Navy Leaders Stress Innovation, Inclusion at Largest Navy-Supported Small Business Event

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Navy and industry leaders gathered at the 28th Annual Navy Gold Coast Small Business Procurement Event at the San Diego Convention Center Aug. 23-24.

More than 1,200 attendees took part in the forum designed to educate, guide and assist businesses — especially small businesses — in working with the Department of the Navy (DON) and the federal government. The event also included “matchmaking sessions,” which allowed members of small businesses to meet key decision-makers from large businesses and government.

“Conferences like Gold Coast are one way that we can get together and cultivate relationships with industry and the buying commands that have the need and demand for their supplies and services,” said Emily Harman, director, DON Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP).

Harman addressed the need to continue to change the culture in the Navy to understand the advantage of working with small business to inject agility and innovation into fleet capabilities. She specifically mentioned Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) OSBP for its initiative to assign a team member as a point of contact for each of the program offices and competencies within the command. The SPAWAR small business professionals worked closely with their designated program office to actively engage in program reviews and procurement planning strategy meetings.

“By creating small business advocates throughout the Navy, we are cultivating a community that is inclusive of small business in the acquisition process,” Harman said.

With this inclusiveness comes the opportunity for innovation, a top priority for Navy leadership.

As an extension from the Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus’ Task Force Innovation (TFI), the Navy is increasingly seeking innovative ideas from Navy personnel and from industry partners. With the TFI recommendations complete, there is opportunity for small businesses to be an integral part in ensuring the initiatives are fully sustained to support a culture of innovation within the Department of Defense.

In a panel moderated by SPAWAR Systems Center (SSC) Pacific Executive Director Carmela Keeney, government leaders addressed additive manufacturing — more generally known as 3-D printing — rapid prototyping, and experimentation and adaptive force packaging as innovative ways to redefine traditional uses of naval platforms and augment non-traditional capabilities for improved speed, agility and resilience.

“SSC Pacific is in the process of competing what’s called a virtual warehouse contract,” said Keeney. “This is actually third-party logistics; we’re taking what has been done in the logistics community and applying it to the development community. We will have this virtual warehouse of commonly needed parts — servers, switches, computers, devices — that we use frequently and we’re looking at availability within two weeks instead of 3-6 months.”

In addition to the tangible innovations, there is a need for innovation in cyber operations, which is now on par with the land, sea, air and space warfighting domains as a critical, contested battlespace. In all capacities, public, private, professional or personal, the procedures used with information systems contribute to the overall security of networks and information. In this realm, small business cybersecurity has become a top priority.

In a panel moderated by SPAWAR Executive Director Pat Sullivan, leaders discussed the intersection of government and industry data systems and the protection of government data when it resides with industry.

“This data is sensitive and must be protected at appropriate levels, whether it resides on government data systems or industry data systems,” said Sullivan. “We cannot have weak links in the chain of cybersecurity.”

With the complexities of achieving the appropriate security outlined in government-mandated requirements, smaller businesses without robust IT and security staffs particularly, could face challenges in achieving compliance.

To help clarify requirements for safeguarding this data, in June 2015 the National Institute of Standards and Technology released “Publication 800-171: Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations.”

“The government needs to find better ways to store processed data and that’s an industry opportunity,” said DON Chief of Information Rob Foster. “There are a lot of things going on with cloud services and how we can do that more efficiently, but we can never relinquish the rights, responsibilities and ownership of that data. So with that, whenever we push to the cloud or give the vendor government data, we have to have a certain level of assurance that there is protection.”

To see cyber innovation firsthand, Foster also spent time in San Diego with a number of San Diego cyber businesses to gauge how the Navy may be able to adapt some of their tools and best practices.

Gold Coast is hosted by the Navy’s OSBP and sponsored this year by the National Defense Industrial Association’s San Diego chapter.

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