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By Debbie Gregory.

The Defense Department has resumed accepting deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after resolving a disagreement with Lockheed Martin over who should pay to fix the corrosion issues on a couple hundred jets.

It is still unknown as to who will ultimately be left with the repair bill. Spokesmen from Lockheed and the F-35 Joint Program Office declined to comment on whether the company or government will be held financially responsible.

The problem of corrosion in fastener holes that were drilled and not corrected or properly treated was originally identified last September. Defense Department officials felt the Pentagon shouldn’t be held wholly responsible for paying to retrofit planes due to Lockheed’s mistake, leading it to partially freeze deliveries during the negotiations.

The majority of the F-35s with the production defect causing corrosion around fastener holes will be repaired within two years.

Michael Friedman, a Lockheed spokesman, said an agreement was reached on correcting the problem but did not disclose who will end up paying the bill.

“The Pentagon has resumed accepting F-35 aircraft, following an agreement between the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and Lockheed Martin to effectively and efficiently address the F-35 hole primer issue,” Friedman said.

Lockheed released a statement saying deliveries had resumed following an agreement between the F-35 JPO and the company to “effectively and efficiently” address the issue.

“All F-35 production continued during the delivery pause, and Lockheed Martin remains on track to meet its delivery target of 91 aircraft for 2018,” the company said.

“As a complex development program, whether it’s this program or any other program, things are going to happen in the production line and we’re going to address them as they come along,” said Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson.

The fifth-generation fighter jets, which are Lockheed’s flagship weapons system, account for about 25 percent of its revenues.

By Debbie Gregory.

Despite the government’s lack of confidence in Boeing’s ability to deliver the KC-46 Pegasus military aerial refueling aircraft, Boeing has forecast delivery of 18 units by year’s end.

“Boeing has been overly optimistic in all of their scheduled reports,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee. “One of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force.”

Boeing’s design was seen as relatively low risk as the tanker bid was based on a modified commercial 767 passenger jet. But delivery of the first KC-46 aircraft is expected to be more than a year late.

Boeing has 34 tankers in various phases of completion.

Before delivery can be made, Boeing must conduct flight tests to certify that:

  • The F-16 fighter and the C-17 transport jet are capable of receiving fuel from the tanker under all conditions;
  • The new tanker can be refueled by the older KC-135 tanker; and
  • The newly developed fix for the camera systems is operational.

The price tag for the development and production of 179 tankers is estimated to be $41 billion.

In the international marketplace, the delays gave an advantage to the KC-46’s competition, the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport. But the USAF had awarded the development contract to Boeing which, at the time,  was declared “the clear winner” under a formula that considered the bid prices, how well each of the planes met war-fighting needs and what it would cost to operate them over 40 years

The tanker features a new advanced refueling boom that extends 58 feet out from the rear of the aircraft, a rigid pipe with wings sprouting either side to make it maneuverable.

In contrast to the older KC-135 tankers currently in use by the Air Force today, the KC-46 the operator sits at a computer station behind the tanker’s cockpit instead of laying prone on their belly at the rear of the plane. The cameras provide the visuals rather than the operator having to look out a window at the receiving aircraft.

“When you are flying and fighting at night, the capabilities of the cameras are a game-changer,” said Sean Martin, the KC-46 chief boom operator. “On this airplane, it’s the same as daytime.”

By Debbie Gregory.

Although a lot of work goes into winning a government contract, it can be very lucrative, making the hoops worth jumping through. If you’re wondering where to start, here are some tips to get you started.

All businesses can benefit from networking. No matter what stage your business is in, from just getting started up through well established, building relations and strategic alliances with mentors, other business owners and contractors can only help you. Check out networking events at veteran incubators, military bases, colleges, chambers of commerce, outreach centers, etc.

Make sure you have a team in place to handle what needs to be done. Go for quality, not quantity. Make sure that regardless of how many people you have, they know what their responsibilities are and can get them done correctly and in a timely manner.

If you were buying a house, you would want to begin the funding process before you put on offer in. In the same vein, you want to have your financing lined up before you make promises on deliverability. The SBA is a great resource, so make sure you check out how they might be able to assist you.

Build your performance history. Every company started with that first job, first order, first contract. Now is the time to start establishing your track record. Keep it on track by completing what you say you’ll do, and do it to the highest level.

Toot your own horn. Leverage the internet to showcase what you can do and what you have done. Make sure you keep your website up-to-date and post on your social media platforms.

If you don’t have many employees, remember that not every job has to be done by an in-house person. There are a number of ways to outsource the work on an “as-needed” basis.

If you do your homework ahead of time, you will be better positioned to bid on that government contract when the opportunity presents itself.

By Debbie Gregory.

Just because your company does not contract directly with the government does not mean you lose out on the opportunity. Large companies who are hired as the prime contractors more often than not use smaller companies as subcontractors to provide the services they don’t already have in place.

In order to make sure you are in a position to accept a subcontractor opportunities, here are some thing you should prepare in advance:

Have knowledge of your business’s processes, resources, staff and capital. The government is notorious for requiring a lot of paperwork, so having this information at the ready will give you the opportunity to jump in to the process quickly.

The companies working on government contracts also have diversity requirements to fulfill, so if you are a veteran owned business, a woman owned business, a minority owned business, etc., make sure you have the appropriate certification.

Keep current on what contracting/subcontracting opportunities are available. In addition to online sites that specialize in these searches, sign up for VAMBOA membership and you will receive emails whenever we receive requests for proposals from our corporate sponsors.

Reach out to the person in charge of the project to see if you can pre-qualify your services. There’s no point in filling out the paperwork and going through the application process if they require something you can’t comply with.

Speaking of paperwork, it is imperative to provide all information requested, whether it makes sense to you or not. Try to keep all information concise and to the point, and submit it as early as you can. This will give you some leeway to correct any errors or answer any questions prior to the deadline.

Hopefully, you have already reached out to the project manager before submitting your application, so a quick communication to check on the status of your bid helps to further build that relationship. It will also help you receive a status update.

If you don’t win the bid, your contact can possibly help you understand why. Rather than focusing on the defeat, think of it as an opportunity to better prepare for the next opportunity.

If you won, now’s the time to get busy and ramp up. Make sure everything is in place for you to deliver on your promise of performance.

By Debbie Gregory.

An effective marketing strategy is the most important tool in a small business owner’s toolbox. A marketing strategy looks at all of the areas of your business activities and helps each one support the next. Understanding how to create an integrated marketing strategy will help you make better individual decisions regarding specific marketing tactics.

To start, understand that it’s crucial to have a company name, logo, colors, imagery and other graphic elements that help communicate your strategic positioning to your customers.

Those marketing aspects can be displayed on your excellent website. Keep in mind that your website is the business card of today. And the first thing any potential customer will do is Google you and look for your site. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make it count. Make sure your company website is attractive and easy to use. Keep movement, sounds and flashing graphics to a minimum.

Start thinking about content as the voice of strategy, so all the content that you produce, your web pages, social media articles, blog posts, newsletters and press releases, this is all content. You want to think about the intention that you have for every piece of content, because content today is used to create awareness.

Social media can be a good source of traffic and exposure for your business, but don’t just keep it limited to your company’s; also take advantage of your own personal social media.  Even if you only have 50 or 100 friends on a social media platform, each of them will know hundreds or even thousands of people.

Remember that there is a real world out there, separate from the cyberworld. Don’t miss the opportunity to network with real people offline. Join business groups that help promote each other, including county chamber groups, breakfast business groups, etc.

And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask. Ask for reviews, feedback, comments, likes, reposts, etc.

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