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Navy to Small Biz: We Want You to Have ‘Persistence, Patience and Research’

Small business owners can incorporate new strategies for CMMC-compliant processes and consider leadership in cybersecurity challenges.

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Department of the Navy Office of Small Business Programs Director Arveice Washington
Department of the Navy Office of Small Business Programs Director Arveice Washington discusses small business initiatives at a conference in January 2024. Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/Amber Donnelly

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Navy and Marine Corps want industry partners to develop stronger cybersecurity protocols, and officials at Sea-Air-Space 2024 Monday say the services want to better educate these partners on the department’s cybersecurity needs.

Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps Systems Command Col. Ross Monta said these firms should understand the cybersecurity needs of the Marines Corps starting at the executive level.

“If you don’t know what the commandant thinks, you’re probably not shooting the right target,” Monta said. “We want it faster, cheaper and better every day, but that’s not reality. As a project manager, I’ve always used a mantra, especially with industry, of honest, holistic and outcome-focused.”

Monta emphasized that telling a great story or providing a terrific sales pitch will get industry partners in the door, but will not ensure that a service is usable and effective at the tactical edge.

“You can go talk to the three stars and pitch the most wonderful thing on the planet. And all you do is make my life just a tad bit harder because then I’ve got to dispel everything you’ve said and get it down to brass tacks about how usable is it at the tactical edge.”

Also concerning to smaller firms has been the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) 2.0 rule the Defense Department codified in December. The rule requires defense contractors handling federal contract information (FCI) and controlled unclassified information (CUI) to make adjustments across their organizational processes and systems to continue doing business with the agency.

Arveice Washington, director of the Navy Office of Small Business Programs, emphasized that while the new rule might present new challenges for small businesses looking to work with the Navy, “persistence, patience and research,” will be essential.

“Many of you are looking to grow in that space. It’s going to take persistence, patience and research,” Washington told the audience of small business owners. “Understanding, utilizing opportunities like this to talk to leadership, to understand what changes they’re making and why they’re making this change. How is it you need to readjust your entry point, your segue into doing business with that organization to ensure that you’re in alignment with its strategic priorities. You know what the commandant’s priorities are. How do you fit in?”

Washington pointed to Navy resources like the Defense Acquisition University, Navy Small Business Office, Apex Accelerator, Blue Cyber Program, webinars and weekly newsletters to help small business owners understand new requirements and how they can meet them.

Monta emphasized that the panel was “the start of the conversation” and that the government wants to do everything it can to help small business owners comply with agency regulations on working with secure data.

“We as the government want to hear your challenges. We want to hear what it’s going to take for you to get to the level of security that we need you at. This is not about us feeling comfortable sitting on stage. This is about a Marine at the tactical edge, fighting for his life for our country and him coming home safe to his family. If our systems are compromised, and our data is compromised, that becomes a lot more difficult of a problem set.”

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