Choctaw Defense’s great strides of 2013
A message from Stephen Benefield | Choctaw Defense CEO
As we begin our 26th year in business I want to reflect back on what a memorable year we had in 2013. It was a year of substantial achievements for our group that saw the successful completion of the MTVR Chassis build of 1726 units in McAlester.
The production line was truly a piece of LEAN manufacturing art! It was a production line that was recognized by the National Institute of Standardization and Technology for Excellence in Innovation and impressed every dignitary and customer that visited our facility.
For at least another two years, the MTVR program will live on, as we manufacture and integrate the new lightweight cargo beds onto the chassis. That work process is scheduled to begin at Choctaw Defense in the second half of this year.
Following a grueling almost 12 months of testing at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, and during the last few weeks of 2013, we received first article acceptance of our CAMEL II water delivery system for the Army.
We are the OEM manufacturer of the CAMEL II and have been responsible for the entire design and development of this amazing piece of Army hardware. In achieving this milestone for First Article Acceptance, we are now authorized to begin full-rate production and will begin on our new product ion line, designed from the ground up to provide “best practice” in modern manufacturing efficiencies. I expect this new line to be as impressive as the MTVR line it replaces.
We submitted the winning proposal for the CROWS system and were awarded the contract Fall, 2013. The CROWS contract was one of the largest contracts awarded last year for any tactical wheeled vehicle program at the Army. This was a heavily competed program that we won based on our superiortrack record of performance and by offering a very competitive price. Because of our relentless drive to improve our processes that continually eliminate waste while maintaining our profit levels, we can offer the best prices in the industry. This proves that our LEAN mindset and the work we have done to continually improve our processes and efficiencies is paying big dividends!
The Camel II mobile water storage.
Another notable success of the year was the re-compete of the 105mm Ammunition Crate. The new contract extends the life of the 105mm production program for at least another three years. As successful as we have been in winning new contracts that sustained our manufacturing business in the past year, we remain quite aware of the continuing reduction in spending levels at the Department of Defense going forward.
Throughout this column, I have tried to make you aware that the ground is shifting and that our traditional line of business could be stressed if we do not continue to deliver the very best product at the most reasonable cost to the customer. The absolute fact is that military budgets for manufactured goods are shrinking. How far into the future this reduction will last is beyond our ability to forecast. Having known this situation for some time, the company leadership developed a strategy to expand into other lines of business that complements our legacy in defense contracting.
The result of this planning was the creation of two new businesses that were begun in 2013 and are now taking off with a great deal of momentum. As we start this new year, I’m pleased to introduce these new companies under the “Choctaw Defense Group” that will begin an exciting new chapter in our history.
Choctaw Defense Services is a Tribal 8(a) company focused on providing professional services ranging from information technology to facility maintenance and management. We selected these areas of specialization based on our research and experience in government and Defense contracting and determined that plentiful opportunities exist for us to successfully compete and win new business.
Some challenges we faced were questions such as, “If you have no past performance to prove you can perform, how do you win new contracts?” And, “How do you build a performance record without contracts?” In acquiring the company, Banning IT Services, we thereby assumed the assets and people of an existing company that had already built an excellent record of performance. We agreed that both of our companies could be more successful by becoming one under the Choctaw Defense Group of companies.
Starting in August 2013, we made the transition by hiring all of Banning IT’s existing employees and purchasing selected assets, while assuming several existing contracts.
With this move, instantly, Choctaw Defense Services had highly qualified and valuable employees. It is also a good fit with our Choctaw Defense values and enables our ability to reference all of the work done previously by this great group of people as we compete for new contracts.
Chip Melton, a 13-year member of the Choctaw Defense team, has assumed the role of Managing Officer for the new company and under his leadership we are aggressively building a strong business that we anticipate will expand very rapidly. Now, we are able to compete in new markets where only a year ago, we could not have entered.
To round out our strategic expansion into new areas of business we have made an investment in Architects in Partnership Enterprise (AIPe). AIPe is an architectural and construction company that will focus on design and construction projects on military installations. Aaron Garriott was recruited to assume the role as Managing Officer for this new company. He has ramped up rapidly and is already winning new business in a variety of construction projects in the Oklahoma City area. Our application for SBA 8(a) certification will be submitted this spring and we are hopeful to have it approved later this year. The new 8(a) certification should open many doors for new contracts as we build this new company in the coming years.
These are exciting times for our group. I can see a time in the near future when the Choctaw Defense Group will be a force in defense contracting, unmatched by any competitor. We are now a cohesive group that can market our proven capabilities and track record of success in manufacturing, professional service delivery, and architectural design and construction.
To my knowledge, no other Native American or Alaskan Native group in the country can deliver this impressive set of capabilities.