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Advice for Sale In Battle for Federal Contracts

"I've paid for that service and I didn't get anything from it, so I'm very leery of it," said McDowell, who had just been solicited by another such consultant while manning his booth at FOSE.

But Wesley Lin is holding on to the contact information of two consultants who stopped by the booth of his company, Acronova Technology Inc. The North Brunswick, N.J., company sells a device that rapidly duplicates compact discs. Lin thinks government agencies that produce training material and other official literature might have a use for Acronova's technology, but the company hasn't been able to make a sale.

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"They said they could help us find contracts, that they know people to introduce us to," Lin said. It's a daunting market, so Acronova might benefit from a little assistance, he said.

Jeanne M. Smith, one of the few consultants to set up a booth at FOSE, said there is plenty of demand for services like those offered by her Sterling firm, Winning Partners. She has been in the procurement industry for 20 years, first working for big contractors and later on her own. In the past few years, she said, her niche has become quite crowded -- and not just by well-qualified professionals. A good consultant can help write complicated proposals and give the contractor realistic expectations, but some are happy to charge big fees without delivering much, she said.

How does an entrepreneur know the difference? "They've got to check references, talk to former clients," Smith said.

Cost of Commuting

A $34,000-a-year government employee spends 23.4 percent of his after-tax income on commuting if he drives a sport-utility vehicle 40 miles a day, five days a week, to get to work and back. Telework Exchange, a group the promotes telecommuting, introduced a Web site this week (www.teleworkexchange.org) that calculates the environmental and monetary costs of long commutes. The worker with the 40-mile commute, for example, spends $8,100 a year on driving-related costs and generates 6.8 tons of pollutants, according to the Web site.

If the same person works from home two days a week, the cost drops to $4,860, or 14 percent of his after-tax income.

"We really need to eliminate the telework gridlock," said Karen Evans, administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's department of electronic government and information technology.

Overheard

"There is an opportunity within PEO-C3T Tracs for JNN. Bragg is looking to outfit the 82nd ABN in the Green Zone with 2 JNNs and procure this solution through ITEC-4 via ITES. The result will be war fighters connected to the GIG and have Internet-based connectivity via SATCOM to DISN. This is a $100 million opportunity," said M. Dendy Young, chairman and chief executive of GTSI Corp., a Chantilly government contractor. Young was introducing FOSE keynote speaker Paul S. Otellini, president of Intel Corp., and giving Otellini a quick tutorial on government-speak.

Young was kind enough to translate: "The Army needs to communicate with each other while on the battlefield, and they're willing to spend some money to do it," he said.

Ellen McCarthy writes about the local tech scene every Thursday. Her e-mail address is mccarthye@washpost.com.


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