August 24, 2016
Dear SBIR Insider,
Before we start, long time readers know, we have no interest in trying to influence your political views or voting allegiance (not that we could). So please don't look for "hidden meanings" or agendas. If we have something to convey, we will come right out and say it.
We could have done several SBIR Insiders over the eight weeks, but none of them would have had much value because every time I thought we had something important to report, the story would change and the relevance of the Insider issue would have been moot.
I don't want to burden you with a bunch of tripe, so let's get on with it.
1. DoD "Announcement" of an "Announcement" but not a "Solicitation"
2. SBIR Reauthorization (or not) Where are we?
3. Is SBIR Rigged?
4. SBIR Insider to Change its Spots
Don't get apoplexy! I yanked your chain to get your attention for this important issue. The DoD will continue their SBIR/STTR programs but will use a different mechanism for the funding process.
Instead of issuing a "Solicitation", as they have in the past, they will be issuing an "Announcement". The vehicle for DoD SBIR/STTR will now be under a ** Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) **. This starts with the upcoming pre-release of the DoD's 16.3 SBIR and 16.C STTR on August 26, 2016.
Your point of entry ( http://www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/ ) and their supporting site ( https://sbir.defensebusiness.org/ ) will still remain the same, and the legal notice will still be posted on FedBizOpps ( www.fbo.gov/ ).
What bothers me is the fact that the DoD has given you no "heads up" about this change, and at the time of this writing, August 24 (6:00am pdt) there is absolutely nothing on either of the DoD's sites other than replacing the word "Solicitation" with "Announcement".
However, the Navy, one of the leaders in DoD SBIR/STTR, did make the effort to let us know what's actually going on, and what the changes may mean to you. Below is a copy of the Navy's article from their web site at http://www.navysbir.com
NOTICE: Change In Terminology From Solicitation to BAA
A major change in terminology
(not practice) will take place August 26, 2016 starting with the DoD's 16.3
SBIR and 16.C STTR. What was previously known as a "Solicitation" will now become a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA)
or simply "Announcement".
This change DOES NOT denote any change in the competitive SBIR/STTR process.
The ONLY reason for this change is to avoid confusion on the part of some persons that this research announcement was governed under the competitive procedures of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 15 which generally uses the term "solicitation" and FAR Part 35 which applies to the acquisition of research. This research announcement is and has always been issued under the requirements of FAR Part 35 as a BAA.
This change DOES NOT denote any change in the competitive process which is governed by the rules of 15 U.S.C. 638 and both the Small Business Administration issued Policy Directives for the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs, as well as FAR Part 35.
This DOES NOT remove any existing requirements or provisions of the competitive process including:
· A pre-release period prior to the announcement's "opening" for receipt of proposals;
· Availability of topic authors to receive and answer questions during the pre-release period;
· Availability of an electronic system for the display of questions and answers received after the pre-release period ends;
· An electronic area for the posting of announcement amendments, topic changes and document postings;
· An electronic system for the submission of proposals;
· An announcement provision for the request and distribution of debriefs
Okay, thank you Navy. However, I think the Navy was being polite when they stated the reason for this change was "to avoid confusion on the part of some persons." In the Insider's opinion, within the DoD’s services (not just the Navy), there were some "uninformed" or "misinformed" people in positions to block or slow down funding for SBIR/STTR purposes (including awards and acquisition).
Here's part of the reason. The term "Solicitations" are usually related to FAR Part 15 but that doesn't fit the SBIR/STTR program. Just as SBIR has exceptions from what's normal in FAR (i.e., data rights), SBIR Solicitations have always been under the more flexible FAR Part 35, which commonly governs BAAs.
The problem is that too many of these uninformed/misinformed people didn't know or accept that, and would say "No" to SBIR/STTR funding, stating that this falls under FAR Part 15. That would block or seriously delay SBIR projects that really fall under FAR Part 35 which may have been a quick "Go" decision.
So from this point forward, DoD will banish the word "Solicitation" from our lexicon, even though FedBizOpps will still list the category as "Combined Synopsis/Solicitation." The bottom line is that this change should improve the DoD's ability to do faster and more dependable funding for important SBIR/STTR projects. This is an overly simplified explanation which can blur accuracy that would require many pages of detailed explanation, but lead you to the same result.
To quote the late Paul Harvey, "Now you know the rest of the story." (sort of… )
I could have written a dozen articles in the last few months telling you where we were with reauthorization, but they didn't amount to a hill of beans. Not because there wasn't some good work going on, but the flakiness of the elections have obliterated most everything on the Hill. Many staffers have continued their work while their bosses returned to their districts or went on vacation. Most all of the projected schedules for passing bills in both House and Senate have been delayed. They will only have part of September (after labor day) to do their work, and remember the fiscal year ends September 30. Then October is a wash because the entire House will be running for reelection along with 1/3 of the Senate. Neither body will be in session (except perhaps a pro-forma session in the Senate, to block Presidential recess appointments), but I suspect the staffers will be busy.
I "believe" the only hope for getting SBIR reauthorized this fiscal year is if it can be placed back in the NDAA. Since the House and Senate have passed their own versions of the NDAA, it is now up to the conference committee to resolve differences. That's where additions/subtractions and compromises are made. Then it goes to the President.
Because of all the larger and more important things for congress to do, and the short amount of time they have to work, SBIR is a long shot at best. They don't get back until after labor day, and then only work the last few weeks of September (it will be hellacious). Congress adjourns for all of October, and doesn't return until after the elections in November. Perhaps if the NDAA gets a short term CR to after the elections (the lame duck period) SBIR could have a chance.
Keep in mind, I've been wrong before and I'll be wrong again. The Small Business Technology Council (SBTC) is pushing hard to get small businesses to email their Senators and Representatives to push for SBIR reauthorization now. You don't have to be a member to use the SBTC's free congressional email service. It's fast, simple, and they even have some boilerplate language you can use or modify. You'll find it at
http://www.nsba.biz/?page_id=43&vvsrc=%2fcampaigns%2f47545%2frespond Details of the SBTC’s SBIR advocacy is on their website at sbtc.org.
The good news is that the SBIR/STTR programs are authorized through September 30, 2017. However, with all the craziness in our elections (and we haven't seen the down ballot races heat up yet), who knows what kind of administration we will have, or what the 115th congress will look like. To quote Betty Davis in "All about Eve", "Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!" ** Editor’s note: substitute "ride" with "night" because that’s the actual quote, not the popular one most used. Reminds me of substituting "Announcement" for "Solicitation".
I used to get this question a lot in the old days, and it's being asked more and more lately. My simple answer is "Would I spend this amount of pro bono time and effort to advocate for a program that is rigged???" The SBIR Insider and the SBIR Gateway are totally pro bono exercises with no advertising, tracking or list sharing. We always tell you that our information is totally "unofficial" and not sanctioned by any agency or other group.
That being said, could I tell you that there has never been a rigged topic or award? The answer is "No." People being human, there is always chance for some "fixes". Do I know of any? "No." But I can tell you that if there were many fixes, it couldn't be hidden for long, and the news would be all over the place (especially here).
There's no question that the overall success rate, and the number of awards have diminished in the past few years. Although there are several good reasons for this, not the least being sequestration, another major contributor is the growing complexity of participation, which is especially challenging to new small businesses trying to enter into SBIR/STTR.
A few years ago, Dr. Irwin Jacobs, Cofounder of Qualcomm, (the greatest SBIR success story), warned us (in a Senate hearing) about the amount of "requirement creep" that has entered the program. He found the original beauty of the program to be its simplicity and speed. It helped them grow a small startup business into one of America’s (and the World’s) great businesses!
Those days are gone and now a new business wanting to try SBIR, feels like they have to hire a Philadelphia lawyer just to understand the application process.
The good news: The agencies are doing a much better job of support, both in webinars and on their websites. The SBA puts on SBIR Bus Tours in many cities (see SBIR.GOV or our calendar at zyn.com/sbir/cal/ ), most states have SBIR support services, and there are many excellent 3rd party SBIR support companies out there. SBIR.GOV is another resource that is getting better, and is working on an educational component.
However, SBIR is not an entitlement program. Just because you are a small business, you don’t have a right to an award. If you have talent, knowledge, and skills to offer, that speaks to an agency's topic needs, I can't stress enough that you should "Go for it!" It's not rigged, and most of the agencies' support staff really want a success, for you and their agency.
Not really a big deal but starting with the next issue, the SBIR Insider will come from the address of [email protected] So if you want to continue to receive our publication, make sure your email will allow mail from [email protected] Also remember that if you want to stop receiving the SBIR Insider, reply to this email and add the word REMOVE in the subject line.
A quick Harry Truman story that has great relevance to our newer SBIR folk, as well as many of you veterans.
When Harry was first elected U.S. Senator from Missouri, (keep in mind that Harry never went to College and came from a poor family), he traveled to that great Senate edifice in DC, and this imposing senior Senator, Ham Lewis (the Senate Majority Whip) came up to him and said, "Harry, don't let these people intimidate you… You'll spend the first six months wondering how you got here…. You'll spend the rest of the time wondering how everybody else got here." Harry went on to say "He didn't know how right he was!"
Moral, if you work hard and keep your eye on the ball, you will likely go though something similar, and at first, wonder how you got here, then wonder how everybody else got here.
Thanks for reading, and take care.
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