DLA educates Navy customers, small businesses at Sea-Air-Space Expo

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In an effort to raise awareness for its Navy customers, the Defense Logistics Agency’s Corporate Events Team participated in the Navy League’s 2014 Sea-Air-Space Exposition held at the National Harbor in Maryland, April 7-9.

Serving as the face of the agency, members of the Corporate Events Team were on-site during the three-day expo to provide customers, small businesses and vendors with information about DLA, said Olivia Kortuem, a management analyst on the DLA Logistics Operations Corporate Events Team.

“One of the main reasons we display at events a lot of times is because our primary customers, the U.S. military, are not aware of what DLA does, our scope and what we provide to them,” Kortuem said. “So we’re almost like a billboard for the agency. Another reason is because a lot of small businesses and vendors come to our booth asking questions and looking for ways to do business with DLA, which is great for our supply chains.”

To help make the event more interactive, outreach materials, including videos, were used to display facts and contact information for the agency, Kortuem said.

“We have a tablet [computer] where I have every [DLA primary-level field] activity’s webpage ‘pinned’ to the tablet,” she said. “So when [small businesses or vendors come up], I can then show them the websites and the information that they’re going to need to get them started.”

As a DLA small-business representative, Patricia Culbreth was on-hand to answer questions from vendors on how they can do business with DLA and the government.

“Outreach is a very large part of our mission, so these events are a good way to support our customer base as well as support and encourage our industry base, both large and small,” she said. “And there were a good many small businesses and vendors there, so we stayed pretty busy. Some people are brand new to federal contracting, so I give them more of a ‘how you get started’ [overview] on contracting. Others have been doing federal contracting and are looking to branch out to other agencies. In that case, I [ask them] what their company does to see if there’s a fit. And sometimes people have a specific question or issue, in which case, I direct them to the best DLA point of contact.”

As director of DLA’s Small Business Program, Amy Sajda was asked to participate in a forum along with members of the military’s small-business program offices.

“This was the first time [Sea-Air-Space] included a small-business forum as part of the overall symposium, so it was a prime opportunity for us,” she said. “And they were surprised by the turnout. They were expecting 100 to 150 companies to sign up, but we had 400.”

Outreach at events like these often identifies new small businesses that can become suppliers for DLA, helping improve competition and pricing for all of the agency’s supply chains, Sajda said.

“Most of the vendors are interested in what’s coming down the pipeline that they can play in and possibly get a contract for, so I talked about the rest of DLA’s projects that are coming up for fiscal 2014 and 2015,” she said. “We don’t buy ships, planes or tanks, but we buy all the parts to keep a ship floating. So I told them, ‘That’s where you come in.’ Some of these [maritime] parts are hard to get; we don’t have many manufacturers for them. So I need them to make me these parts. That’s where they can help.”

Regardless of the government’s current financial situation, vendors always seek work with DLA, namely because they know DLA always has requirements to fill, Sajda said.

“We’re getting more and more folks lining up at our booths because, with the budgets changing and shrinking and the services’ procurement programs not as robust as they used to be, [vendors] know we still have to support what [inventory] is out there,” she said. “We still have requirements for the coming years that we have to support even if the services themselves aren’t buying new weapon systems. So there’s always business at DLA.”

According to its website, Sea-Air-Space is the largest maritime exposition in the U.S., bringing together members of the U.S. defense industrial base, private-sector U.S. companies and key military decision makers for an innovative, educational, professional and maritime based event.

Photo: Outreach team
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Members of the Defense Logistics Agency’s Logistics Operations Corporate Events Team pose at DLA’s booth at the Navy League’s 2014 Sea-Air-Space Exposition. During the three-day expo, at the National Harbor in Maryland April 7-9, the team was able to provide Navy customers, small businesses and vendors with information about DLA. Photo courtesy of Olivia Kortuem
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