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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

John C. Rogers: Federal contract procurement opportunities exist for Wisconsin companies


By John C. Rogers
This is the second part of a two-part column celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Wisconsin Procurement Institute. Created by Congressman Les Aspin, WPI was established to provide technical expertise to Wisconsin businesses and help them win their fair share of federal contracts.

Procurement defense spending, and indeed federal spending across the board, will remain critically important to the U.S. industrial base and research community. Wisconsin companies and research organizations will need to understand future spending priorities and how those priorities relate to what the government is actually buying.

I believe there are several potential growth areas in the Department of Defense (DoD) and across the government. In fact, WPI's "Wisconsin in Washington" program this June will focus on these:

Cyber Security: This is perhaps one of the greatest threats to our national security. In my discussions with policy leaders, it's clear that they take this threat seriously and are shifting significant resources to focus on it. For the right companies, or individuals, there are solid opportunities at the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice.

Unmanned Vehicles (UVs): The economics of using UVs makes great sense. Less cost and, more importantly, our warfighters are out of harm's way. Spending for UVs has gone from a rounding error in DoD budgets to billions of dollars within the last 20 years. This could be a great area for Wisconsin businesses.

Energy: The DoD, led by the Navy and in coordination with the Department of Energy, has announced a series of bold initiatives to use alternative fuel as a way of reducing our reliance on older fuels, such as jet fuels. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Brian Detter, who is in charge of the acquisition of these fuels, articulated this at a WPI meeting in Wisconsin recently. This initiative has yet to materialize both because of battles with Congress and funding challenges but it's worth keeping a close eye on. In addition, approaching energy from the use end is also big business for Wisconsin. No one has done this better than Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin-based firm that has been working on improving the energy efficiency at federal installations with no initial cost to the government, but rather over time through energy savings dollars.

Special Ops: Our Special Ops forces are the best in the world. They are also the best equipped. As technological solutions arise that make these soldiers even more capable, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is uniquely positioned to move quickly, getting the products into the procurement pipeline to help our troops.

Training: I recently had the opportunity to sit down with General Robert W. Cone, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) commander. He told me that one of the biggest challenges the Army faces is how to keep returning officers and non-coms engaged after they have been in command positions, mainlining adrenaline for the past 10 years. If we are going to keep the best and brightest in the service we must design training platforms that stimulate and engage them with such platforms as avatars, games, realistic video and immersive experiences. This is something the Army should do and needs to do, whether it will be able to commit the resources remains to be seen.

No doubt in the future there will be pain and reductions. I foresee another round or two of base closures and fewer large-scale procurements. But there will also be opportunity. The question Wisconsin businesses will need to answer is, "Are we prepared?"

What I know for certain is that WPI and our partners will be there to assist Wisconsin companies in navigatingthrough these turbulent times.

-- Rogers, president of Capstone National Partners LLC and CEO of RLL Leaders, serves as chairman of the board of Wisconsin Procurement Institute. He is a former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense and district director for Les Aspin.

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