Anteon expands Air Force mentor-protege program

Anteon Corp. has broadened its participation in the Defense Department's mentorprot?#233;g?#233; program by picking up two more small, disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) that will work with the Fairfax, Va.based integrator on Air Force technology contracts. Anteon will play the role of mentor for Fiore Indust

Anteon Corp. has broadened its participation in the Defense Department's mentor-protege program by picking up two more small, disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) that will work with the Fairfax, Va.-based integrator on Air Force technology contracts.

Anteon will play the role of mentor for Fiore Industries, Albuquerque, N.M., and DaySys Inc., Dayton, Ohio, under an Air Force contract announced this month and valued at $1 million over two years.

DOD is among a number of agencies that have established a mentor-protege program since Congress came up with the concept in 1991 to help minority-owned businesses and SDBs increase the size of the sliver they take from the federal contracting pie. About $30 million is in DOD's budget to support the program, which includes about 175 proteges and about 100 mentors.

Patrick Hiller, assistant director of the Air Force Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, said the Air Force has been a player since the inception of the program, and the number of contracts and amounts awarded has grown every year.

In fiscal 1998, the Air Force's mentor-protege program contracts totaled more than $4 million, and in the current fiscal year, 14 have been signed. The program helps create more capable minority suppliers that are able to fulfill more complicated, larger and more technical contracts, Hiller said.

Scott Ulvi, director of mentor-protege programs at Anteon, agreed that the mentor-protege program helps SDBs find stability in the market.

"The idea when the program was put together was there weren't enough small, disadvantaged businesses in the industry base to support the government's needs," Ulvi said. Congress wanted a program that would "enhance the SDBs by putting them together with a big brother, so to speak."

Ulvi oversees all six of Anteon's protege companies, including four that have been working on Defense Information Systems Agency contracts.

Anteon, which signed its first mentor-protege program deal in 1997, has shown a commitment to the program by appointing Ulvi to shepherd the relationships and by having him report directly to the company's chief operating officer.

Kevin Donovan, business development manager at Fiore, said the 10-year-old company had been looking for an opportunity like the mentor-protege program for many years.

Fiore, with about 82 employees and $6 million in revenue last year, expects to gain experience with business development planning, financial systems, cost controls and other basic administration functions, Donovan said.

The Air Force is Fiore's main customer, accounting for about two-thirds of its revenue. About half of the company's work is research and development in weapons technology, namely high-power microwaves and pulse power systems, and the other half is services. All the work is classified, Donovan said.

The matchup is especially promising because pulse power often is used for lasers, Donovan said, and Anteon does a lot of laser research and development at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

"There will be a formal process transferring [Anteon's] knowledge of lasers to Fiore, so we have another business area of expertise," he said. "It's a really important program for us and it's really not because we make money. The benefit is learning from a larger, more experienced company and incorporating those processes into our corporate culture."

DaySys also is doing laser-related product development. DaySys is an engineering design firm that does product development and reverse engineering. The company also has a modeling and simulation contract with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, according to Joseph Harris, president of DaySys.

The Air Force's Hiller said one surprising result of the program is the number of proteges that have returned to bid and win contracts directly with the government.

"We've learned a whole lot from this program," Hiller said. "The mentors in particular have become more aware of the needs and idiosyncrasies of the SDBs because they really are partners."

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