Doing business with the Intelligence Agency in your Backyard
The BWI Business Region hosts the National Security Agency (NSA), the area’s largest brains agency. NSA hosts America’s codemakers and codebreakers and is located within the Legs Meade impact.
NSA provides sensitive security information to You. S. decision makers and military leaders. The core mission is to protect You. S. national security systems and produce foreign signals brains information. By its very nature, what NSA does requires a high degree of secrecy.
This problem of secrecy creates an interesting challenge to business people who are interested in doing business with the agency.
NSA operates very differently from the majority of federal agencies with regard to purchasing and procurement. In the majority of federal black cube agencies, the procurement process is reasonably transparent in that if one knows where to look, budgets, forecasts and posted contract opportunities can be located.
NSA operates in a lot more closed, or secure, business environment. For NSA and other agencies in the brains sector, it is impossible to freely advertise budgets, forecasts and contract opportunities because doing so would make very sensitive national-security information public knowledge and endanger the effectiveness of the agency and national security.
However, it is not impossible to obtain contracts from NSA. Many firms in the BWI business region are well-established NSA vendors. How did they do it? Some were started by former NSA employees who left government service to become business owners. Other firms that did not have this “inside” advantage made it possible to navigate the secretive processes and through strong differentiators and persistence, eventually found appropriate contract opportunities on which to bid.
In recent years, NSA has become more open to new businesses and established a aggressive vendor program to treat both large and small businesses.
The NSA’s recently renovated in addition has incorporated a state-of-the-art vendor registration process called the Buy Resource Center (ARC). This mandatory business registry database serves as a one-stop source for buy information. It also serves as a general market trends tool for NSA personnel. Contracting reps, program administrators, business administrators, technical owners and small business specialists use the ARC Business Registry to name potential vendors for specific buy requirements.
It is important to realize that becoming a vendor at NSA is a long, drawn-out process. It is the vendor’s responsibility to learn the processes needed and follow them to the letter. As stated in an agency briefing confirmation: “Whether your firm is successful may depend on a knowledge of security requirements and the brains community thinking. Breaking through the secrecy that is all around the NSA is a task few members of the business community navigate successfully without guidance. inch
A cubicle of Small business Programs at NSA is charged with offering that guidance and ensuring that small businesses of all types including HUBZone, frequent, women and disadvantaged owned businesses have a chance to participate in contracting opportunities. The current stated goal for all small business contracts is 26% of all contracts, with last year’s total actually reaching 30%, exceeding beyond the objective goal.
Remember that all vendors must also fulfill the security clearance requirements needed for the projects. Fortunately, NSA has instituted a unique program called the Provisional Industrial Security Approval (PISA) Sponsorship Program. While not an easy program to enter, is still quicker than the normal Defense Security System (DSS) Program. The PISA security clearance process requires a “sponsor” to recommend a vendor. Once this recommendation is validated and the application approved, the seller then has access to certain levels within NSA in order to market their business.
Current NSA contractors and even competitors could actually be a great source of business, a teaming partner or even a prime or subcontractor at NSA. Building relationships with current contractors may be one of the least complicated strategies to market entry at NSA.
Networking is a critical step up doing business with NSA and all agencies in the Brains Community. It is a very good way to meet end-users in an appropriate environment. It is also the best method to use to find current contractors at NSA and start building relationships with them. Two organizations that can help in this regard are AFCEA and the Md Marketing Group.
One of the best ways to open the secretive door to success at NSA is to participate in the NSA sponsored bi-weekly briefing: “Preparing for Success: A Start-up Guide to Working with NSA. inch This meeting is designed to assist new vendors, large and small, in learning about doing business with NSA. Registration is required in advance and managed on a first-come, first-served basis.