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Air Force strengthens commitment to Native American businesses

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2002) -- The Air Force recently strengthened its commitment to Native American and tribally owned firms.

Joseph Diamond, director of the Air Force office of small and disadvantaged business utilization, signed a memorandum Nov. 13 expanding the scope of the office's Native American Small Business Initiative. "The NASBI calls for focused outreach and training, matching requirements with capabilities and leveraging partnerships in order to enhance opportunities for Native American and tribally held firms to compete for Air Force contracts," Diamond said.

The office of small and disadvantaged business utilization directs Air Force efforts to ensure small, minority-owned and woman-owned businesses are given a fair chance to compete for Air Force contracts.

Originally, NASBI was aimed at increasing the use of Montana- and Wyoming-based Native American firms in Air Force contract awards. The program was expanded in 2001 to include California, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington.

The 2003 expansion of the initiative increases program coverage to the entire United States.

Efforts to support the broadening of the initiative are the responsibility of local Air Force small business offices.

"The driving force of this initiative is our local small business offices," said Dr. Patricia Luna, NASB program coordinator. "(That is) where the real work gets done, where the contract opportunities are and where our small business specialists are committed to (ensuring) Native American and tribally held firms receive contracts."

According to Luna, Native American and tribally held firms are currently supporting the Air Force in a variety of areas such as information technology, manufacturing and construction, as well as military base operations.

Air Force contracts awarded to Native American and tribally held firms totaled nearly $450 million in 2002.