Working With the Three-Letter Agencies

June 17, 2009
By Henry Kenyon

Representatives from the DIA, NGA and NSA shared their insights about how to get a foot in the door at intelligence community agencies during the second panel presentation at the AFCEA Small Business Intelligence Forum this morning in Fairfax, Virginia. All agreed that it requires more than the standard marketing approach but emphasized that it is worth the investment in time and talent.

Pam Porter of the National Security Agency's small business office noted that her organization does not participate in Federal Business Opportunity, or FedBizOpps, one of the standard sources of new contracts announcements. She emphasized that instead, businesses should be sure to register with the Acquisition Resource Center (ARC) and the Central Contractor Registration.

Porter pointed out that the ARC is not a contracting center but rather a market research arm of the NSA. She stressed that it is, however, the first place agency members will turn to when they have identified specific requirements. In addition, ARC registrants are invited to specific conferences.

Approximately twice a month, the NSA holds briefings for companies that seek to do business with the agency. To find out more and register for these events, companies should go to At these and other industry events as well as through joining trade associations, small business owners should invest their time networking with both corporate and government officials as a means to establish future business relationships, Porter said. The agency also offers one-on-one counseling to companies, but once again they must be ARC registered. To arrange a meeting, companies can e-mail

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) works with small businesses in two primary ways, Sandra Broadnax, small business executive, NGA, explained. First, it features an Industry Interaction Panel, which reviews white papers, briefings and unsolicited proposals from industry. The panel meets monthly to review all the material received during the previous 30 days. Those who submit items will receive an acceptance or rejection notification from the panel. When the panel accepts a concept or capability, it is forwarded to the NGA's technical staff for further investigation.

The second way the NGA works with small businesses is through its small business vendor list. This approach is followed for every item or service the NGA acquires, Broadnax noted. For information about being placed on the list, vendors should send an e-mail to Broadnax emphasized that the list is purged annually, so companies must be sure to re-register each year.

Sherry Baldwin, small business executive with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), admitted that working with the DIA means that corporate personnel must have security clearances. Acknowledging that this is a chicken-and-egg problem-a company cannot get a contract without cleared personnel but personnel cannot be cleared without a contract to work on-Baldwin recommended that small companies start by working on classified contracts with larger firms.

The DIA also uses the ARC list to locate vendors with which to work. In addition, the agency also seeks sources through FedBizOpps, proving that the rumor that by the time a business opportunity appears there, it is already too late to submit a proposal, Baldwin stated. At times, the DIA does not need a formal proposal but rather a simple two- to three-page capabilities statement explaining in detail the company's strengths and experience, she added.

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