SBIR Insider Newsletter
May 20, 2015

Dear SBIR Insider,

I'm never happy when we have to "take on" one of our SBIR agencies for what could be viewed as a deceitful practice to cover up their pitiful support of the SBIR/STTR programs. However, such appears to be the case as we look into the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) as to their seriously degraded support for small businesses as well as underserving the DoD agency components trying to support the SBIR/STTR programs.

One the other hand we have positive news as many of you are looking forward to the HHS/NIH release of their Omnibus SBIR/STTR solicitation which will hit the streets in early June, and we look forward to the National SBIR/STTR meeting coming up June 15-17 in DC.  

DoD's Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) Once Again Seriously Interrupts and Degrades the SBIR and STTR Programs

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) acts as an umbrella for the overall DoD SBIR program. The services i.e., Army Navy Air Force, as well as the smaller components sit under that umbrella.

That umbrella has developed many holes (apparently due to OSBP upper level mismanagement), and the components are getting rained on. The "umbrella" believes they have all the answers, and have suggested in the past that to fix this, they may have to take over the financial management of the DoD SBIR components. That's been going over like a lead balloon, but remember the OSD OSBP "generally" has a higher persona on the Hill than do the components.

Many of the umbrella leaks are self inflicted on the part of the OSBP. For example, on January 31, 2015 near the end of the submission cycle for the DoD 15.1 solicitation, the DoD SBIR/STTR support and submission web site was taken down (as called for at the end of the previous contractor's contract). OSBP did nothing about this at the time and their lack of action disallowed many small businesses from submitting their timely proposals. It wasn't until February 5 that the site was turned back on (due to an immense amount of heat that OSBP received from the Hill). To cover their error, the OSBP blamed their former contractor and then extended the receipt date for small businesses when the site was turned back on.

This happened because there was no transition plan for changing contractors, and the OSBP didn't understand (nor initially care) about the problem until it drew congressional heat! Shortly after that episode you would have thought the OSBP would put together a new transition plan because the new DoD SBIR 15.2 solicitation would hit the streets in several weeks. Instead OSBP and their contracts shop drew a hard line in the sand and said April 17 all old systems go off and all new takes over. Again, there was no reasonable transition plan to insure the systems would meet the needs to serve the programs. Not surprisingly, it didn't (in spite of the optimistic schedules the OSBP handed out to their components.

Here's an analogy. In the House of Representatives where votes on bills are taken regularly from their 435 representatives, an electronic voting system was put into place many years ago. Now let's say a new voting system had to be devised to replace the old one (actually has happened). If there was no transition plan (similar to our OSBP model in real life), and the representatives were promised a great new system, but discovered they would need to go back to pencil and paper ballots for a few months, you would see an uprising that would certainly result in "heads rolling".

That's not so far fetched. Since the OSBP collects the SBIR proposals (for all DoD SBIR), under the old system those submissions were transferred electronically in a timely manner through a secure system to each of the components (as they came in). That system has now been shut down in favor of the new system. However, OSBP has been unable to get their new system working, so the Phase II proposals coming in are being delivered in an untimely manner to the DoD components via CD or DVD disc! This has severely slowed down the evaluation process and will likely result in the components having to file with SBA for a waiver because they can't meet the time cycle that congress imposed for making timely awards.

Considering that this phase II problem is happening with a relatively low volume of submissions, what's likely to happen when the 15.2 SBIR phase I closes producing a great volume of submissions? Can we trust OSBP to deliver? On the basis of what we are seeing on their current web site, I'd say it's a long shot, unless one of the top management people crack the whip and put those financial resources they have, back on the SBIR program. See the next article about the DoD web site for some examples.

Note: There have been periods of time when the OSBP has been very valuable to the SBIR/STTR programs. However, as leadership changed, so did their value.  

DoD's New SBIR Web Site" Inept, Confusing & Disingenuous

Note: There is an SBIR Insider Video demonstrating the DoD SBIR Web Site Flaws outlined below. You need to view it to believe it! It's at https://youtu.be/7ek2nDuIM8E

If you read the previous article on the DOD OSBP, you should understand that the web site problems highlighted are directly related to the environment described in the above article on the DoD OSBP. Most of this debacle is due to the fact that there was no transition plan from old to new, and the new contractors were expected to design and implement a new web site in an unreasonably short period of time.

The net result (pardon the pun) is a web site that at the time of this writing (May 20, 2015) is an unacceptable total downgrade from the old site, while promising "Better Tools, Additional Resources and Increased Functionality."

What makes this worse is that the site is deceptive in touting features it doesn't have, while putting you in a page that disguises itself as the all important Topic Search when there is no search engine!. This is a deliberate sham on the part of the OSBP. Why aren't they honest and simply say "Topic Search Coming Soon".

Perhaps it would be embarrassing for DoD to admit they don't have a search because several outside entities created their own DoD Topic Search due to DoD's inability to do their own.

Recommended DoD Topic Search sites include:

Navy SBIR DoD Topic Search: www.navysbir.com/dodtopicsearch.htm

SBA's SBIR.GOV

SBIRSource: sbirsource.com

SBIR Gateway: www.zyn.com/sbir

The DoD's previous Topic Search engine and many other functions that have been in place for years, have played vital roles for small businesses to participate in the DoD SBIR program. Why have these been removed or become non-functional on the new site? Unfortunately the DoD SBIR web site has been flawed and disingenuous since it opened for the 15.2 pre-release August 24. As of today (May 20, 2015) we've seen no signs of attempted improvement. That's almost a full month!

This is especially outrageous because the small businesses only have 30 days (April 24 - May 25) to find topics within their sphere of expertise, and contact the TPOC or topic author to better understand the need, and to fine tune a proposal that will yield better results and better value to the small business and the government.

It also appears that the SITIS system is not functioning nor is the selections/awards database and we hear that calls to the DoD help desk are not being answered in a timely manner, if at all. Also all historical SITIS and topic data are gone. This is very important because many DoD topics are recycled and history files gives us a chance to see what others did, and how we may be able to improve on it.

As stated above, because some of this is hard to believe, we have created a video demonstrating the problem. This video was shot May 19, 2015, and is current through the writing of this issue on May 20, 2015. See https://youtu.be/7ek2nDuIM8E  

Latest from the Hill

The House passed The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 (H.R.1735) on May 15, 2015. None of the topics specific to SBIR that were addressed in Congressman Mac Thornberry's (R-TX) Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act (H. R. 1597 discussion bill) were included in the NDAA bill. There was simply not enough time.

The Senate Armed Services Committee completed the full mark up of their version of the NDAA, which they hope will go to the Senate floor in June. Their last session on the bill was in closed session, and their version of the NDAA has yet to be made public. One unusual situation is that the committee's ranking member, Jack Reed (D-RI) voted against the bill. We are used to seeing a high level of bipartisan support on that committee.

The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806) was passed by the full House today. There were 45 amendments offered in the Rules Committee, who accepted 12 of them. Once again our "friends" Chris Collins (R-NY) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) offered their version of the "Transfer Act" this time under the name of "Innovative Approaches To Technology Transfer". As usual, this act removes some funding from the STTR program to give to universities for tech transfer. Fortunately that amendment was once again turned down in the Rules Committee.

There is some mention of SBIR in section 124 "National Engineering Biology Research And Development Program." Basically it involves activities to accelerate the translation and commercialization. One of their programs include "supporting proof of concept activities and the formation of startup companies including through programs such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program." 

National SBIR Spring Conference

This year's National SBIR Spring Conference is once again collocated with the exciting TechConnect World Innovation Conference & Expo, and the National Innovation Summit. The dates are June 15 - 17, 2015 and the venue is the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD (Washington DC area).

There will be many new speakers this year and some interesting new sessions such as the SBIRx Ignite program on June 16.

This is also your chance to meet one-on-one with the SBIR agency program managers. One on one appointments are based on first register, first serve reservations. You must be a conference registrant, and then you'll have an opportunity to book up to 3 15 minute appointments with a selection of more than 30 agency representatives. One-on-one reservations will open Monday May 25.

Please visit the web site at http://nationalinnovationsummit.com/program/National_SBIR_Conference.html for complete information. I'll hope to see you there! 

Get Ready for the New HHS/NIH Omnibus SBIR/STTR Solicitation

June is fast approaching and that means the first ever middle of the calendar year NIH SBIR/STTR Omnibus grants solicitation is coming!

Under the new schedule NIH hopes to open their SBIR/STTR Omnibus grants solicitation in early June, 2015. Of course that changes all the receipt dates you've been used to, as they now move to September 5, 2015, January 5, 2016 and April 5, 2016. The dates are the same for AIDS and non-AIDS topics! The earliest you can submit for the first round will be in August, 2015, depending on the actual release date.

When we say early June, my guess is the second week of June, BUT with a little pixie dust (keeping Murphy away), we could see June 5. Stay on the lookout at https://sbir.nih.gov/

Also don't forget that the SBIR Gateway's free solicitation date finder can notify you when new agency sbir/sttr solicitations are released/ Just visit zyn.com/sbir/scomp.htm  

SBTC Sends Letter to House Opposing the Innovation Act (H.R. 9)

The Small Business technology Council (SBTC) sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking him to oppose H.R. 9, the "Innovation Act", as it is bad for small business. The billís overbroad and sweeping changes to the patent system will have the effect of suppressing the patent rights of all patentees, and in particular, will hurt the small, high-tech, job-creating SBIR businesses, and the economy. In its place we ask the Speaker to support the "TROL Act", which is much effective in combating patent trolls, without the damaging consequences that the Innovation Act would have to small business inventors.

You can read the letter and see other things the SBTC is up to at sbtc.org  

In closing

I very much dislike being critical of an agency. Those of you who have been my readers for many years know that sometimes we just have to bring problems to light in order to get them fixed.

But some of what we are seeing from the DoD's OSBP just isn't setting well with many of us including people in the related SBIR agencies. I know some of the people who sit at PM level at OSBP, and from my view, these are good people trying to deal with problems that are coming from a higher level. Vital time sensitive reports that are instrumental in providing congressional support for our programs, don't seem to be coming out of the OSBP office in a timely manner.

I don't know what the game plan is, but someone must have gotten word to the Hill for the House Armed Services Committee chair Mac Thornberry (R-TX) to suggest they may look at breaking the services (Army, Navy Air Force) SBIR out from under the DoD's OSBP. That didn't happen yet, but it could be reserved for the future.

I hope the "upper echelon" of DoD OSBP gets the message that they are not getting a vote of confidence, and they should improve their performance to try and regain confidence from their peers, and from the SBIR community.

Sincerely

Rick

Rick Shindell
SBIR Gateway
Zyn Systems
P.O. Box 3057
Sequim, WA 98382
rick@zyn.com

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