US Government Defense Procurement Process: Challenges and Recommendations for Small Businesses – Eric Jenkusky


In a recent episode of the Modern Aerospace podcast, host Jeremy Derosier interviewed Eric Jenkusky, the CEO and co-founder of TG Clark International. The discussion revolved around the challenges and opportunities for small businesses in the US government defense procurement process. This article aims to delve deeper into the intricacies of the procurement process, highlight the main challenges faced by small businesses, and provide recommendations to navigate and succeed in this complex landscape.

The US Government Defense Procurement Process

The US government defense procurement process is a multi-year endeavor that involves various stages, from identifying the need for a specific product or service to the final contract award. Small businesses often find themselves navigating a bureaucratic system that lacks urgency and is driven by expedience rather than the acquisition of the best equipment.

One of the main challenges faced by small businesses is the lengthy and cumbersome nature of the procurement process. Contracts can be hundreds of pages long, requiring extensive attention to detail and compliance with various regulations. Additionally, the involvement of numerous stakeholders from the government side can lead to a lack of clarity and delays in decision-making.

Challenges Faced by Small Businesses

Limited Resources and Expertise

Small businesses often operate with limited resources and may lack the expertise required to navigate the complex procurement process. Understanding the intricacies of government contracting, compliance requirements, and the specific needs of the Department of Defense (DoD) can be overwhelming for businesses without prior experience in this field.

Competing with Established Primes

Established prime contractors, with their vast resources and experience, often dominate the defense procurement landscape. Small businesses face the challenge of competing against these giants, who may have preferential treatment due to their long-standing relationships with the government.

Lack of Transparency and Fairness

Transparency and fairness in the procurement process are vital for small businesses to have an equal opportunity to compete. However, the current system often lacks transparency, and small businesses may feel disadvantaged by the lack of a level playing field.

Compliance and Regulatory Burden

Complying with the extensive regulations and requirements set forth by the government can be overwhelming for small businesses. From labor regulations to environmental compliance, the burden of meeting these requirements adds complexity and cost to the procurement process.

Recommendations for Small Businesses

Seek Assistance from Government Programs

The US government provides various programs and resources to assist small businesses in navigating the defense procurement process. One such program is the Apex Accelerators (formerly known as Procurement Technical Assistance Centers or PTACs) located in all 50 states. These organizations offer guidance, training, and support to help small businesses understand the process and requirements.

Leverage Consortia and Strategic Partnerships

Joining consortiums and forming strategic partnerships can provide small businesses with access to larger contracts and facilitate collaboration with established primes. These partnerships can help small businesses gain credibility and enhance their chances of success in the procurement process.

Build Relationships and Network

Building relationships with key stakeholders in the defense industry is crucial for small businesses. Attending industry events, engaging with government officials, and networking with potential partners and customers can open doors and provide valuable insights into the procurement process.

Focus on Niche Markets

Identifying and targeting niche markets within the defense industry can offer small businesses a competitive advantage. By specializing in a specific area, businesses can differentiate themselves from larger competitors and provide unique solutions tailored to the needs of the government.

Advocate for Procurement Process Reform

Small businesses can play an active role in advocating for procurement process reform. By sharing their experiences and challenges with government officials and industry associations, they can contribute to creating a more transparent, efficient, and fair procurement system.


The US government defense procurement process presents both challenges and opportunities for small businesses. While navigating the bureaucratic landscape can be daunting, strategic partnerships, assistance from government programs, and a focus on niche markets can enhance the chances of success. By advocating for process reform and actively engaging with key stakeholders, small businesses can contribute to a more transparent and equitable procurement system. With determination, resilience, and a solid understanding of the procurement process, small businesses can thrive in the defense industry.

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