The Department of Defense (DoD) awards contracts for hundreds of billions of dollars each year. While many military contractors are large corporations, the DoD also awards a significant portion of contracts to small businesses and private civilian contractors. If you are an aspiring manufacturer looking to get a slice of the DoD pie, you need to make sure that you take the proper steps to meet a product need of the department. You also need to be sure that your products comply with government standards.
There is a great deal of legwork that must be done before you win a military contract. We explore the steps you should follow to improve your chances of being awarded a military contract:
- Complete the initial registration process
- Make contacts and conduct research
- Become familiar with military standards and specifications
- Present your proposal
Continue reading to learn more about each of the steps for getting a military contract and manufacturing goods for the Department of Defense.
1. Complete the Initial Registration Process
The first step to improving your chances of doing business with the DoD is obtaining a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number and registering with the System for Award Management (SAM). All entities must register to conduct business with the federal government before you can be considered for a military contract. Contact financial reporting company Dun & Bradstreet to obtain your DUNS number.
Once you obtain your DUNS number, register in the System for Award Management (SAM) for contracts. SAM is an official government website that is free to use for registering to do business with the U.S. government, updating or renewing your entity registration, checking the status of your registration, and searching for entity registration and exclusion records.
Your DUNS number and SAM registration are requirements for any contract award, so you should complete these tasks before any others in your quest to get a military contract. It’s worth noting that you also must obtain a Contractor and Government Entity Code (CAGE) Code if you are a U.S. vendor. If you do not have one, one will be assigned to you when you first register in SAM.
2. Conduct Research and Make Contacts
Educating yourself on federal codes and aligning yourself with entities who have gotten military contracts are two smart steps in your own journey to receiving a contract. First, you will need to know the Federal Supply Class or Service (FSC/SVC) codes, the Product Service Codes (PSCs), and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes for your products, services, or industry. Many of the government product and service listings and future procurements are identified by PSC, so it also is helpful to read the PSC Manual.
You also should know the current DoD procurement opportunities by visiting the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) page and registering on the website to gain electronic access to government-wide procurement opportunities. Then, look for individual military departments and contracting offices that have procurement websites containing helpful information and additional resources.
There are a few other resources that you should contact when attempting to obtain a military contract. One is a Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) near your location. PTACs offer details on the best ways to market products or services to the DoD, and they offer contracting and marketing advice to small businesses. A second is the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA makes assistance and certification in preference programs available to small businesses.
Another resource you should contact is the General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA assists small businesses in gaining a competitive edge in the federal market by offering online and onsite federal experts and training tools.
3. Become Familiar with Military Standards and Specifications
Next, you should research the standards and specifications that military contractors must meet. These military standards (MIL-STD) and military specifications (MIL-SPEC) include test specifications and procedures that aid in achieving the DoD’s high-quality and high-reliability objectives. Sources such as EverySpec provide free access to tens of thousands of military, DoD, federal, NASA, Department of Energy (DOE), and government specifications, standards, handbooks, and publications.
Specifically, aspiring manufacturers should become familiar with MIL-STD-810G, the series of tests designed by the military to test equipment in various conditions where it will be used and transported. These standards consider an equipment’s environmental design and test limits to the conditions it will experience during its service life. Knowing the ins and outs of MIL-STD-810 will help you know exactly which types of environments and conditions your product must be able to withstand to make it more appealing to the military and earn the contract you covet.
You also should learn about MIL-STD-129 AND MIL-STD-130 early in your quest for a military contract. MIL-STD-129 outlines the marking and labeling requirements for containers and shipments of military equipment and supplies and establishes consistency in package labeling for transport. Similarly, MIL-STD-130 is a set of detailed standards for identification marking of U.S. military property. Simply put, both MIL-STD-129 and MIL-STD-130 stipulate the unique identification labels and tags that must be placed on products and their shipping containers.
It’s also important for manufacturers to understand the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FARS) and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplements (DFARS). For example, if you are required to place a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag on a shipment instead of a barcode label, your government contract will include a DFARS clause telling you more information about the RFID requirement.
4. Present Your Proposal
After you have registered, conducted research, made contacts, and familiarized yourself with military standards and specifications, it is time to present your proposal. Again, this is where referring to the FedBizOpps website will be helpful, because it will help you learn how your product meets a DoD need. Prepare your materials, including a product brochure, to market yourself to the DoD. You should be ready to present your capabilities to the DoD activities that buy products or services, and you should refer to the procurement data in USASpending.gov to assist your marketing efforts.
Securing military contracts is a complex process, and it can be intimidating for aspiring manufacturers. By following these steps, you’ll increase your odds of success.