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Program helps disabled vets get defense business contracts

WASHINGTON (AFRNS) -- Thousands of disabled military veterans have enrolled in a governmentwide program that is designed to help them succeed in new careers as business owners, a Defense Department official said here July 18.

The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Office was established at the Pentagon by an October 2004 presidential executive order and federal legislation. These actions stipulate 3 percent of all annual military contracting will go to small businesses operated by service-disabled veterans, said Anthony R. Martoccia, director of the office of small business programs at the Pentagon.

Military contracting officers in the field are on the lookout for disabled-veteran-owned businesses to provide services for the government, Mr. Martoccia said.

There is "a strong focus" by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other senior officials to ensure the program is fully implemented, Mr. Martoccia added.

More than 24,000 servicemembers have been wounded or injured on duty since the global war against terrorist began on Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Martoccia said. Many of these veterans have had to leave the military because of disabling injury, he added.

The SDVOSB program is geared toward helping disabled veterans establish second careers as entrepreneurs who do business with the Defense Department, Mr. Martoccia said. The program, he added, is open to disabled veterans from all the nation's wars and all branches of military service.

"There's a lot of work out there, obviously, and there's a lot of opportunity," Mr. Martoccia said. Last year, the SDVOSB program registered more than 5,000 businesses. Today, disabled-veteran-owned businesses account for more than $1 billion in government contracts.

Pentagon officials are putting the word out to military contracting officers about the governmentwide goal to award 3 percent of contracts to businesses owned by disabled veterans, Mr. Martoccia said.

"A lot of these companies can really get some business with the federal marketplace," he said.