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By Debbie Gregory.

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The DPA is a powerful tool to be employed to protect the nation.  Now that the nation’s industries are responding to the crisis, the best use of the DPA is as surgical tool for specific issues and as leverage to prompt best behavior and information sharing.

Elected members of the House and Senate now speak of the act daily. It’s also very much in the media.

The Defense Production Act first came into being in 1950 as the Truman administration realized it needed more authorities to mobilize the industrial base to fight the Korean War. The act has been re-authorized by Congress some 50 times since then, undergoing significant revision along the way.

The revisions made took basic two forms. Authorities no longer needed such as those dealing with requisitioning, rationing, wage and price-fixing, and labor disputes—were dropped.

Other revisions have broadened the original narrow definition of national defense.  It now extends to such things as energy security, space security and national disasters.

Of the seven original titles in the DPA, three remain—Titles I, III, and VII.  Here is a quick description to help understand what is taking place today with the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Title I broadly contains the priorities and allocation authorities. The priorityauthority allows the federal government to ensure the timely availability of critical materials and services produced in the private market in the interest of national defense, and to receive items through contracts before any other competing interest. The allocation authority gives the president the power to allocate or control the general distribution of materials, services, and facilities.

The Department of Defense is the most frequent user of Title I, using it to insert priority clauses into its contracts. These provisions requiring contractors to give the Pentagon preference over all other customers in delivering goods or services.

In 2018 the department did this over 300,000 times. The Pentagon used its highest rating to prioritize the delivery of Mine Resistant-Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles for the Iraq War, as well as to obtain body armor for troops. The other federal departments use priority ratings much less. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used DPA-rated contracts only about 2,000 times in 2018, mostly for hurricane response.

The President has delegated his DPA authorities to the appropriate cabinet secretaries. On March 18, he signed Executive Order 13909 delegating his priorities authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).  This marked what the President and the media referred to as “invoking the Defense Production Act.”

Five days later, President Trump signed Executive Order 13910 giving HHS the allocations authority under Title I to stop hoarding and price gouging for medical equipment and supplies.  This authority has already been used in at least one instance to seize hoarded masks and protective equipment.

In the following week, the White House started to get specific about how to wield these authorities. On March 27, the president issued a memorandum telling HHS Secretary Alex Azar to direct General Motors to accept and prioritize contracts for ventilator production. Then, on April 2, the President signed two additional memorandums: the first directing 3M Company to ramp up N95 mask production; the other directing Azar to speed up delivery of component parts to the big manufacturers of ventilators.

  • Now, let us look at Title III. It allows the President to provide grants and loans to develop, maintain, and expand domestic production capacity for resources needed for national defense.

Again, the Pentagon has been the most frequent user of these authorities, using them to provide money—typically in amounts less than $50 million—to companies to help shore up a recognized deficiency in the defense industrial base.  In the last year or two, the Defense Department has used Title III authority to help assure access to rare earths, explosives, and lithium seawater batteries.

In a typical year, the Pentagon asks for about $30 million for the Title III DPA Fund.  In 2020 it sought $34 million.

In terms of recent activity using Title III authorities, the newly-enacted CARES Act appropriates an unprecedented $1 billion to the DPA.  It is anticipated that most of that funding will go to medical manufacturing, including for vaccines and therapeutics. The CARES act also eliminates certain limits on DPA funding and reporting requirements.

The President also delegated his Title III authorities to his HHS and DHS secretaries. (DHS is involved because it controls FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.) Now, both departments can make direct investments in U.S. corporations to increase their capacity to manufacture medical supplies and equipment.

  • The final section of the DPA, Title VII, contains a grab bag of authorities. The one most pertinent today is probably the authority for the government to enter voluntary arrangements with private companies.  Arrangements which, in normal circumstances, might look like sole-source contract awards, are thus permissible using Title VII.

For example, companies have approached the White House offering to make goods such as N95 respirators. Normally such transactions must be openly competed and competitively awarded. Title VII authorities provide for exceptions.

So, that is the DPA in a nutshell: Title I—priorities and allocation authorities; Title III—direct investments, and Title VII—voluntary agreements.

It’s likely that every one of the thousands of contracts being issued by the Defense Department and FEMA to fight the COVID-19 emergency have a DPA Title I rating.. And now that the federal government has developed a better understanding of the situation, General Motors has been directed to produce ventilators, 3M to make respirators, and ventilator parts suppliers to make more. Additional use of DPA authorities is likely in the coming weeks.

Over the last two weeks, we have seen may private like Ford and Toyota volunteer to partner with medical companies to make ventilators; Honeywell, 3M, Hanes, and others to make millions of N95 masks; and Anheuser Busch, Baccardi, and scores of boutique distillers to make hand sanitizer.

The DPA is a powerful tool to be employed to protect the nation.

 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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VAMBOA and our team hopes that you have enjoyed Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series on Business Grants for Veterans and found it to be valuable.   Please let us know what you think because we value your input.  You can email us at info@vamboa.org.

 

Once you have your funding secured, either by grant or loan, you may still need some other business assistance. Below you can find some excellent resources for your Small Veteran Owned Business to utilize to start, learn, nurture, and grow your small business:

  • Boots to Business is a two-step program offered by the Small Business Administration (the SBA) offered on military installations around the world to introduce service members to entrepreneurship and the foundations needed to begin a business when they return home.
  • Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV)is a free program for post-9/11 vets and their spouses.
  • Patriot Boot Camp is a branch of the startup incubator: TechStars and is specifically for active duty military members and their spouses who want to gain entrepreneurial skills.
  • Service-Disabled Entrepreneurship Development Training Program offers between $50,000 and $150,000 as a grant to support organizations that deliver entrepreneurship training program(s) to service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs who want to become small business owners or who currently own a small business.
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several veteran entrepreneurship training programs.
  • Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is an SBA-funded program that offers online training, a conference and mentorship specifically to female veterans.
  • Veterans Business Services helps veterans acquire or start small business. Veteran Business Services offers assistance with franchising, marketing and with connecting you with financial services.
  • Veterans Business Resource Center offers business training for Veterans including help with understanding business plans, financials, marketing, sales, human resource management, and more. They also offer webinars and professional counseling.
  • Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP)is an accelerator program with three specific offerings specifically designed for owners, principals, and C‐level executives of Veteran Owned Small Businesses and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses SDVOSB).  Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) Grow helps companies develop overall strategies to operate and expand within the federal marketplace. VIP Start helps companies that want to get into the federal market and become procurement-ready. VIP International is for companies that want to enter or expand their federal and commercial contracting opportunities overseas.
  • VetsInTechis a private sector training program that offers tech related education opportunities, connections with tech jobs and workshops and bootcamps to help veteran startup founders boost and grow their businesses.

 

Veterans Take the Initiative to Explore Entrepreneurship

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Past military experience helps “veteran entrepreneurs” find success especially when they team up.  Working in teams is part of the military culture. Veterans tend to have a greater desire to create their own destiny, which is why starting a business is so appealing.  Veterans tend to have a unique point of view based on their past military experience.   They come up with different solutions to problems than non-military personnel do and are more creative and focused on crafting solutions.

 

Veterans have unique experiences and inner strengths that include:  

  • Initiative
  • Dependability
  • Commitment to a greater cause than self
  • Love for fellow comrades in arms regardless of their ethnicity or background
  • A drive to succeed against the odds
  • Focusing on the end goal and achieving the mission
  • Working in teams to get the job done

 

All of these attributes benefit veteran entrepreneurs.  This is one of the reasos that veterans tend to lean more towards starting their own businesses.  These same traits lead a lot of veteran business owners to want to help others pursue entrepreneurship as well.  They also become mentors and are leaders.

 

In the last few years there has been a surge of businesses, organizations, lenders, and programs that have been formed to provide veterans ways to explore entrepreneurship with the direct support of their colleagues.

 

Some of them include:

 

All of these organizations have one thing in common, they were created by a veteran, a group of veterans or those who support veterans to help veteran brothers and sisters in arms achieve their business dreams.

 

Military life has prepared many for the challenges that are unique to military service and those will also greatly benefit business life as a civilian. Veterans also face unique challenges when they return home from active duty. Seeking assistance from other veterans will help boost success as a civilian entrepreneur.

 

In today’s ever-changing economy, global climate, and interpersonal relationships, it is best to find programs and funding sources that focus on bringing together veterans and like-minded business owners who can help each other flourish.

 

We encourage all military and veteran business owners to join VAMBOA, the Veteran and Military Business Owners Association.  VAMBOA does not charge any fees or dues.  Here is a link to register:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

Illegal Interview Practices to Avoid

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By Debbie Gregory.

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was created to protect job candidates and employees from discrimination. When interviewing, it is best to avoid any line of questioning that could potentially be viewed as discriminatory.

 

You cannot ask a candidate or employee about:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Gender identity
  • Where they live
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Marital status
  • Having children, pregnancy, or plans to start a family
  • Arrest record
  • Financial status

 

When interviewing a pool of candidates for a job, make sure that you only use one set of interview questions for every potential employee. If you ask each person a different set of questions, that can be viewed as discriminatory and create liability for you.

 

Make sure to avoid these topics when preparing your list or asking interview questions:

  • Asking about their arrest record. You can ask if someone has previously been disciplined by a past employer for violating policy but asking about arrests or other legal problems is a huge no-no.
  • Asking about their current salary. Most states currently have a salary history ban in place; it is a good idea to avoid this question. You might ask them what about their compensation expectations with your company.
  • Asking where they live. This could be construed as discrimination
  • Asking if they are comfortable working under someone younger than the candidate. Asking a question like this can be viewed as age discrimination.
  • Asking about drug usage. This one seems like a valid question yet businesses are not allowed to discriminate against recovering addicts or people who take prescription drugs for a health condition. If drug use/abuse is a concern then stick with pre-employment drug screenings instead.
  • Asking about their accent or country of origin. If fluency is a concern, you can ask what languages they are fluent in but avoid asking if English is their first language or if they are a native speaker.
  • Asking what class they graduated with at any school they attended. This is another question that can be viewed as age discrimination.
  • Asking about their family or plans to have a family. This is one of the topics that generally comes up when interviewers stray into small talk and is a huge no-no. Someone’s family planning is not relevant to the job they are being interviewed for and asking any questions related to this topic will land you in trouble with the EEOC.

 

There are a few cases where you may need to know certain sensitive items such as physical health, education, legal convictions, or availability. When you do need to touch on these topics you must be careful about how to discuss them. Any of these types of questions (or really any questions you ask) need to be clearly related to the job in question and the fitness of the person to perform the tasks and responsibilities if hired.

 

Generally stay away from:

  • Any questions not directly related to the job.
  • Don’t ask anything that you cannot learn by looking at their social media or other public websites.
  • Be very clear about what qualities, skills, or traits a person will need for the role they are applying for.
  • Avoid personal conversations.

 

Many of these questions not to ask are obvious but often asked anyway.  It is not only illegal interview questions that can get you into trouble. Never promise or hint to any candidate that you think they may get the job because if they do not, it can create liability.  Additionally, promising long-term job security, implying a specific career path, or hinting that they could quickly advance in the company should be avoided.  You can say state general opportunity terms for all employees but avoid anything that can be construed as promises.

 

Always be sure that you are conducting your interviews in the most fair and legal manner possible. If you need assistance or have questions please visit the EEOC website at https://www.eeoc.gov/.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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Part 1 of 3

 

Starting a business isn’t easy – it involves very careful planning, evaluation, and a bit of cash to get started. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 30% of all businesses fail within their first year, approximately 1/2 close their doors within 5 years, and only 1/3 will make it to their 10th anniversary.

 

The reasons the businesses fail vary but often they revolve around lack of funding or lack of profits. Before starting a new business, you must spend the time and energy to build a solid foundation in order to survive and thrive.

 

Necessary Essentials:

 

1.) Evaluate yourself and your business idea

Before you start a business, it is an excellent idea to take stock of all of your own personal strengths and weaknesses. What are your skills? Where is your expertise? What are you passionate about? Why do you want to start a business?   Then look at ideas for the type of business you want to start. Are you improving on something that already exists or providing a new product or service?

 

2.) Do your market research

Once you know what you want to do, it makes sense to spend the time doing some in-depth exploration and analysis of your target market. You don’t want to launch a business blindly. Conducting research will help you determine whether or not your idea will be viable in the marketplace.

 

3.) Write out your business plan and make it official

After you have conducted your market research and you find that your offering will potentially be successful, you want to write out the blueprint for starting the business. Your business plan should detail the purpose of your business, your target customers, your long-term goals, and how you plan to finance the business until you are successful and profitable.  You will need to determine the right legal business structure  (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc), register your business with your local government, obtain any necessary permits/certificates/licenses, as well as trademarks/copyrights/patents (if applicable), you will need to open a bank account, and setup your legal team and plan (just in case).

 

4.) Get your business rolling

Once all of that is in place, select the location for your business, setup your location, and staff it. Make sure that you choose a location that is convenient for your target customers and not too close to your competition. Train your staff properly and make sure that you give them the tools they need to make your customers happy.

 

Regardless of how successful you become, never get too complacent. Your market and target audience will change over the lifetime of your business. Make sure that you devote the time and energy into regular evaluations of your offerings, your market, and your customers to see where you can improve.  Often you will need to hire specialists to help you and this is money well spent.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this 3 Part Series.

 

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