The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is a position that’s created in almost every physical location and/or agency organization within the federal government. These folks are charged with a variety of missions that are devoted to small business success, whether you are a small business, an 8(a) (socially and economically disadvantaged) small business, a woman-owned small business, a veteran-owned small business, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business or a HUBZone business (located in a traditionally underutilized business area).
They serve you in three major roles:
The OSDBU can give you information about the agency/organization, such as their typical buying patterns and even a forecast of anticipated spending that covers everything from pencils to airplanes and everything in between.
OSDBUs work directly with your customer (the government agency) to encourage them to designate contracts so that only small businesses can bid on them. Otherwise, contracts with an open requirement can be bid on by anyone, from a one-person business to a massive company like Lockheed Martin. OSDBUs help level the playing field.
The federal government, through congressional action, has established a requirement that 23% of the money contracted through the federal government go to small businesses. The OSDBU monitors this and also assists small businesses to bid for the jobs that are reserved for them. They are a part of the internal agency review process that determines the “acquisition strategy” – whether the job will be set-aside for small business, or allowed to have “full and open” competition (i.e., anybody can bid, no matter what size). As the internal advocate for small business, the OSDBU works on our behalf to make sure the government gives a fair shake to small business.
So if you plan on trying to make money in the federal government, talk to the small business officer in your local area, whether that is an air force base, army base or a regional office. They can give you crucial background information about that agency or location, and can open doors by telling you who might have work that will be bid soon. Contracting Officers (COs) will come to the OSDBU for names of small businesses, since COs like to have three bidders on each contract. Get your small business included on that list of names!
Although they have a very important function to perform, the fact is OSDBUs themselves don’t have any money for you. They may know who needs contractors, but they are not hiring contractors. They have influence, they can be your advocate and they can help you, but they are not your customer. The customers are the people who have money. OSDBUs and their staff are nice people and they want to help you, but they can’t give you an actual contract. So keep working on finding customers, but in the meantime you also need to make sure the OSDBU office knows you, so make sure you stop by often.