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Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 10/02/2012

Defense contractor looking abroad to fill holes left by depleted government spending

My company, Amethyst Technologies, LLC, is a small minority-owned business that provides technical services for global health programs, biodefense, drug development and clinical trials.


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, beside Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, speaks during a recent news conference at the Pentagon. (Evan Vucci - AP)
Our primary customer is the U.S. Department of Defense, supporting its laboratories in the United States and Africa. If the looming sequestration occurs, research programs that Amethyst supports are likely to be cut, which would severely impact our bottom line, as 95 percent of our current revenue is generated by defense contracts.

In five years, we have created more than 20 high tech jobs, invested in training programs, and given back to the community. We have hired numerous scientists who were unemployed, and they have helped solve problems that impact national security and public health and improve quality and compliance in laboratory processes and drug development.

We would lose more than half of our staff if defense research programs were cut. Each of our employees has a different expertise including various engineering disciplines, metrology, microbiology, chemistry, computer science, global health, records and archives, and technical writing. The possible significant reduction in Amethyst workforce with sequestration would negate the significant investments in identifying diverse talent and training staff in the U.S. and abroad, which would be tremendously tough for our firm to overcome.

Additionally, the vast institutional knowledge and unique skill set that our employees have with supporting high containment laboratories, developing more than 1,000 procedures and policies, training hundreds of people in the U.S. and Africa, and developing innovative software for protecting U.S. soldiers from disease threats would be lost with the layoff of key personnel. Irreparable harm would occur to Amethyst if the proposed cuts take effect.

The current federal climate has caused us to shift our efforts and focus on diversifying our client portfolio with state government opportunities, utility companies, pharmaceutical companies and international work. We are diligently following the trends of large businesses that include international work, expansion in health care and development of innovative technologies. The largest potential growth for Amethyst currently is in the international development area.

Amethyst supports health systems by providing training and quality control systems in laboratories in areas that have limited resources. We focus mainly on malaria and HIV diagnostics improvement. We also provide initial outfitting and transition (IO&T) services to set up efficient laboratories and health-care facilities so that they are able to meet international and federal standards.

There is a demand for these services throughout Africa and Asia, and our focus is to introduce our company and present capabilities to the large non-governmental organizations (NGOs), identify partners in target countries and market to companies with significant international presence. We have utilized services provided by the U.S. Commercial Service and Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Recently, we received funding from the State of Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development to travel overseas on two trips to Africa to explore business opportunities.

We are also expanding our reach by developing innovative products with broad applications in several markets, including health-care, border protection and manufacturing. We are investing in information and communications technology (ICT) by patenting technology to train health-care workers using game-based personalized training software.

The method utilizes concepts of language acquisition to increase retention and comprehension. Our method addresses the need to provide technical training across cultural and language barriers. Additionally, we are developing quality information management software systems for the Department of Defense to increase awareness of malaria and reduce disease occurrence and impact to military missions. These systems both reduce program costs while supporting critical missions.

Kimberly Brown is chief executive officer of Amethyst Technologies LLC, a Baltimore-based minority-owned business that provides technical services for 15 U.S. Army divisions and commercial clients in areas including emerging infection disease research, laboratory records programs and quality assurance for drug development.

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