WASHINGTON ― The Biden administration’s subsequent price range request must revive a particular fund to assist small companies with revolutionary concepts work with the Pentagon, a prime division official stated Tuesday.

The push to carry again the Fast Innovation Fund, which Congress hasn’t financed since 2019, was one among a number of current strikes geared toward reducing obstacles for small companies detailed by the director of the Pentagon’s Workplace of Small Enterprise Packages, Farooq Mitha.

At a digital occasion hosted by the Nationwide Protection Industrial Affiliation, Mitha stated he’s spearheading efforts to consolidate administration of the Pentagon’s many small-business packages, which might confound enterprise house owners with their completely different working types, funding streams and factors of contact.

“One of many first issues that I noticed once I got here into this job was that our small enterprise packages and actions have been dispersed all throughout the division,” Mitha stated. “I saved listening to suggestions … about the way it’s laborious to determine who’s chargeable for what … so we actually took that to coronary heart.”

The Pentagon launched its long-awaited Small Enterprise Technique final month, touting it as a method to create extra alternatives for small companies, in addition to enhance protection provide chains, market competitors, the nationwide economic system and the navy’s benefits.

The variety of small enterprise collaborating within the American defense-industrial base declined by greater than 40% previously decade. As of 2021, small companies made up 73% of all corporations that did enterprise with the Protection Division, and 77% of the analysis and growth corporations that did so, in line with the division’s information.

Small companies extra broadly are going through a mixture of outdated and new challenges in 2023, together with inflation, hiring and retention challenges, coupled with fears that the economic system is heading right into a recession. Protection commerce teams say the Pentagon’s dense laws can discourage small companies from working with the navy.

As a part of the Small Enterprise Technique’s unified administration construction of small enterprise packages and actions, Mitha’s workplace in October took over the 96 authorities contracting assist facilities from the Protection Logistics Company. Their names modified from Procurement Technical Help Facilities to Apex Accelerators.

Mitha envisions the Apex Accelerators to be “the entrance door to trade” ― an entry level for support just like the Pentagon’s Mentor-Protégé program, which pairs established protection corporations with small companies; Small Enterprise Innovation Analysis grants, supposed to assist corporations and analysis establishments develop promising applied sciences; and the Fast Innovation Fund.

The Fast Innovation Fund, which obtained greater than $2 billion over its nine-year life span, was meant to offer seed funding for promising applied sciences at smaller corporations. However amid criticism that it was a type of congressional earmarks, this system has gone unfunded.

Mitha stated Congress established the fund to assist bridge the so-called valley of dying, which refers to how pink tape retains protection applied sciences from transitioning from prototypes into precise merchandise for the navy. This system was not too long ago moved from the Workplace of the Below Secretary for Analysis and Engineering into the Workplace of Small Enterprise Packages, which can be “planning for it,” he stated.

“If we don’t have these packages on secure footing by way of authorization and funding, we’re not sending the fitting sign to trade to take part and we’re not giving trade the fitting avenues to which by which they will take part,” Mitha added.

Amongst different consolidation challenges, the Pentagon acquisition workforce’s 750 small enterprise specialists don’t have standardized coaching, and the Pentagon lacks a single internet portal for small companies. Mitha stated he’s working to repair each.

There’s been some consolidation of the Pentagon’s internet presence for small companies, however Mitha stated the aim is a contemporary portal that simply directs small companies to potential prospects and different sources. “So we’re trying to roll that out as nicely later this yr,” he defined.

Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Protection Information, protecting the intersection of nationwide safety coverage, politics and the protection trade. He served beforehand as Congress reporter.