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Navy's Top Acquisition Officials' Message to Small Business: Bring Your Ideas to Us

Opening-day remarks at the Navy Blue Coast Small Business Conference by two of the Navy’s top acquisition officials conveyed a clear message that the Department of the Navy values small businesses. John S. Thackrah, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, specifically asked for small business input and ideas in his kickoff address at this second annual Navy small business event. He encouraged small businesses to be persistent in their efforts to communicate their ideas to the Navy and remarked, “Small business is where all of our great innovation comes from.” Thackrah’s enthusiasm for the promise of the small business contribution in support of overall maritime strategy was evident throughout his remarks.

Rear Adm. Seán F. Crean, USN, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Acquisition and Logistics Management, in his address to the group after lunch, echoed Thackrah’s sentiments. Adm. Crean added that when it comes to small business, the Navy understands. “We know that 40 percent of our high-tech workers are employed in small businesses. We know that most of our innovation comes from small businesses.”

Both Thackrah and Adm. Crean have small business backgrounds, which helps explain their zeal. Thackrah was once a small business owner himself and understands first-hand what it means to manage a business. Adm. Crean is a Reserve component flag officer currently serving on active duty. In his civilian life, Adm. Crean works for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Government Contracting.

The Navy Blue Coast Conference focuses on outreach and education while offering plenty of time for developing business relationships through networking. Over the course of three days, nearly 200 participants attended this "conference within a conference" co-located with the AFCEA/USNI Joint Warfighting conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Plenary sessions and smaller break-out addresses on an assortment of related topics were designed to assist small businesses in working with the federal government on the East Coast. Offerings were included for all experience levels—from novice to seasoned business owner.

The inclusive format allowed participants the opportunity to maximize their time by attending small business training sessions and participating in a larger conference and exhibition as well. Blue Coast attendees took part in luncheons and keynote addresses with Joint Warfighting conference attendees. They heard from key government leaders and mingled with all levels of industry. The conference culminated in a roundtable matchmaking event that offered small business owners the opportunity to discuss their capabilities with representatives from both government organizations and large prime contractors.

The Department of the Navy recognizes the critical role of small businesses in supporting their objective of "Building the Navy–Marine Corps Force for Tomorrow." Outreach efforts of this nature are particularly important for small businesses seeking to work with the Navy because of the service’s decentralized procurement structure. Each of the department's 11 major contracting commands is responsible for acquiring goods and services to fulfill its mission to support the Department of the Navy at sea, in the air and on land.

The Department of the Navy purchased approximately $78 billion in goods and services during fiscal year 2007. Each contracting command has an associate director for small business programs who serves as the focal point for small business procurement opportunities and is available to assist small businesses.

Podcasts of both Thackrah’s and Adm. Crean’s comments as well as the content from other conference speakers are available on the AFCEA Small Business Web site. For more information on the Navy Blue Coast Conference or AFCEA Small Business Programs, e-mail Tammy Goehring or call (703) 631-6119.