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The ‘Final Frontier’ is a ‘Warfighting Domain’

Science fiction met science reality Monday in the Rocket City.

And no punches were pulled when it came to discussing national defense at the 22nd Space & Missile Defense Symposium. The symposium runs through Thursday at the Von Braun Center downtown.

“It’s a very crowded environment,” said Army Lt. Gen. Jim Dickinson, commanding general of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. It is the mission of the SMDC to “defeat, penetrate and disintegrate” our adversaries’ levels of defense and “operate and dominate a combative” space environment.

Dickinson said the Army is the largest user of space of the military branches and has some 3,000 soldiers trained. The Army’s involvement dates to the 1950s with the Redstone rocket and the launch of the Explorer I satellite in 1958 began its space involvement.

And, as we know, technology has traveled at warp speed over the last 60 years.

Maj. Gen. Rick Evans addresses the 22nd Missile & Space Defense Symposium. (Photo by Steve Babin)

“We have become increasingly reliable on space and cyber,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Evans, assistant to the commander, U.S. Strategic Command. “Space and cyber are vital to our defense.

“We must adapt to new threats and stay ahead of our adversaries.”

To counter those threats, President Trump directed the U.S. Space Command be re-established as a full military branch. But, Evans said, that doesn’t mean “SAC will be out of the space business.”

And, the Army and Air Force still have their own space commands.

The Army’s 1st Space Brigade with headquarters in Colorado Springs supports joint forces and their critical dependence on space capabilities. The Air Force Space Command is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

“Space is a warfighting domain,” he said. “We need those commands. Almost everything we do is tied to space in some way.”

The “crowded environment” in space includes threats from Russia and China, as well as “new threats” from the likes of North Korea and Iran through missiles, satellites and directed-energy (laser) weapons.

Evans said the U.S. must be prepared to answer the challenge by focusing on agility and speed.

“We need resilient, redundant capability,” he said. “We need a rapid, reconstituting capability.

“We can’t wait five years to replace a satellite.”

Turner Construction Renovating TMDE Lab

Turner Construction recently began renovating the Army’s TMDE Activity’s Primary Standards Lab at Redstone Arsenal. The 76,000 square-foot facility is used for primary-level calibration and repair of Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) that the Army uses for its vehicles, weapons and equipment.

“As the agency responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the Army and its military systems, this renovation is crucial for us,” said George Condoyiannis, chief of construction for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District. “The renovation includes updating laboratory spaces to keep up with state-of-the-art, high-tech army equipment that have significant calibration needs.”

The $27,223,895 renovation takes place while the building remains occupied. Completion is slated for January 2021.

“This project is an extension of an incredibly valued partnership between the U.S. Army Corps and Turner, and we are proud to play a part in the incredible work they do for our community and our country,” said Turner’s Southeast Federal Account Manager Tyce Hudson.

Huntsville’s Business Environment Embraces Veterans

Huntsville is a well-known destination for retiring veterans who want to do business with the government.

In 1992, Rosalyn Thompson-Blackwell and Roderick Herron met during 14 weeks of Officer’s Training at Fort Benning, Ga.

Thompson-Blackwell, president and CEO of Huntsville’s Mb Solutions, had worked as a project manager and acquisitions officer in the Army, stationed in Colorado Springs, Colo. She often came to Huntsville on Temporary Duty because her brother was stationed at Redstone Arsenal.

When she retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel after 24 years of service, she wanted to start a business that supplied services to the Department of Defense. There was no hesitation about where she would go.

Herron, executive vice president of Mb Solutions, had his college business degree but was deeply in debt. Three years in the Army was the quickest means for paying it off. Twenty-six years later, he found his greater purpose.

When he retired, also as a lieutenant colonel, he made a career decision based on Redstone being the closest military installation to his hometown of Grenada, Miss.

Huntsville is the ‘Pentagon South’ 

“For Army veterans, Huntsville is known as the ‘Pentagon South,’” said Rich McAdams, president of Ignite, a certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business government contractor headquartered in Huntsville. “So much Army acquisition work is done here, it is said that if an Army soldier writes it, shoots it, eats it, drinks it, or consumes it, the Army Materiel Command in Huntsville buys it.

“AMC has an annual budget of $147 billion a year, so you can see why Huntsville is so well-known and highly regarded among veterans, and especially those interested in doing business with the government or military.”

The Challenges of Starting a Veteran-owned Business

Initially, Thompson-Blackwell went to work for People-Tec, a Huntsville contractor which specializes in diversified engineering, modeling and simulation, cybersecurity, rapid prototyping, and program support.

“I had received programmatic and engineering services and knew the military structure and the acquisition process,” she says. “I did not know the business from the contractor’s perspective, so People-Tec mentored me even though they knew I wanted to go into business for myself. They showed me how to cost out contracts and how to manage contracts.”

In 2016, Thompson-Blackwell and Herron opened Mb Solutions together.

“It’s not as easy as it may seem,” says Herron. “It takes a lot of work, a lot of knowledge, the right connections, and many blessings. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is luck!”

“We call it procurement-ready,” says Mary Jane Fleming, Procurement Advisor and VA Certified Verification Advisor at the Small Business Development Center and Procurement Technical Assistance Center. “If you want to do business with the government or team up with large companies, we help you understand the business processes.”

“We went through a lot of growing pains, but we used it to our advantage,” says Thompson-Blackwell. “This is where a military background is important. We used that time to set up operating procedures, write policies, and set up an accounting system. We figured out how our company could be beneficial to veterans with benefits and policies that align with that philosophy. We didn’t waste any of that time.”

According to Foster Perry, director of the SBDC, “This is a military town; Veterans own a lot of businesses here and they hire a lot of veterans. The military has its own culture, so if they can bring someone in who knows that culture, it is a benefit.”

Veterans Make the Best Employees

“I admit I am biased when it comes to veterans,” says McAdams with Ignite. “I am biased for business reasons. Vets make great employees.

“At a young age in the Army, you are given a lot of responsibility. At 22 you might be a section leader in charge of five or six soldiers or a squad leader in charge of 10 or 11 soldiers. If you are in Afghanistan, you are going door-to-door looking for bad guys and making life or death decisions. At 26 years old, you can have 100 people working for you and be responsible for over $100 million worth of equipment. Veterans have maturity and judgement way beyond that of a civian peer.”

Herron and Thompson-Blackwell agree.

“We have been on the other side and have a passion for what we do,” said Thompson-Blackwell. “We know the needs of the kids – the soldiers who are still out there on the front lines.

“If I can provide something to make their life easier or that could save one American child’s life, it’s worthwhile.”

“I think once you have done 24 to 26 years of service, it becomes part of who you are,” said Herron. “That service spirit is embedded in you and you still want to be part of it in some way.

“Providing support to the government is like being a part of something bigger than you.”

McAdams said a key to hiring veterans is their strong work ethic.

“If I have two candidates, all things being equal, but one is a veteran,” he said. “I will hire the vet in a heartbeat because of their work ethic, maturity and judgement.”

 

Sentar awarded $12.1 Billion U.S. Army contract

 

Sentar, a Woman-Owned Small Business, was recently awarded a potential, nine-year, $12.1 billion contract from the Army.

The Huntsville-based company specializes in advanced cybersecurity and intelligence services and technology. The award is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-3 services, known as ITES-3S. The program  is expected to be the Army’s primary source of IT-related services worldwide. The contract ceiling value is $25 billion.

“Sentar is excited to be recognized as a leading small business that can provide the innovation and agility required in today’s cybersecurity-intensive IT environment,” said Bridget Abashian, CEO and president of Sentar. “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with our Army customers and delivering services essential to the soundness of our nation’s most critical programs for years to come.”