The United States Air Force is implementing a new program designed to promote procurement of goods and services from the small business community.
Air Force Magazine reported this week that the Air Force is introducing its BlueSHIFT initiative, which allows small business vendors to submit shortened pitches for their goods or services along with a 15-minute pitch. Reports said the effort aims to fast-track the procurement process, as it can often take months for vendors to submit their proposals and negotiate contracts.
Reports also noted that the project is designed to facilitate the Air Force’s procurement of IT, noting that the months-long procurement process often means procured IT is outdated by the time it is actually implemented. Patrick Higby, DevOps director and USAF lethality in the office of the assistant secretary for the acquisition, spoke about the initiative during the USAF’s Air Force IT Day held earlier this week.
Higby described the Air Force’s IT procurement processes as a “roller coaster” problem, likening the traditional procurement process with larger corporates to a “You must be this big to ride” sign at an amusement park.
BlueSHIFT, he said, will help small businesses and startups participate in the procurement process to secure key contracts, even without the experience and resources that larger vendors often have to navigate the complexities of government procurement.
Small businesses currently see the Air Force “as this huge, complex bureaucracy,” Higby told the publication following his speech. “The Air Force has done outreach to small business before,” he said, adding that the Air Force wants small businesses to be “working on our really big problems.”
The initiative will launch with a two-day event in New York in March, during which startups and small businesses can submit their pitches and proposals.
“After that presentation, if we like what we hear, we’ll swipe the [government purchase] card and ‘Congratulations! You are partnered with the U.S. Air Force,'” Higby explained. Previous reports said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson noted that the Air Force plans to spend $40 million during the event.