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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nimble Large and Small Business Teaming


"Smaller players and the larger contractors work together in a new model of agile programs.
With successful mentorship and partnership programs, larger contractors gain access to contracts for which they would otherwise be ineligible.

Conversely, smaller contractors that lack the resources for federal procurements can break into this competitive marketplace by teaming with larger providers.

In today’s post-sequestration business climate, government contractors are continually challenged with shrinking margins, strong price competition and flat or decreased agency spending.
At the same time, new acquisition reform efforts aimed at streamlining and improving technology procurements are helping to ensure that agency CIOs are more involved in the process, and are responsible for the success or failure of all IT projects at their agency.

For the agency, the combination of these developments creates greater demand for technology collaboration and agile solution development.  With increased CIO involvement and improved agency coordination, programs should benefit by sharing common capabilities through inter-program collaboration.  At the same time, with a shift towards smaller, agile application solutions, as opposed to traditional grand-scale programs, agencies can lower the risk of cost overruns and schedule slippage.

For the large contractors supporting the agency, increased collaboration and more agile development increases the need to team with smaller innovative tech firms in emerging IT areas and then share those capabilities across programs.

For example, with the increasing need for sharing geospatial data across not only the Defense Department but also civilian agencies, contractors can help CIOs leverage their existing geographic software and imagery with available commercial-off-the-shelf solutions from smaller software companies, as opposed to developing custom applications.

When customization is required for success, the same small software companies can help large contractors fill highly specialized capability gaps without the need to directly acquire the innovation. Ultimately, with the right teaming arrangement, program outcomes are optimized which benefits all industry partners.

However, there are always challenges when it comes to developing the right teaming relationship. According to the Washington Technology Insider Report 2015, there is often a lack of transparency and mistrust in the majority of teaming relationships.

Many of these challenges come down to a lack of communication, and a misunderstanding of what each side brings to the table. For smaller specialized companies, it is easier to show their value propositions to both the government customer and the larger primes.

In today’s rapidly evolving government IT arena, these unique value propositions can be anything from spatial data management to mobility to the Internet of Things (IoT) to specialized cybersecurity offerings. These are the new innovation areas that are moving away from being “talked about” to actually being implemented.

In particular, spatial data collection and visualization is fundamental to decision support for all federal agencies.  There will never be a shortage in the need for insightful, actionable data for helping government become more responsive and effective. Government will always need on-demand decision support data about a wide-range of subjects – including disaster recovery, income levels, air quality, disease patterns, environmental incidents or population trends.

For larger contractors, it may be difficult to build out or acquire these types of capabilities in a rapid fashion.  Furthermore, with acquisition reform efforts like FITARA giving agency CIOs more input in the procurement process, it’s even more important for larger contractors to demonstrate greater value with the right teaming arrangements.

Ultimately, we all want successful business outcomes produced by the unmitigated success of our customer agencies. This can be achieved through nimble teaming relationships where the smaller players and the larger contractors work together in a new model of agile programs."

Need for agility drives need for new technology partnerships

Friday, April 1, 2016

Feds Add 92 Industries to Women-Owned Business Contracting Program


Judy Bradt on Linked In

"The Federal government has just expanded the industries included in the Federal Women-Owned Business Contracting Program!
As per the 3/316 Federal Register notice, effective immediately, 92 new NAICS industry groups are eligible for Federal contract preferences under to WOSB program. Is your business affected? Check  here
“At the request of the SBA in 2015, the Office of the Chief Economist, at the U.S. Department of Commerce, conducted a new study on the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program. The study reevaluated the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry groups in which WOSBs are underrepresented and substantially underrepresented in Federal contracting. As a result of the study, the SBA has determined changes will be implemented to the WOSB Federal Contracting Program. These changes will provide expanded opportunities for WOSBs to pursue set-aside and sole source federal contracts.
As set forth in the Federal Register notice, the SBA has authorized the use of 113 new NAICS Industry groups for WOSB and EDWOSB set asides. WOSBs will now be eligible for contract participation in 92 NAICS industry groups. EDWOSBs will now be eligible for contract participation in 21 designated NAICS industry groups, along with the 92 NAICS industry groups identified for WOSB. The effective date per the notice for use of these new NAICS is 3 March 2016. ”

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Tax Law – Instant Depreciation for Small Businesses

Business Management Daily


“Nearly all small businesses, even the very tiniest, should consider taking advantage of the deduction.

The deduction is essentially limited to small and midsize companies. It begins phasing out when a company spends more than $2 million a year on qualifying purchases, and is eliminated entirely for those that spend more than $2.5 million.

The deduction works like this: If a company has a $90,000 profit and decides to spend $50,000 of it on new computers, the company would normally write off the cost of the equipment gradually, deducting a portion of it each year over the span of the computers’ useful life. But Section 179 allows the business to deduct the entire $50,000 cost at once in the year the equipment is purchased, reducing the company’s taxable profit to $40,000. (The deduction cannot exceed a business’s total net income.)

Section 179 was once a fairly limited tax break, with an annual cap of $25,000 or less. But in 2003, Congress temporarily raised the limit to $100,000, and in 2008, as the recession set in, it raised the cap again to $250,000. In 2010, hoping to stimulate more spending, Congress increased the limit to $500,000, allowing businesses to use the deduction toward expensive items like factory machinery and trucks.

But each increase was a temporary measure requiring annual reauthorization to prevent the cap from returning to $25,000 — and Congress developed a habit of waiting until the very last days of the year to make a decision. In 2012, it missed the calendar deadline completely and passed legislation on Jan 1, 2013, retroactively raising the deduction limit for equipment business owners had purchased the previous year.

“The uncertainty drives my clients up a tree,” said Paul Neiffer, an accountant with CliftonLarsonAllen in Yakima, Wash., who specializes in the agricultural industry. “Not knowing each year if it will be extended prevents a lot of our farmers from pulling the trigger on buying equipment.”

From now on, they will know. Signed on Friday by President Obama, the 233-page tax deal includes in its myriad tax breaks one that permanently sets the Section 179 cap at $500,000, subject to inflation adjustments.

Mr. Kortesmaki said he was confident enough that Congress would once again lift Section 179’s cap to go ahead this year with his planned capital purchases, even before the legislation was passed. But other business owners held off — and this year, the deal came too late for some, Ms. Wuebben thinks.

“You can’t plan to spend that kind of money with just two weeks left in the year,” she said. “We might see some activity this year, but the real benefit for us will come next year, when customers can plan ahead for it.”

Some companies do try to jam in qualifying purchases before the calendar year ends. Last year, Congress raised the Section 179 limit for the year on Dec. 16. The next day, the prices farm machinery sold for at auctions increased compared with just a few days earlier, according to Greg Peterson, the owner of Machinery Pete, a site that tracks equipment auction prices.

“The response is nearly Pavlovian at this point,” he said. “The farm audience had grown so used to this annual silly dance of wait-and-see on our friends in Washington.”
Making Section 179’s higher limit permanent will cost taxpayers $77 billion in foregone revenue over the next 10 years, according to a government estimate. The tax break’s aim is to stimulate spending — but does it work?

An analysis by the Congressional Research Service found that expensing allowances like Section 179 appear to “have a minor effect at best” on how much businesses spend on capital goods. Expectations for future sales growth, not tax considerations, motivates most of the investment in the kinds of assets eligible for expensing.

The main advantage of expensing allowances, the report suggests, comes from simplifying the tax accounting business owners face on their capital purchases.
Still, owners like Mr. Kortesmaki see the tax break as a crucial one for helping their small business grow a bit bigger.

“I’d rather invest that money in my business than pay taxes on it,” he said. “Having this become permanent makes my business planning for the next few years a whole lot easier.”

Small Businesses Get a Permanent Tax Break on Buying Equipment

Monday, February 1, 2016

U.S. Small Business Administration Offers Help to Veterans

"The U.S. Small Business Administration has resources available for veterans who want to start their own businesses or for small businesses that may have been affected by employees who have been deployed.
The numbers are substantial, according to the SBA: Nearly one in 10 small businesses in this country are veteran-owned; veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans; and businesses owned by female vets have increased 297 percent from 2007 to 2012.
The SBA’s website has collected a list of programs that can offer help, especially in navigating the complexities of returning home for members of the Guard or Reserve after being deployed.
It has information on starting a business, financing, mentoring and training and selling to the government. It can be found on the website Veteran Owned Businesses
One example of a resource is the Military Economic Injury Loan, which provides funds to eligible small businesses to meet operating expenses when an essential employee is called to active duty. The filing period for businesses to apply begins on the date the essential employee is ordered to active duty and ends one year after the essential employee is discharged or released from active duty.
Another aspect to consider are laws that make federal contracting more attractive to veterans, particularly those with a service-connected disability. The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 established an annual government-wide goal of awarding at least 3 percent of all federal contracts to small businesses owned or controlled by service-disabled veterans.
There’s also Boots to Business, a two-step entrepreneurship training program open to service members and their spouses. The two-day course introduces participants to the opportunities and challenges of business ownership. An eight-week online course allows participants to work through the fundamentals of developing a workable business plan."

Friday, January 1, 2016

Pentagon to Revise Rules for Contracting Private Sector Services


“The Defense Department is about to introduce a new policy that would bring greater scrutiny to contractor-provided services.

A key theme in this policy is the expectation that any department official who hires contractors for any type of work should receive training on how to write requirements and negotiate terms such as how to reward contractor performance.

The Pentagon’s new approach to the procurement of contractor services will be detailed in the upcoming “DoD Instruction”

With the Pentagon now spending more than $150 billion a year on private-sector services, there is growing pressure to professionalize the process of hiring contractors and negotiating deals, said Claire Grady, director of defense procurement and acquisition policy.
Grady is a former deputy assistant commandant for acquisition and director of acquisition services for the U.S. Coast Guard, and has taken on a major role at the Pentagon at a time when the department is pushing wide-ranging procurement reforms and coming under growing criticism from industry groups for its business-unfriendly policies.

“We are looking to improve the tradecraft in services acquisition,” Grady said last week at the National Contract Management Association’s annual symposium in Washington, D.C.
The pressure on the Defense Department to tighten up its contractor hiring practices has been building up for years as the Pentagon increased its reliance on contractors for everything from construction work to secret-level research and development of technology.

“It’s different than it was 20 or 25 years ago when I started, when services were a smaller percentage of our expense,” Grady said. “Contractors are an essential element of what we do. And we haven’t always paid attention to services acquisition as we have on major weapons systems.” Services now account for 55 percent of all contract spending.

As service contracting became more widespread, the Pentagon’s highly centralized procurement command structure lost control, and over time it became clear that officials who had little or no experience or training in government procurement were making contractor-hiring decisions. Over the past several years, Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall has made services acquisition a higher priority on his reform agenda. The new directive would codify the message that Kendall has been communicating in his “better buying power” guidelines.

Grady said the forthcoming policy emphasizes the need to hold contractors accountable but also is mindful of concerns about excessive bureaucracy. “You don’t want to impose the same discipline on services as you do on major weapon systems but you have to have a balance.” Any service contract above $1 billion will have to be approved by senior acquisition executives.

The directive to make services acquisition training available across the Defense Department is significant, said Grady. Courses will be offered by the Defense Acquisition University in classrooms and online. There could be other vehicles for those who cannot attend DAU classes.

One of the Pentagon’s growing challenges is figuring out how to write contracts for private-sector support in so-called “knowledge based services.” Whereas it is easier to define duties and determine prices for commercial services like mowing the lawns or staffing commissaries at military bases, the knowledge-based category is of greater concern to the Defense Department.

Knowledge based services are tasks that require specialized technical expertise. They range from furnishing professional advice to management consulting and engineering support. The result of these services — which may take the form of information, advice, opinions, alternatives, analysis, evaluations, recommendations and overall support of day-to-day agency operations — are more difficult to articulate in contracts and assess a fair price.

Knowledge based services now consume 21 percent of all Defense Department services contracts. It’s “huge,” Grady said. The second biggest category is research and development, with 17 percent, and construction services at 8 percent.

The Pentagon’s track record in services contracting has been fraught with embarrassments in areas like overseas battlefield support, information technology and logistics systems. Billions of dollars in wasteful spending have been attributed to poorly defined work scopes and a lack of understanding of the marketplace by government officials.

“We need to make sure they do market research, get the requirements right and incentivize outcomes,” Grady said. Many government workers who hire contractors are “people who are not part of the traditional acquisition workforce,” she said. “I want to help people write requirements [without] trying to not be too prescriptive.” Whoever signs a contract must understand the needs of the “end user,” Grady said. “The emphasis should be on the commander’s requirements.”

Congress approved funds for the training initiative in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Nevertheless, this will be “challenging,” she said. “How do we get training for people that are not part of our acquisition workforce?” Just figuring out who should receive training will be difficult. “These folks are not sitting in a program manager billet, or a contracting officer billet. But we still need to get them trained.”

Learning how to contract for services is quite different than buying weapon systems, which traditionally has been the focus of acquisition training. With services, Grady said, there is a “strong emphasis on getting the requirements laid out upfront.”

In her NCMA speech, Grady also addressed the chorus of criticism by industry groups and contractor executives that the Defense Department is squeezing vendors’ profit margins and wiping out incentives for the private sector to invest in innovative products.

The Pentagon is trying to do better on that front, Grady said. “We are committed to a robust industrial base,” she said. “Industry should be earning a fair profit when they’re performing well.” But while the Pentagon is not deliberately targeting profits, she warned, “We want to do everything we can to align the motivation of industry so we get the outcomes we are looking for.” Her office is promoting the use of “heavier incentives” by procurement officials to reward performance.

A case in point is a new truck procurement for the Army and Marine Corps, the joint light tactical vehicle, or JLTV. The program is now in the spotlight because the losing bidder, Lockheed Martin Corp., is suing the government for inappropriate handling of program data during a protest.

Grady did not comment on the protest. But she cited JLTV as an example of how the Pentagon intends to reward contractors for innovation.

“In source selections we are looking for opportunities to communicate more accurately to industry what’s important to our end users. And what will differentiate a product or differentiate a service that we’re willing to pay a premium for,” she said. “We don’t want to make industry guess. 

We want to communicate what it is that we would place value on.”

In JLTV, the government stated upfront the premiums it would pay for certain features. “You don’t have to guess if it’s worth $1 or $100 to us. We’ll tell you upfront in the source selection,” she said. “That’s a change in the thought process.” For this to work, the industry has to know what the government is willing to pay, so “they know whether they want to spend the additional effort to get that outcome.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015



When visiting the SBA website on business planning, there are major topics in the business planning process which, when addressed in a plan, will insure the success of an enterprise and assist  in determining and supporting the amount of funding needed. Such topics as marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing are covered there. There are presentations and examples that can be followed to improve a plan or generate an initial plan. The link to the site is below:
SBA Write a Business Plan

Articles on strategic planning and developing a marketing plan are at the “References” Box Net Cube at this site. They address evolving an operations vision for an enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:
Business Plan Samples

It may assist in visualizing business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic.


The purpose of this article is to supplement the above business planning guidance with suggestions on principal unique aspects of federal government contracting that will yield a successful plan and more importantly a successful execution of that plan in the federal contracting venue.  


Product entrepreneurs all face the same challenges. Those who succeed recognize they need to visualize themselves in the product development business, structuring an enterprise, generating a business plan, protecting intellectual property and then seeking industry partners and investors to bring the product to market.

In the process, copyrights, patents and royalty issues may come into play and development and distribution agreements are formed. Pricing is finalized based on cost and expense projections and competitive factors unique to the company as negotiation results are achieved with industry teaming partners, developers, manufacturers and distributors.

Service contracting to the federal government is a natural venue for small business. It does not require a product with a niche market or capital intensive manufacturing facilities. Service contracting does require skilled management and labor resources capable of performing a scope of work for which the government has identified a need and for which outsourcing to an industry contractor has been selected as the means to fulfill that need. The venue demands strong human resources management, industry teaming and an enhanced business system to price, account and bill on a job cost basis under government service contracts.


Utilize the below link to register your company.  It provides excellent guidance and background, as well as access to the PDF file on NAICS Codes which are critical for you to choose before you begin the registration process.  Give these some careful thought when selecting them.  If there is a chance your firm may wish to be involved in a field, put the code in your registration.  No one will question your qualifications at this point.  That comes later during proposals. 
Note the requirement for a DUNS number up front.  You may already have one.  If you do - use it.  If you do not, follow the instructions on obtaining a DUNS free at the Dunn and Bradstreet web site.  
When you have completed your registration at the link below you will received a Government CAGE Code, uniquely identifying your firm and its location as a government contractor. 


As a small business becomes known in the federal government contracting community, successful marketing of sole source or group-designated business becomes easier, but it is always a challenge due to the need for taking early action in windows of opportunity. 
Find those windows and communicate capabilities to the decision makers and industry team members who can help you.  
If you are eligible for set aside designations make small business set asides or sole source procurements key elements in your marketing plan. 


Be straight-forward and honest with  industry teaming partners.

Do not violate share arrangements, teaming agreements or non-disclosure agreements. Such violations are a death knell for your reputation in the business.

Do not become known as a resource raider by hiring away from other firms with whom you have teamed.

Give it a best shot as a prime or a sub but involve the government contracting officer to resolve industry teaming disputes that may damage a past performance record.

Exclusivity is the practical way to go on any given program. Team early and exclusively and be a winner. 
Reputation is key, ethics count and  customers as well as the industry are observing.


Waiting for a contract award to achieve a government contracting business process is not advisable. A win may not happen at all without addressing the structure and process requirements in your proposal to convince the customer  understand his business environment is understood.

If one is not prepared in advance and one is fortunate enough to win, then in a very short time frame one will have to evolve a business system to perform on the contract and submit a billing

This article will discuss a framework for a small enterprise to develop a business system in service contracting, which is the most frequent venue utilized to enter the government market.


Government contract proposal preparation is time consuming and can be costly. Meeting the agency Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements with a responsive proposal can be well worth the effort if a winning strategy can be formulated. When considering submitting a proposal to a given government solicitation, conduct a bid/no bid exercise.

By going through that process  a company  begins formulating your win strategy or it will discover that it should not bid this job for lack of such a strategy. The elements of the process are discussed below in the form of questions to ask  against topics for key consideration

This article offers guidance as a template to apply marketing operations for accommodating federal government contract proposal preparation. Proposals are special, sometimes exhausting projects, but a necessary part of doing business with government agencies. Like many other aspects of business, the more proposals that are prepared, the more that is learned and the more one can borrow from past practice for the next one.


Strategic thinking must be applied to structuring a government service contract project management capability in your company. It must involve long term planning and designing a business system as well as establishing rates and factors to bid new work and control it while interfacing with the customer.

When one plans in detail to define the product or the service one reduces performance risk. 

The project management challenge is not to launch significant and costly resources before the specification for the product is sufficiently defined, obviating the need for costly revisions or abandonment, yet knowing when the product definition and plan are suitable for release.

Good project management starts early.


Consider the advice herein when developing and maintaining your business plan. Overlay approaches unique to the company against the guidance offered and place it in the standard format for business planning.  It will yield a road map for success and can be further evolved for growth.

For additional  details on these topics and other important information in developing and executing a government contacting plan, download the free books and supplements available in PDF format at the first, vertical “Box” in the left margin of this site.

Seizing the Moment

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Thank You and 4 Gifts from Ken Larson


Approaching 10 years in volunteer small business consulting, I appreciate the nearly 8,000 individuals who have contacted me for advice. 

You have come from many venues through the Micro Mentor and SCORE Foundations, Linked In and other social media sites.  It has been a pleasure serving small business. 

My work with you has kept me active in retirement, in touch with my profession and engaged in a continuous learning mode as we have followed the world's largest consumer - The US Federal Government. 

Please feel free to download any of the 4 free books available here. 

I plan a 5th Edition of "Small Business Federal Government Contracting" in 2016. 

My best wishes for success to you all. 

Ken Larson

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Seizing the Moment in Small Business Federal Government Contracting


Trends on the horizon point to a bright future for small business in federal government contracting.

The federal government is meeting small business contracting goals. 

In 2014, for the first time, the feds exceeded the legal requirement of 23% with a 24.9% achievement or $91.7B in contracts to small business.   The 23% goal mandated by Congress had not been met at the total government level for years. 

Times are Good for Small Business Contractors

The feds are also moving to lowest priced, technically acceptable contracting, driven by budgetary pressures

Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA)

Small business is uniquely qualified for this type of work, particularly in  the services sector, due to lower overhead and G&A rates, as well as agility in work force development.

New industries like Robotics, 3D Printing, Energy, Environmental Protection, Security IT and Geo-spatial IT are creating fields for small enterprises to compete against bigger firms or lead teams involving larger businesses on large scale projects. 

Government small business set-aside procurement is on the rise and becoming recognized by many agencies as a way to remove stodgy, entrenched companies when long term contracts come up for renewal.  These agencies look to smaller firms for cost effective, vibrant management, while inheriting an existing, trained, incumbent work force available to the winner. The process can dramatically grow smaller firms. 

Managing Incumbent Work Forces


A small business anticipating participation in the federal contracting market must make pursuing it part of a long term strategy.  Success in government contracting does not happen overnight. 

Like any other market venue, a niche must be located, market research must confirm the need for products and/or services and the competition; the customer and the potential sales must assessed.  Unlike many other fields, success relies on early requirements identification and strong marketing.

7 Tips for Lean Federal Budget Times

Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Contract

5 Factors in Forming a Small Business Contracting Company

The government contracting market allows a small business to pass on the costs of operations at a project level as well as write off company-wide expenses if allocated in a defined manner to single government cost objectives (contracts).  

Small business can also operate in a lower risk environment with contract types suited to the challenges involved.  The trade-offs to these features are requirements for audits and job cost accounting that require verified consistency from cost estimating to billing and contract closeout. This does not occur without preparation. 

Small Business Sytems Development

Entering the market requires carefully sculpting commercial past performance into prospective government contract performance and accumulating strong customer satisfaction ratings.  The feds talk to each other. 

Meeting the Past Performance Challenge

Business Ethics and Past Performance


With the right combination of planning, preparation and opportunity, a small enterprise can seize the moment with:

Identification of specific opportunities that fit company capabilities

Small Business and FEDBIZZOPS

Astute bid/no bid decisions

Making an Astute Bid/No Bid Decision

A solid team of resources both internal and external

Vital Tips for Project Management

Managing Industry Teaming Relationships

A Winning proposal, effective project start-up/execution and quality products and services

Government Contract Proposal Preparation


The small business segment of the huge federal government contacting market is poised to grow exponentially due to advances in technology and the need for flexibility, mobility, agility and economic performance. 

Rule changes are being considered to enhance entrance of commercial enterprises into the government contacting venue. Congress and the federal agencies are looking hard at constructive changes to make the challenges we have discussed here easier to meet for the small enterprise.  But the rules change slowly.  

The Government and Innovative Technology

Seize the small business contracting moment by being diligent in learning about the market and pursuing it. Make your company well equipped to succeed:
  • Define your niche
  • Learn the rules
  • Plan 
  • Prepare 
  • Execute 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Meeting Veteran & Employer Challenges During Transition from Military to Civilian Work

Image Eastern Illinois University

Expectations and Reality are Far Apart on Both Sides of the Employment Spectrum
By Ken Larson 

Aside from the legal and moral obligations to employ returning veterans, there is a third, vital challenge in the employment transition equation: understanding the vast difference between the military and civilian work environments.  The expectations of both parties must be carefully assessed and communicated with realistic processes for effective transition from military to civilian employment by the veteran.

Civilian Knowledge of the Military Environment Has Diminished

As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.

War was much closer to home when the draft existed and military participation ran higher during WW II and the Vietnam Conflict.

The Nature of Today's Wars and a Cynicism with Regard to Their Outcome Impacts the Veteran and the Civilian Outlook

Ultimately, the military’s discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

Despite a six-year, $287 million effort to make troops more optimistic and resilient, an Army survey found that 52 percent of soldiers scored badly on questions that measured optimism, while 48 percent reported having little satisfaction or commitment to their job.

Understanding the Military's Morale Crisis

Veterans bring these issues home and find a civilian employment environment that does not have a focus on combat life and death, but rather an emphasis on long term thinking, collaboration, viewing actions with respect to the impact on internal and external customers and politically correct human resource considerations.

The assumption on the part of the employer is that the strength and training of the individual coming out of the military environment permits a reasonable transition. It does not.

We Must Educate and Develop Programs to Bridge the Gap from Both Ends.

A transition partnership between the veteran and the company is necessary. Expectations must be adjusted to reflect the differences in both venues.

Military core values such as – oaths, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a culture of direct command, and a narrow focus on the task at hand are no longer available when the veteran leaves the military. 

In the civilian environment political correctness, strategic group awareness, tact, organization factors, and a broad view of mission and achievement are required.

A veteran is therefore is not so much entitled to a job as he or she is entitled to be understood, and to be allowed to understand the civilian job environment, growing into it.

Professional Roles are Vital

There are two important types of professional roles to consider when hiring and managing military veterans in the business venue.

As a veteran who made the transition to civilian professional work and ultimately owned a small enterprise, and as a counselor who supports veterans in becoming business owners, my experience over several decades indicates military men and women do well in Role 1 below. They have the most challenges with Role 2.

Role 1 Technical - Scientific, engineering, logistics, electronics, design and similar skill sets where direct supervision, team building, corporate policy compliance and human resource planning and utilization are not major factors.


Role 2- ManagementFunctional process capacities responsible for hiring, evaluation, supervision, compliance with civilian law and department activities involving group dynamics, customer relations and sensitive human factors.

Image: The Military Wallet

I came out of the military having had a leadership role in engineering, base development planning and combat support. I served in war zones in Southeast Asia and on highly classified missions. I was not a manager. I was a military leader in specialized skill sets under Role 1 above.

I knew how to direct people who followed orders without question because the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which we swore an oath said they must do so.

I felt uncomfortable in jobs involving Role 2 above because they were foreign to me. I later adjusted, learned the venue and became skilled as a manager in the corporate world. I preferred staff assignments, however for most of my career.

The corporate venue seemed enormously political and bureaucratic to a former war fighter like me. I was not that tactful. I cut to the chase often and did not always take everyone with me when I made a decision.

Once I grew into a Role 2 performer, I found in interviewing, hiring, evaluating and managing young veterans, even seasoned ones, who had retired and joined the civilian work force, that almost all were better suited for Role 1. It took years and effort on my part to fit them into Role 2 and some never made it.

Management Analysis  and Moving Forward

The principal reason for the logic conveyed above is that the military environment may seem to be structured in a way that fits Role 2, but the military does not turn out individuals who are suited in the knowledge and experience necessary in the civilian environment and they are not very good at it without extensive training and adaptation.

Enterprises have multiple-faceted challenges and they require multiple- faceted people. Even though individuals may hold a specific position job title, success in the civilian work force demands avenues where the human resource can contribute in multiple ways.

If a contributor has experience and training in several areas the business can utilize, that makes him or her a valuable resource and it is likely they will be professionally fulfilled and rewarded from doing so. Military personnel have specialty training and focus; few have a wide view of what is in front of them, particularly with respect to military vs. civilian professional settings.

It all comes down to the workers having an element of control in the future success for both themselves and the company and having the opportunity to realize their potential in that regard.

If the professional is in a narrow, technical discipline and his or her expectations are to have others support them in that role or if they are more comfortable in a "Stove-piped" professional setting and not attuned to group dynamics and the often politically correct nature of the civilian organization, they perhaps belong in technical roles and they do not belong in management roles at the onset of their employ.


In fairness to veterans and to our hopes for them in the future, we must understand these above distinctions, build on Role 1, understand the risk in Role 2 and assist wherever possible.Above all,  a respectful partnership and realistic expectations must evolve between the veteran and the company for success in transitioning  former military personnel into the civilian work force. This must be achieved through education, training, communication and assessment of both the veteran and the company personnel. 

Ken Larson 

About the Author:

Ken Larson is a 2 Tour US Army Vietnam Veteran, retired after 36 Years in the Defense Industrial Complex, having worked on 25 major weapons systems, many of which are in use today in the Middle East. He concluded his career with his own consulting firm. As a MicroMentor Volunteer Counselor Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting.