Air Force ready to work with small businesses, AFRL small business director says



‘It’s all about forming relationships,’ AFRL exec advises

The Department of Defense released a new small business strategy this year — and for businesses near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, that means new opportunities to connect with Air Force Research Lab and other Air Force missions, said Brian McJilton, AFRL small business director.

One of the biggest changes this year: The stand up of new PTACs — otherwise known as “Procurement Technical Assistance centers” — organized under a new focus and a new name. They’re now called “APEX accelerators,” McJilton said in a new interview.

ExploreAFRL establishes new directorate at Wright-Patterson focused on businesses

Those accelerators stand ready if you have a product or service that fits with AFRL’s direction, whether you’ve done business with the Air Force or not, McJilton said.

Think of the APEXes as a first door on which to knock. You can begin at or

“I’d say getting to know your APEXes within the state of Ohio, starting a form a small relationship with them,” McJilton said when asked what the first step for small businesses should be.

William Grill is one Ohio point of contact. Grill works for Ohio University in Athens, and he’s very familiar with Wright-Patterson, McJilton said.

McJilton also advises businesses to keep an eye on new contract opportunities on The AFRL small business office can be reached at and

In general, McJilton advises small businesses to acquaint themselves with the driving strategies for AFRL and the Air Force. Look at modernization imperatives and the lab’s overall direction. “Become better informed of what those strategies are, and more importantly, work through your APEXes,” McJilton said.

“You know, the AFRL is unique,” he added. “We have a number of collaboration outreach opportunities.”

There are plenty of local doors to knock on, such as the Ohio Federal Research Network and others.

Last fiscal year, the DOD spent $85.2 billion on small business prime contracts, and nearly 25% of the department’s prime contracts go to small businesses.

Farooq Mitha, director of the DOD Office of Small Business Programs, testified in March before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the number of small businesses in the defense industrial base has declined over the last decade.

“This is an economic and national security risk for our nation,” he said. “We risk losing mission-critical domestic capabilities, innovation and strong supply chains. To respond to this, the department is working to strengthen our small business supply chains, increase competition and attract new entrants.”

McJilton’s biggest advice to small businesses: “It’s getting connected. It really is. It’s about really forming relationships.”

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