Major Takeaways from AFCEA “Securing the Homeland” Conference
By Rasheeda Berry and Nyleena Roberts
Oasys proudly supported the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA) “Securing the Homeland” Conference in Washington DC on April 22nd to the 24th. The conference brought together hundreds of technology and cybersecurity professionals for three days of panels, networking sessions, and presentations. A highlight event was the Small Business Matchmaking session that connected small businesses with larger companies to foster potential business partnerships in the federal contracting space. Adjoining panels allowed small businesses to engage with leaders across several federal agencies. Topics included Category Management, improving the federal acquisitions process, and general support for small businesses in the federal contracting space.
Category Management is a new method for acquiring goods and services used by the Federal Government. The goal is to acquire better goods and services in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Typically, the government purchases goods and services office-by-office but housed in separate agencies. Category Management will allow the government to combine the purchases of many offices into fewer, larger procurement actions. Using this approach, the government seeks to reduce the duplication of effort in the acquisition process and optimize delivery from its acquisition programs.
During the panel Q&As sessions, audience members seemed to have interest in how up-and-coming technologies are perceived by government acquisition personnel – particularly – the risks associated with leveraging these technologies to meet agency goals. Panelists emphasized that securing cyber systems and modernizing the federal acquiring process were necessary for technical innovation. When asked, “How can agencies find small businesses that can solve unique tech challenges?” One panelist suggested, “looser requirements on Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for greater ROI.”
Changes, such as adjusting the RFP process, can cause resistance to cultural change. Advocates must demonstrate how to save time and money using a simplified process. Mark Borkowski, Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Acquisition, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol testified in front of Congress to advocate for these procedural changes, citing the time and money saved using SBIRNet.
Attending the AFCEA conference was extremely beneficial to us. As individuals working in the federal contracting space, we found the conference to be insightful in providing us perspectives on federal initiatives. As a small business, we recommend attending the AFCEA conference to increase the visibility of an organization, network with other industry professionals, and get the latest industry updates. Overall, we enjoyed learning, networking, look forward to attending future AFCEA events!
Rasheeda Berry is a Business Analyst on the Oasys DHS S&T Project
Nyleena Roberts is an Engineer on the Oasys VA Project