SBIR Gateway
Latest News on DoD SBIR Submission Debacle

Updated February 13, 2003

Senator Urges DoD to Accept SBIR Proposals that were Rejected Due to System Bottlenecks - 02/13/03

Senator Carl Levin, (D) Michigan, and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services committee, called on the DoD to accept SBIR proposals from those who were unable to submit due to server overload.

As a result of the DoD rejections, several companies have filed bid protests with the Government Accounting Office (GAO) which have in effect, stopped this SBIR solicitation process until a ruling is rendered in these cases.

The DoD expressed confidence in prevailing in these protests and have assigned counsel from the Air Force to represent the DoD. Senator Levin, in a February 3rd letter to Mike Wynne, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, asked the DoD to consider the fairness of excluding the proposals that could not be submitted due to bottlenecks in the DoD's server. He also called on the DoD to take "appropriate action" to address what appears to be a continual problem in their SBIR program. The Senator also expressed that the SBIR program is too important to our nation's small businesses and national security to permit recurrence of these types of problems. Levin also asked Wynne to inform him about the steps being taken to address what Levin called, "a systemic problem."

Senator Levin's letter is available as a 200k PDF (Acrobat) file at

DoD Asks GAO to Dismiss Bid Protest - 02/13/03

The Air Force, on behalf of the DoD's Office of the Secretary of Defense, petitioned the GAO to dismiss at least one of the bid protests filed against the DoD in regards to rejected proposal submissions. The DoD's claim of late filing of the protest, was turned down by the GAO.

Other News - 02/13/03

The DoD's decision to not accept proposals that were unable to be submitted on January 15, 2003, has not gone unnoticed by other federal entities. The SBA, tasked with offering policy guidance to the SBIR program, is monitoring the situation. Although it is not known what action the SBA is currently taking, the SBA has a history of championing the fair causes of small businesses. In creating the latest SBIR Policy Directive, the SBA worked closely with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Senate Small Business committee. It is possible that these organizations may be working together toward an equitable solution.

Five Point Analysis Offered - 02/10/03

Rick Shindell, of the SBIR Gateway, was requested to provide an analysis of the problem that occurred when many companies were unable to submit their proposals on the DoD due date of January 15, 2003. The analysis is written from the "outside in" by someone who has provided technical support and web services since the beginning of the World Wide Web.

From: Rick Shindell [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, February 07, 2003 12:47 AM
To: Recipient Names Suppressed
Subject: Re: Number of DOD proposals not submitted

I have five data points to add.

1. There is no way to tell how many companies have been affected by this action. One DoD agency component program manager (under the promise of anonymity) told me that in the August "melt down" they received over 100 phone calls from companies that had troubles with the site and couldn't submit. This time they "only" received about 33 (this is not one of the "big three" agency components).

2. Several companies told me of being able to submit some, but not all of their proposals. However, they feel so intimidated about possible DoD retribution, that they decided not to submit a challenge, and may not submit their rejected proposals even if DoD is willing to accept them. I must add that the intimidation factor is merely anecdotal and there is no evidence of any threats on the part of DoD for this solicitation.

3. A user's inability to log into the DoD's system due to an overload condition, is unmeasurable and untraceable. A dropped connection (interruption while already logged in) is measurable.

4. A non-technical analogy of this type of failure: You have an office with a phone system which has three phones and three outside lines. You run a sales promotion and people complain of busy signals and not being able to order on the last day of the promotion. In preparation for the next promotion, you expand your telephone system by adding 10 outside lines and 10 new phones. However, you neglect to update your phone system's control software. The old control software was only efficient enough to allow 5 lines to operate concurrently. In essence, you have increased your hardware and line capacity BUT the software fails to handle reliably more than 5 callers. Your expenditures for the extra lines and phones you added become a moot point because they are subservient to your limited software. I have no idea what or how the DoD added to their capacity since the August 2002 debacle. What I can tell you is that the server was running an old outdated and limited software server package by Microsoft (IIS 4.0) circa 1997. Microsoft developed updated IIS (Internet Information Server) software in IIS 5.0 circa early 1999, then again IIS 6.0 in early 2002. Microsoft had dropped support for their old IIS 4.0 because it is considered a "legacy" system. Versions 5.0 and 6.0 provided far better reliability, stability, scalability and efficiency than their early IIS 4.0 product. Therefor, in my opinion, this greatly reduced the benefits of any expansion that DoD claims to have made.

5. The practice of uploading documents on the world wide web is an immature technology and therefor some problems will occur even under the best of circumstances. In my opinion, the DoD was negligent because they failed to take reasonable and adequate measures to reduce the probability of this problem. Also, DoD failed to establish a "before the fact" policy and make that policy known to submitters. Guidance that merely suggests to "file early" is ambiguous and arbitrary at best.


Rick Shindell

SBIR Advocates Mobilize to Support Small Businesses Shut Out by DoD - 02/01/03

The Small Business Technology Coalition (SBTC) announced on Friday January 31, 2003 their intention to file an Amicus Brief with the General Accounting Office (GAO) in support of the bid protests that have been filed with GAO against the DoD SBIR, more notably, the Office of the Secretary of Defense. As of Friday there are 4 companies who have filed bid protests against the DoD concerning the failure of the DoD submission web site to handle the upload transactions within the official deadline of January 15, 2003 at 5:00pm est.

SBTC Executive Director Jere Glover sent a strongly worded letter of protest to Ivory Fisher at the DoD SBIR/STTR Program Office. That letter along with other news of SBTC actions is available on their web site at:

Ann Eskesen, long time SBIR advocate, speaker and motivator extraordinaire, has also spoken out against the DoD decision. In addition to talking with her many contacts in the congressional arena, Ann has set her company's (Innovation Development Institute) web site in motion to perform a survey of those who tried to submit their proposals to DoD. This survey and other important SBIR information can be found on the Innovation web site at:

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