WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, highlighted the nexus between small businesses and Labs in New Mexico during a hearing yesterday. He questioned former directors of Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories—such as the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base and the Army Research Laboratory at White Sands Missile Range— on how to accelerate small business contracting hiring for vital research missions.
Senator Heinrich helped create a new direct-hire authority in last year’s defense authorization bill to give DOD labs unique hiring flexibility to allow them to better compete for technical talent. The new faster hiring authority allows DOD recruiters to hire graduates directly from university campuses, including UNM, New Mexico Tech, and New Mexico State. During the hearing, Senator Heinrich asked about how these new authorities are being caught up in bureaucracy at the DOD and urged for their swift implementation.
Senator Heinrich also asked about how DOD labs can streamline the process of awarding defense contracts to small businesses. Many local small businesses support the work at New Mexico’s two DOD laboratories. Business owners have reported significant delays sometimes exceeding one or more years before receiving approval. Senator Heinrich asked about what red tape should be cut to help streamline the defense contracting process at the labs.