Defense giant brings $1B to small business

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Northrop Grumman’s recent milestone of subcontracting $1 billion in work to small businesses not only highlights the significance of industry partnerships, but the broad capabilities local small businesses offer, local defense contractors say.

On June 30, Northrop Grumman recognized 28 small businesses at its location in southeast Colorado Springs for their work under the Joint National Integration Center Research and Development Contract for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, headquartered at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

Northrop Grumman has been the prime contractor for the national program for the past 11 years, and the aerospace corporation employs 1,500 to support the integration center, with small companies in Colorado Springs, Denver and Huntsville, Ala., receiving the most business from the defense giant.

“Northrop Grumman is a large company, but they recognize the importance of small businesses, and it helps bring communities together,” said Rusty Powell, a corporate development specialist for Millennium Engineering and Integration Co., one of Northrop’s subcontractors.

Millennium, founded in 1995, is based in Arlington, Va., but has an office in Colorado Springs, employing about 40 people, according to Powell.

“We’ve been involved with the contract since the start and appreciate it because there is no way that a small business can be a prime contractor on such a large effort,” he said.

Northrop Grumman’s collaboration with small businesses for the research and development contract has provided solutions and capabilities for war games and military training. And the businesses involved in the effort span a multitude of disciplines —  telecommunications, information technology and cybersecurity, Powell said.

“The broad reach, duration and importance of the mission is what excites us as a company,” he said. “It’s not uncommon to have a large business tied to small business, but on this particular contract, with this many small businesses for such a large dollar value, is unique.”

Both large and small businesses profit from the arrangement, Powell said.

“The fact that Northrop Grumman recognizes the importance of the entire team, and the entire team recognizes the strong position that they have is mutually beneficial,” he said.

“The broad reach, duration and importance of the mission is what excites us as a company.” 

— Rusty Powell

Two other subcontractors for the Missile Defense Agency contract are headquartered in Colorado Springs: Boecore and Faith Enterprises Inc. Faith Enterprises, founded in 1988, is a disabled veteran-owned company that provides electrical services and meter monitoring for DoD agencies across the U.S.

CEO Jim VanDeGrift said the contract is unique due to its high-security environment.

“It’s for the Missile Defense Agency; it doesn’t get much more important than that,” he said.

Faith Enterprises has a long relationship with Northrop Grumman and also worked with Ford Aerospace and Lockheed Martin.

“Northrop Grumman’s treatment of small business is super, and they’ve been a great partner,” he said. “We’ve done the most volume with them and had a successful relationship.”

Currently, the company has a task order contract with Northrop Grumman, a year-to-year time and material agreement, VanDeGrift said.

“It would not surprise me if the JRDC was extended, but that will depend on the needs of government,” he said. “I think for the Missile Defense Agency, the state of readiness is high because of current threat assessments. We’re looking forward to several more years being associated with Northrop Grumman on the contract.”

The community appreciates Northrop Grumman’s commitment to working with local small businesses on such an effort, said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers at the event last week.

“After reducing defense spending over the last few years, it’s been a challenge for small businesses in the defense industry that often depend on one or two contracts,” he said. “It’s a strategic imperative to keep this business healthy because they’re the ones who provide the agility and innovation that maintains our country’s technological edge over our adversaries.”

Dan Verwiel, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and general manager of missile defense and protective systems, said that one of the company’s objectives for the contract was to bring in all talent from its economic base, including Colorado Springs.

“The real value small businesses bring is they can be a lot more agile in how they approach issues and bring a lot of technology and capability that large companies don’t have access to,” he said. “The ability to be nimble and agile is absolutely critical to providing success for that mission.”

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