Michigan small businesses may get boost from Department of Defense

Posted on March 28, 2011

The Department of Defense wants to increase spending with small businesses and is boosting requirements in contracts to get there, federal officials told nearly 600 people gathered here Friday for a procurement summit.

Each year, the Department of Defense spends $150 billion to $200 billion on goods and services with small businesses, Ashton B. Carter, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said during a break at the Detroit Small Business Defense Procurement Summit.

The event at Cobo Center was the first of several national summits planned to reach small businesses interested in doing business with the government.

The Defense Department wants to boost its small business spending this year from 21.9 percent to 23 percent, which means another $4 billion for small businesses, said Michael Blake, associate director for the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Carter said the federal government sees increasing small business opportunities in areas such as professional services.

“We’ve got hundreds of companies in Michigan that do defense work,” said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.. “We want to continue to increase that number and make sure they know about opportunities in the defense area. It’s a growing part of Michigan’s economy.”

The event was part of the Pentagon’s Better Buying Power initiative that aims to save taxpayer dollars at a time when Obama administration officials and Congress are scrutinizing the defense budget.

The government, for example, now will reward prime contractors who engage small businesses — including considering that practice in awarding a job and in how much they will get paid for a job, Carter said.

“Small business is a necessary ingredient of getting a better deal for the defense dollar for two reasons,” Carter said. “One is you tap into the talent and energy and vitality of small business. We need that in the defense industry to renew the defense industry, make it fresher and make it more up to date. And secondly, you get more competition from small businesses.”

The meeting was held in Detroit partly because of the area’s ties to the defense industry, including the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command and its research arm TARDEC (Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center) being housed nearby in Macomb County.

By Melissa Burden, Detroit News