Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 34 No. 18
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Weapons Complex Monitor
Article 6 of 12
May 05, 2023

After COVID, contractors ‘starved’ for DOE facetime

By Wayne Barber

The free flow of information through on-site, in-person Department of Energy industry days, coupled with one-on-one meetings, are invaluable to contractors seeking work in the weapons complex, industry representatives said Thursday.

“The more interaction you can have … that gets away from boilerplate information,” greatly benefits to contractors, said Thomas Mooney, business development director for Parsons. He made the remarks during DOE’s first “Reverse Industry Day.”

Virtual industry days, which became common with DOE’s Office of Environmental Management during the COVID-19 pandemic, can sometimes be helpful, Mooney said. But not if the feds stick with generic slides about the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, for example, and fail to provide much depth about the work, he added.

LaJuanna Russell, president of Business Management Associates, offered a similar assessment. In-person sessions tend to be best, she said. “It helps us to see who is in the room … because you are looking at not only your competition but you are also looking at those you might need to partner with.”

Virtual sessions can be helpful if DOE is actually answering questions and not just reading the slides, Russell said.

Bidders want “to be able to build a rapport” and ask questions of the potential customer, said Keith Tucker, Jacobs vice president of strategy and development. Face-to-face works best for that, he added.

“We are all starved for face time,” after being isolated a couple of years by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Paul Anninos, vice president of environment and natural resources at Abt Associates.

The Cincinnati-based Environmental Management Consolidated Business Center’s procurement director Aaron Deckard has said virtual meetings won’t go away altogether, but the office anticipates more in-person sessions as the pandemic fades.

The idea of a reverse industry day, for business to tell DOE what contractors want in solicitations, was sparked by a Government Accountability Office report on perceived bias in federal procurement.

At the conclusion of the reverse industry day, which was conducted online, Deckard said his big takeaway is “there is just a strong desire for information.” It is now up to DOE’s procurement officials to decide “what the right cadence is,” he added.

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