D.C.’s Government/Defense Contracting and COVID: What Career Opportunities Remain at Mid-Sized Businesses?
Federal contracting companies have long played a significant role in the D.C. job market. Many mid-sized federal and defense contracting companies in the DMV are B2B (business to business), with the U.S. federal government being their primary customer. These, along with their larger and smaller counterparts, bid on contracts and are hired to fulfill the terms of the agreement. Many of these companies provide for procurement and other services that include analysis, cybersecurity, cloud, managed IT, linguistics, defense tech, intelligence, and a variety of specialized skills, subject matter experts, and numerous other types of services.
Let’s take a look at how these mid-range companies performed before and during the pandemic and what they'll likely look like in a post-pandemic era.
Prior to COVID-19, the federal government heavily relied upon private companies for procurement and services. Many mid-sized companies established a local presence in the Washington, D.C. Metro area to better position themselves to compete for federal government contracts. To support their ability to fulfill their agreements, historically, contracting companies have depended on sourcing local talent. This is always great news for job seekers looking for work in the DMV.
Major players in the mid-sized range include numerous Department of Defense (DoD) and Intelligence Community (IC) contractors. Many of these companies started out as small companies and startups. Mid-sized companies fulfilling government contracts include Definitive Logic (248 employees), FTS International (196 employees), Tekla Research (184 employees), ANSER (439 employees), LS Technologies (182 employees), Acclaim Technical Services (235 employees), Procentrix (186 employees), and VAE (215 employees), to name a few. (Check this list for many more.)
During the pandemic
The pandemic initially turned government operations—like everything else in the world—upside down.
Suppliers experienced disrupted supply chains. Government restrictions and stay-at-home orders hindered operations due to social distancing practices. Some, forced to scale back on costs, did so by letting employees go or sending them to part-time status. In office settings, day-to-day operations were also significantly interrupted. Federal agencies and their contractor partners pivoted to find solutions for business continuity and to remain on mission. Over time, most agencies worked this out. Departments lowered building capacity and rotated staff in to handle sensitive and confidential tasks. On days employees weren't scheduled to work in the office, they worked from home on unclassified materials. As a result, many mid-sized contractors remained operational once logistics were worked out.
Furthermore, the DoD awarded $445 billion in contracts in 2020 which meant companies needed to hire skilled workers to help them fulfill their contracts.
Looking toward the future
It's a certainty government agencies will continue to contract with private businesses to help with procurement, knowledge, tech, and other services they need. How much they'll depend on private businesses is yet to be determined depending on how the fiscal 2022 budget (and future budgets) are structured.
For federal contractors, it's looking good. Despite pandemic-related disruptions, several area mid-sized contractors have landed venture capital to help them solidify their futures.
- Interos, Inc., a risk management company based in Arlington, raised $17.5 million in March 2020 and landed a new government contract in 2021.
- IonQ, a College Park-based technology company, raised $84 million through several entities, including leading government contractor Lockheed Martin.
- Anduril, an AI-powered defense company based in Calif. but with offices in D.C., secured $450 million in investment.
- Xometry, Inc., an AI-based on-demand manufacturing marketplace company based in Gaithersburg, Md., secured $75 million in September 2020.
Contractors will find opportunities and the DoD is especially eager to hire expertise in niche areas. In the future, mid-sized companies are almost certainly going to tap into local talent and compete for government contracts. However, depending on how the government considers continuity in the future may re-shape what workplaces and jobs may look like.
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