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Tips for Doing Business with DHS

DHS values its industry partners and strives to help them succeed.
By Beverly Mowery Cooper
At the Homeland Security Conference, panelists discuss how small companies can do business with DHS.

At the Homeland Security Conference, panelists discuss how small companies can do business with DHS.

By taking advantage of some tips and recognizing trends, small business can be more successful in contracting with DHS. A panel of procurement and acquisition professionals shared their advice to companies at AFCEA’s Homeland Security Conference.

All DHS components do a forecast update for procurement for the year in the acquisition planning forecast system (APFS), and the Coast Guard takes the APFS seriously, stated Michael Derrios, senior procurement executive and head of contracting activity, U.S Coast Guard.

The information that companies can find in the APFS enables them to do teaming upfront and to target opportunities early. “Use it to get into agencies if you can and talk about opportunities. Industry needs to pay close attention here because DHS is paying attention,” he advises.  

Derrios also suggested attending free DHS outreach sessions. “This gives you an opportunity to interface with government folks."

Responding to requests for information (RFI) is strongly encouraged. “When we put out an RFI, it is real deal market research,” he stressed. By staking your claim early showing that you are interested and can deliver,  it really helps DHS, he said. 

Bill Weinberg, director office of acquisition management, U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement, agreed with Derrios. The first thing to do is respond. “When we issue an RFI, we are looking for responses, and then we genuinely work with requirements people to use that input to form the requirements," he said.

He also encouraged businesses to ask questions. Questions help, and those questions identify gaps that will show up in performance down the road.

Both large and small companies should not be afraid to partner and subcontract. Experience that can go into work going forward is better than not having the experience. Consider every opportunity to get experience as the department considers experience and past performance in criteria, Weinberg said.

Contracting is in now, proclaimed Diane Sahakian, deputy assistant commissioner, Office of Acquisition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Even the commissioner is talking about RFIs. “The trend is transparency with industry. That is why we are doing so many RFIs," she said. "Keep an eye on the RFIs because they tell you the direction the agency is looking to go."