Can your credibility be used as a resource?
It can be easy to forget the impact of the unique knowledge you have about your product. Depending on your specific position in the supply chain, you may feel far removed from the prime contractor and federal customer. Ironically, your detailed understanding of your own supply chain, capabilities, and contributions is often not well understood by the prime or the ultimate customer.
The US defense industrial base (DIB) has been contracting for over two decades. Coupled with recent concerns about supply chain integrity and diversification, competition remains a concern for the defense acquisition community. Unfortunately, decisions are sometimes made based on incomplete information or a simple lack of understanding about supply chain dynamics and the impact on competitiveness.The US defense industrial base (DIB) has been contracting for over two decades. Coupled with recent concerns about supply chain integrity and diversification, competition remains a concern for the defense acquisition community. Click To Tweet
Recommendations to assure competition
A 2022 report from OSD found here, makes five recommendations to assure competition within the DIB. The report identifies categories of effort intended to improve competition within the DIB:
- Strengthening Merger Oversight
- Addressing Intellectual Property Limitations
- Increasing New Entrants
- Increasing Opportunities for Small Businesses
- Implementing Sector-specific Supply Chain Resiliency Plans
The concerns about competition within the DIB identified in the report are presented at the macro-level and suggest problems are best dealt with through legislation and thoughtful policy. Most would not argue with the findings and recommendations of the OSD report.
However, such high-level dialog skims over the value of the information that can only come from subcontractors. The result can be the perpetual feeling that not only are the subs not heard but that there isn’t really a good and clear way to communicate “up the chain.”
That’s actually a blessing. Because it means you can err on the side of an act of commission—speaking up and asking forgiveness later. If you have credible information that you can see is not understood by key decision-makers, there is an obligation to show up, stand up, and speak up.
I support multiple clients who fit the role of a sub-contractor that do not believe they have the freedom to speak the truth to the federal customer directly. In most cases, there are legitimate workarounds that won’t violate the prime’s policy or offend someone’s perceived personal relationship with a customer.
Ways to harness your unique knowledge
- Third-party advocacy through common relationships
- Participating in forums, both online and live
- Forwarding unsolicited status reports
- Communicating an issue as a national security vice program concern
Harness your unique knowledge of your piece of the industry for the competitive advantage it provides you. When federal customers and primes come to recognize your uncommon knowledge and understanding, you’ll find the roles reversed, and they will each reach out to you as a resource. You can decide whether or not to take their calls, but it’s good business to shine a light on your unique value either way.