It’s not just being close to Washington, D.C., and its plethora of lobbyists that might make the vice president of operations for AdvanTech Inc. of Annapolis, Md., believe in the power of numbers. And if there is power in numbers, there must be power in databases.
That explains, in part, why Robert Bona came to IFAI Expo as a presenter not to promote the work of his company, but rather to talk about the Military Uniform System Technology program of which he is a principal organizer with Maureen MacGillivray, an easily recognizable figure at IFAI expos and professor of apparel merchandising and design at Central Michigan University.
Sponsored by the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, the MUST program is an effort to create a commercial fabric and end product specification repository that government agencies can tap to find private companies that can fulfill their needs in helping the various branches of the U.S. military function safely, efficiently and comfortably with state-of-the-art uniforms and equipment.
As Bona stated in his Wednesday morning presentation, those working on the MUST program are “searching for improved ways to collaborate and communicate.” He elicited the support of IFAI members to register on the MUST database — or, if they already have registered, to update any information they think the government would be interested in buying.
Bona pointed to a report that said the current transition to a new camouflage pattern was estimated by the Government Accountability Office to cost $4 billion dollars, but that a consolidation of services could save about $82 million. The process for sending out notices of what the government seeks from the private sector can take up to six months. A commercial fabric and end product specification repository is a potential solution.
Bona emphasized two critical points to alleviate concerns among potential participants:
- Existing documents with technical/testing data can be uploaded without companies having to individually key in essential information. Testing facilities can upload results by individual lot numbers.
- The technical information is viewable only by the government agencies via password protection.
There is no cost to register, and those who do can see how many times a government agency has clicked to view their data and see what search terms are being entered (though they cannot see who is searching).
“Not everybody is involved in the military market, but everybody wants to be,” she said. “It seems there are only a few players. Why shouldn’t everybody be able to do business with the military? It’s a huge market. This is a great opportunity for IFAI members. It doesn’t cost you anything. We’re not asking you to do anything you do not already do — just to show the DLA we’ve got a huge industrial base here. And there’s an interest on their part to widen their base of sources.”
The database is in its early stages, and interactiveness may be built into it so that military divisions can be alerted to database updates. As MacGillivray explained, the project has already “morphed.” At first it was just for fabric; now it includes end product manufacturers and testing data.