Understanding the processes, procedures and proposals in U.S. military contracting.
by Bill Sismour
When Dorothy was told in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, “Follow the yellow brick road,” it helped her navigate an unfamiliar territory to see the Wizard and eventually return her home. Government contracting, at first glance, may appear as unfamiliar as the Land of Oz, but fortunately there is a “yellow brick road” to help vendors navigate the obstacles on their way to a government military contract.
For more than 50 years, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has been the nation’s combat logistics support agency. Whether called to engage in combat, perform peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance activities, the branches of the U.S. military (Services) rely on DLA for the support needed to achieve mission success.
DLA is comprised of six Major Subordinate Commands (MSC) managing nine supply chains that purchase commodities and services common to all military services and some federal civilian agencies. DLA has three major responsibilities:
- Buy or contract for goods and services
- Warehouse inventory when needed
- Distribute nearly 5 million distinct consumable, expendable and repairable items.
DLA relies on a robust, and in some areas increasingly fragile, domestic industrial base to meet these responsibilities. Contracting with the government is challenging, irrespective of the contracting agency; however, with some preparation and guidance, the road from novice to experienced government contractor can be less stressful.
DLA’s homepage (www.dla.mil) is the first “brick in the road” to working with DLA. To get familiarized with DLA, click the “New to DLA?” tile on the home page. It provides details on DLA’s mission, the MSCs, operating statistics, video presentations and DLA’s current priorities.
The “How to Do Business with DLA” tile links to the DLA Small Business Office (SBO) webpage (https://www.dla.mil/SmallBusiness/). The webpage has so much information on how to become a DLA contractor, and how to work with the agency, that exploring the site should be a priority. It is the source on how to become a government contractor, what steps are necessary to prepare your business to work with DLA, and where to search for DLA business opportunities, as well as DOD and federal government procurements.
DIBBS: the DLA portal
The DLA Internet Bid Board System (DIBBS) is the agency’s portal for all DLA contracting opportunities. The site provides the capability to search for, view and submit secure quotes for DLA items of supply for all Federal Supply Classes. The site also provides links to technical data for items DLA manages. DIBBS can be accessed through the SBO site or by visiting https://www.dibbs.bsm.dla.mil/.
Registration is not required to access the site but is required to bid on solicitations directly through DIBBS. Follow the instructions in the Vendor Registration area of the landing page. One important point to note is that vendors should create a user profile on DIBBS. All items a vendor provides can be listed on their profile. Whenever a solicitation is posted for any of the items listed in the profile, DIBBS will automatically notify the vendor via email.
Procurement subject matter experts
One of the most beneficial services the SBO provides to interested and new vendors is access to Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) advisors. PTAP was established to expand business participation in government contracting. It is administered by the DLA Small Business Program office in cooperation with states, local governments, and nonprofit organizations.
Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTACs) are organized under the PTAP and have physical offices located throughout the country and various territories. PTAC advisors are experienced contracting professionals who assist vendors with a myriad of procedures and processes from registration, identification of contract opportunities, helping to understand requirements, as well as preparing and submitting proposals. Furthermore, most PTAC assistance is provided free. For more information and to locate your nearest PTAC, visit www.aptac-us.org.
SAM: the main portal
The very first step to qualify to bid on government solicitations is to get registered. The System for Award Management (SAM; www.SAM.gov) is the official site and main portal for registering to do business with the federal government and for searching government opportunities, which includes the same DLA opportunities available on DIBBS. SAM combines eight federal procurement systems into one. On the “Contract Opportunities” (www.sam.gov/content/opportunities) page, vendors can search government-wide procurement notices of proposed contract actions expected to exceed $25,000.
Among the many useful resources and links found on this site is one of particular interest.
The Small Business Administration Subcontracting Network (SubNet) provides a platform for small businesses to register as an available subcontractor to work on government contracts. It facilitates matching large businesses with small businesses, and it is the centralized system for all federal government small business subcontracting opportunities. Small businesses utilize SubNet to identify federal government subcontracting opportunities. Subcontracting to a larger, seasoned contractor may be a good option to gain experience with government contracting.
In the Customer Service links at the bottom of most pages on this site is a link to the Federal Service Desk webpage. It provides “support for those who make, receive, and manage federal awards.” It is a comprehensive help catalog for everything in government contracting.
In the External Resources section is a link to Acquisition.gov, the definitive website for the federal acquisition regulations (FAR). The site provides a robust search engine to quickly find any FAR reference.
Joint Advanced Planning Brief to Industry
The Joint Advanced Planning Brief to Industry (JAPBI) event, hosted by the Clothing & Textiles (C&T) supply chain, has been held every fall since 2015. At this event, C&T and its military service partners jointly brief DLA industrial base partners on future requirements and business opportunities for clothing and individual equipment.
In addition to DLA Troop Support, there are briefings and presentations from each of the services’ program offices. The meeting provides DOD and industry partners with comprehensive strategic engagement, collaboration, and problem-solving opportunities. Attendees include the Service program managers, industry trade association representatives, end item manufacturers, component suppliers, contracting officers, buyers, quality management staff, customer representatives and industrial specialists.
Each Service presents to industry items in development or soon to be transitioned to DLA for sustainment. Breakout sessions hosted by C&T buying teams and the Services over the course of the event provide more detailed information on upcoming opportunities and forecasts and provide a venue for industry to ask questions. Vendors can learn more about the 2021 JAPBI by visiting C&T’s Industry Events page. Among the webpages and various resources discussed are the tools and references needed to locate and understand the processes, procedures, and proposals that will help to enable your success as a government contractor.
Bill Sismour is an industrial specialist with the DLA Clothing & Textiles supply chain. He can be reached at William.Sismour@dla.mil. He will be speaking at IFAI Expo 2021, which runs Nov. 1-3 in Nashville, Tenn. For more about Clothing and Textiles in general visit https://www.dla.mil/TroopSupport/ClothingandTextiles/CTIndustry/.