DISA encourages open dialogue with small business partners
By Jennifer Singleton
Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
August 3, 2022
The Defense Information Systems Agency is seeking feedback from its small business partners to learn the good, bad and ugly of their experiences during the solicitation and proposal process.
The Office of Small Business Programs piloted the first in a series of listening sessions in April 2022 to promote an open discussion of how DISA’s processes affect small business decision making and the quality of their proposal submissions. More than 10 small business representatives presented solutions and recommendations to senior leaders and representatives from Office of Small Business Programs, Procurement Services Directorate, and other DISA stakeholders.
“The idea for the listening session came about after we learned that multiple small businesses were hesitant to share unflattering feedback with DISA because they feared reprisal or being labeled a whiner,” said Carlen Capenos, Office of Small Business Programs director. “We wanted to create an open, positive dialogue and strengthen the relationships between DISA and our small business partners.”
DISA has two goals for the listening session series:
- Learn how the agency’s actions affect small business decision making and the quality of their proposal submissions.
- Allow small businesses to present solutions and recommendations.
More transparent contracting opportunities
Industry attendees asked that announced contracting opportunities provide actionable information and be easier to read and find on DISA.mil. Session participations also requested an easier way to contact project managers and for acquisition decisions to be announced publicly.
More visibility of contracting personnel
Small businesses shared the difficulty in reaching contracting personnel. Among the recommendations DISA received is to create a Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization organizational chart with contracting officer contact information to help small businesses better understand requirements in advance of solicitation.
“When industry has access to end-user customers and program personnel well in advance of their solicitation, typically between six to 18 months, industry sees substantial benefit,” said Capenos.
Clearer contract evaluation criteria
Does DISA always award to the lowest price or are there other more important criteria? Small business attendees stressed the need for more clarity about the evaluation process to avoid misinformation about what is and what is not needed to be awarded a DISA contract.
DISA is reviewing the recommendations provided by industry and is building more listening sessions surrounding those topics of importance to better create and sustain relationships with small businesses.
“We are scheduling more listening sessions to continue the conversation and to help equip small businesses with the information and guidance they need to submit successful proposals,” said Capenos.
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