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Witness Testimony of Ms. F. Dawn Halfaker, Halfaker and Associates, LLC, Owner/Chief Executive Officer, Washington, DC

Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman and Subcommittee Members, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to testify at this hearing regarding Veterans Entrepreneurship and Self Employment and am honored to represent a newer generation of entrepreneurs and Wounded Warriors. I am CPT (Ret) Dawn Halfaker, Owner and CEO of Halfaker and Associates, LLC. We are a Woman-Owned, Service-Disabled Veteran Owned, HUBZone Small Business providing national security consulting services to the Federal Government. We are focused on mission support for the War on Terrorism in the areas of Force Protection/Anti-Terrorism, Homeland Security, Emergency Management, Physical Security and Chem/Bio Defense Operations.

I started the company in 2006, a year and a half after I was severely wounded in action in Iraq. As a result of my injuries, I lost my right arm at the shoulder and even more devastating; I lost my career as a military officer. Like most of the wounded warfighters who are medically retired off active duty, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career but knew that I wanted to remain close to the fight and continue my service to the country in some capacity.

As a business owner, my company enables me to do just that. I have the opportunity to use my military skills and expertise to continue my service as well as the ability to work with and provide jobs for other veterans. My company competes for work within the Federal Government, primarily DoD, and targets contracting opportunities based not only on our aforementioned core competencies but our ability to hire wounded warriors to perform the work; thus giving them back a career they lost.  

However, in the short year and a half I have been doing business with the government, I have learned that my vision is not easily realized or necessarily shared. As it pertains to this hearing, I believe there are significant improvements to be made in the procurement system with regard service-disabled veteran-owned businesses and the ability of agencies to achieve the 3% goal. I will identify the main obstacle I have encountered that I believe to be an unfortunate systemic problem.

I was recently at a meeting with one of my clients in the Pentagon and was introduced to another individual who happened to be a contracting officer. It was mentioned that my company is a service-disabled veteran-owned business and the individual replied, “Yeah, you and everyone else.” I believe this remark illustrates a general attitude toward service-disabled veteran-owned businesses that implies we do not deserve a separate small business category are should not be entitled to special treatment. I would like to contend that we are not seeking special treatment but fair treatment. Additionally, we are not like everyone else in that we have served our country proudly and made significant sacrifices in doing so. With that said, there should be incentives to do business with veterans, and proportionately, we should have the ability to not only compete for business in our own category but have the privilege of a non-competitive sole-source award. This procurement tool would enable service-disabled veteran-owned businesses to be looked upon favorably and allow businesses like mine to present our customers with a fast and effective contract solution.     

Though there has been a concerted effort by veterans, VSOs, business owners and lawmakers to push agencies toward the 3% goal, we will never achieve it by simply hoping that contracting officers do the right thing. It is my belief that service-disabled veterans and wounded warriors should have the same consideration and opportunities at least equal to anyone else in America.

I thank you again for this opportunity to appear before you today. This concludes my testimony and I welcome your questions.