. According to Greg Parham, associate chief information officer for information resources management in the Office of the Chief Information Officer who is coordinating this particular item, the shared annual goal of USDA's program agencies and staff offices is five percent overall--for information technology-oriented contracts.

"Here's an example of a recent information technology-based service contract that is part of this initiative," noted Lynn Allen, associate chief information officer for cyber security. "OCIO recently contracted with a company headquartered in Dallas which qualifies under this initiative. That company is currently providing an independent assessment of USDA-wide cyber security programs."

Third, the Office of Procurement and Property Management developed three Blanket Purchase Agreements to be applied to this initiative. "The purpose of developing three Blanket Purchase Agreements," explained Janice Brown, a contracting officer in OPPM's Procurement Operations Division who developed the Blanket Purchase Agreements, "is to allow any procurement office within USDA--that has the authority to make purchases of over $2,500--to apply this BPA authority to companies which qualify under this initiative." She also noted that BPAs can be used--by appropriate personnel in USDA program agencies and staff offices--to make purchases of up to $2,500 also, as part of this initiative.

Brown advised that the purchases in question, using BPAs, refer to IT hardware and peripherals. "An example of a Blanket Purchase Agreement that is part of this initiative," she said, "is that this past September OPPM contracted with a computer supply firm based in Springfield, Virginia to provide 40 desktop computers for USDA employees located in Beltsville, Maryland."

Fourth, purchases under this initiative have increased for non-information technology-related procurements. According to OSDBU program analyst Roxanne Lane, during FY 2005 USDA program agencies and staff offices awarded contracts under this initiative for program support, program management, and staffing services. "For example," she noted, "this past fall the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration contracted with a company, under this initiative, to provide satellite phones for USDA employees working in Montgomery, Alabama, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

Fifth, during FY 2005 purchases under this initiative increased for such activities as agricultural and forestry services, construction, manufacturing, real estate appraisal and inspection services, surveying and mapping, facilities support, and grounds maintenance. According to Lane, examples of those purchases, using companies qualifying under this initiative, included the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service contracting for helicopter rentals in Albuquerque; APHIS contracting for aviation fuel in Fabens, Texas; the Agricultural Marketing Service contracting for fresh fruit, for use in school lunch programs nationwide, from a company in Wapato, Wash.; the Agricultural Research Service contracting for grounds maintenance services in Weslaco, Texas; the Rural Housing Service contracting for housing appraisal services in various locations in Louisiana; and the Forest Service contracting for temporary personnel staffing services in Madison, Wis., and contracting nationwide for such forestry support activities as brush clearing, planting, and roadside mowing and maintenance.

Sixth, OSDBU staffers meet frequently with owners of small businesses who are service-disabled veterans. "We familiarize them with how to most effectively market their products and services to USDA program agencies and staff offices," noted Hughes.

So, what were the net results of those actions at USDA in support of procuring goods and services from small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans?

"To meet the three percent goal, USDA requires contracting actions of around $120 million annually," LaCour advised. "USDA did not achieve the three percent overall goal or the five percent goal for information technology purchases for FY 2005. Our current overall figure is 0.55 percent, as of November 2005."

"However, we've made progress here in the Department, we've established a foundation for FY 2006, and--based on the cooperation we've seen from USDA program agencies and staff offices--I believe we're well-positioned to achieve the three percent goal during this fiscal year."

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