The relationship between the Intelligence Community (IC) and the Government Contracting industry has always been complicated. From the end of the Cold War to September 11th to Present Day – the IC has heavily relied on the Government Contracting industry for flexibility in terms of technical strength and manpower to fuel their National and Military Intelligence Programs. While this relationship has proven its power (i.e. the U-2 Spy Plane, MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle [UAV], etc.), it is still riddled with risks, secrets, and vulnerabilities. According to the ODNI, members of the IC include the following:
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “[…] total intelligence spending is usually understood as the combination of the National Intelligence Program (NIP), which supports strategic planning and policymaking, and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), which supports military operational and tactical levels of planning and operations. There are four (4) defense NIP programs, eight (8) nondefense NIP programs, and ten (10) MIP programs. Six (6) U.S. intelligence community (IC) components have both MIP and NIP funding sources[…]In comparison with national defense spending, the proportion of intelligence-related spending has remained relatively constant over the past decade, representing slightly more than 11% of the total defense budget.”
We know playing in the IC is an artful game as information and opportunities organized, funded, and “classified” differently. So how do you, the Government Contractor, develop business within the IC? The Pulse sat down with Jessica King, CEO of GeoSISU, LLC, to learn more.
1. Above we explained which agencies are members of the IC, and noticed there is an overlap between the “IC” designation, civilian intelligence, and DoD. How does the IC differ from DoD or Civilian in the intel space?
The IC and DoD both have a strategic mission to protect our nation and leverage each other’s work to fight our adversaries collectively. However, the IC and DoD have different funding sources, mission functions, and authorities. The IC provides a decisive advantage by collecting intelligence for the warfighter, propelling the cross-collaboration between the IC and DoD.
2. What makes the IC unique in terms of ecosystem, business development, and opportunities?
The unique aspect is the ability to acquire access, and based on that access that’s all I can say on the matter!
3. We’ve heard working with the IC is all about “who you know”. What type of personnel do you need to know and how do you meet them?
You are correct, it is about who you know. It is essential to establish relationships with decision-makers such as Directors, Deputy Directors, Program Managers, Lead Analysts, Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTRS), Contracting Officers (KOs/COs). In the IC it is harder to establish an ad-hoc relationship so you need to work with them and build a relationship through hard work, trust, and consistency. It’s possible to meet a decision-maker at an event, but it’s unlikely to forge a strong enough bond from various social run-ins. BD in the IC is way more referral-based. Trust begets trust, so 99% of the time you must be connected to them through a mutual contact that is already trusted. This is why it’s important if bidding on work with a new customer in the IC, that you partnered with someone who already has an established relationship.
4. What certifications, discriminators, and infrastructure does a contractor need to position themselves to work within the IC?
There are a few elements a contractor should know to better position themselves in the IC.
- Cyber Maturity Model Certification (CMMC)
- Small Business Administration (SBA) Certifications
- Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) (if applicable)
- Obtain a Cage Code
- Obtain Sponsorship for a Facility Clearance (FCL)
- Obtain access to the Acquisition Resource Center (ARC)
- Establish on-boarding, clearance, hiring/retention processes and practices
- Have a trained Facility Security Officer (FSO) and experienced IC-recruiters in-place
- AWS IC Marketplace (if applicable)
- Tailored technology or niche professional skill-sets that will solve a mission-focused problem
- Demonstrated understanding of the customer’s language and landscape because using the right lexicon is of the utmost importance and shows you are “in the know”
5. How do you hire a Business Developer who specializes in IC work? What qualifications should they have?
I look for an applicant who has worked with the customer – either as a federal employee, military member, or contractor – and therefore understands the core mission and leadership within the agency of interest. Skill sets are dependent on the business’s size; generally, small businesses search for a “She, He, or They of all BD-trades” to include pipeline line development, capture, and writing proposals, whereas mid-to-large companies will hire separately for BD and capture skill sets.
That being said, I generally ask the candidate the following questions:
- What is your previous experience working in the IC/DoD?
- Which IC/DoD agency are you well versed in?
- What opportunities have you won?
- What is your capture methodology (depends on company size)?
- What is your style of working with customers?
- What is your experience with writing proposals?
I evaluate their capacity to make decisions quickly and effectively, as well as their ability to accept the loss and deal with pressure because in BD – you win and you lose. The candidate must be full of grit and sisu (spunk) to continue down the path to win. It is not a normal job- you must be able to quickly adapt and pivot at any given moment.
6. How can an organization experience in supporting federal civilian agencies “break-in” to an agency in the IC?
My recommendation is to identify and build partnerships with vendors that already hold IC Prime Contracts. I would also suggest attending events with vetted organizations such as Intelligence & National Security Alliance (INSA), U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA), and MITRE’s Technology & Innovation Roundtable.
7. What are the best sources for identifying contracting opportunities (cleared and uncleared) within the IC?
The ARC and Acquisition Center for Excellence (ACE) are both good sources to learn about Unclassified and Classified opportunities. Other sources such as beta.sam.gov, agency forecasts, Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM), Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), and System of Systems Consortium (SOSSEC) are great for identifying Unclassified opportunities.
Breaking into the IC space is one of GeoSISU’s strongest core competencies and offerings. Their team is composed of seasoned IC professionals who have direct experience working in the IC and with an expertise in adopting new technologies and implementing them into operations and analytics environments for the IC. Do you have more questions about business development in the IC space? If so, please email Jessica King at firstname.lastname@example.org today!