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As one of the largest hiring entities in the world, the United States government provides many small businesses with lucrative work opportunities. Working with the Department of Defense (DOD) can be particularly advantageous. There are many strict rules and significant oversight as well though. If you are a small business that is considering contracting with the United States DOD, you should think about the following.
The DOD is all about security. In today’s technologically advanced world a specific type of security, known as cybersecurity, is a key concern of the federal government. Cybersecurity concerns protecting digital devices, information, and networks. If you want to work with the DOD, you must have sufficient digital security measures and programs in place. Working with the government means that your business will likely have access to important and sensitive information that the government will expect you to keep reasonably confidential and safe.
By October of 2025, the DOD plans to mandate that all businesses prove themselves and their digital security systems through the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification or CMMC compliance program. This certification will require businesses to pass assessments rather than simply self-attest to their capabilities.
Another consideration is the nature of your contract with the DOD. There are many different types of business arrangements available to work with this government agency. Smaller businesses might be able to enjoy benefits from contracts that are set aside specifically for them. These special contracts help control the competition and make it possible for these smaller entities to compete with larger ones and engage in government work. Many of these contracts are also specifically designed to help socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses, such as disabled veteran-owned and operated, woman-run, or historically underutilized business zone (HUBZone) entities. You also need to contemplate whether or not you want to be directly connected to the DOD. It might be more advantageous or feasible for you to sub-contract for another entity, than to contract for the DOD yourself. Which route you choose will determine how strict and what exactly are the regulations you have to follow.
Provided that you adhere to the strict rules and processes that the DOD requires and that you successfully land an initial contract, working for the DOD can be long-term, regular, and profitable. Getting started initially takes time and often requires a rigorous investigation, so you need to be well prepared ahead of time. Though it is not always easy to get started as a defense contractor, once you do, it can be quite rewarding. The government is known for having projects that last for several decades that continuously develop and provide regular work. The work also usually pays well because the government and the military want the highest quality work the first time and every time, so they can and are willing to pay more to get it. Once you land a contract you can expect to receive payment when and how you agreed to as well, because the government has to follow strict guidelines for conducting business. Many DOD initiatives also create and grow into additional future opportunities for you to possibly take advantage of. Generally, once you have proven yourself on one project, the DOD will try to continue to work with you because they know you have been successful and good for them in the past.
Becoming a defense contractor can be beneficial for several reasons but it can also be a difficult position to procure and maintain. Good pay, healthy business relationships and specialized opportunities make defense contracting an enticing notion if you can pass the cybersecurity requirements and get your foot in the door at the start. Keep these factors in mind if you are a small business that is considering joining up with the DOD.