A recent report from the Graduate School of Defense Management at the Naval Postgraduate School revealed the importance of working dogs within the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies. The report backs concerns previously raised by the AKC Detection Dog Task Force about over-reliance on foreign-sourced dogs being placed as Government Working Dogs (GWD). The report contains an in-depth analysis of the GWD industry and provides recommendations to improve the sourcing of U.S.-bred and trained dogs. Recommendations include working more closely with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other stakeholders.
The report was sponsored by the Acquisition Research Program at the Naval Post Graduate School and was released in December 2020. This is the first comprehensive government analysis of the GWD industry in 15 years and explores the disconnect between the demand for working dogs and domestic supply.
The authors, Capt. Jason Passarella (USAF) and 1st LT. Robert Ocampo (USAF) conducted in-depth interviews, industry assessments, and accessed the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security data on the purchase of working dogs. They concluded that dogs are purchased domestically and overseas by a variety of government agencies using an opaque and inconsistent variety of contracts, agreements, purchase cards and other contracting vehicles, not all of which are identified within the Federal Procurement Data System.
They found, in line with AKC’s concerns, that the shortage of domestically produced government working dogs is due to a lack of consistency in sourcing standards and a lack of communication and transparency with providers regarding pricing and requirements. Other contributing factors include the economics of importing versus domestic production, the challenges faced by domestic dog breeders and trainers in doing business with the government, cultural factors, and the forces influencing decisions by potential suppliers to participate in government contracts.
Approximately 90% of the explosive detection dogs in the U.S. – whether they work in law enforcement, private security, or government – are sourced overseas. Sourcing for this crucial national security resource is not secure, because other countries also face their own terrorism threats, pandemics, or geopolitical disturbances that reduce the number of dogs available for U.S. national security and public safety. To protect U.S. national and public security, it is becoming increasingly important for the U.S. to develop sources for high-quality, American-bred, -raised and -trained dogs.
The AKC Detection Dog Task Force was established in 2016 to help address this issue and encourage the breeding and development of homegrown hero dogs that can achieve the rigorous standards necessary to be explosives detection dogs and other government working dogs. The AKC Detection Dog Task Force works with experts from academia, government/ public policy, military, policing, training and breeding to create multi-pronged solutions to help address the shortage of U.S. detection dogs.
Based off all the data acquired, the researchers provided recommendations for the Air Force Installation Contracting team to improve the management of the working dog supply chain, including the establishment of a GWD acquisition communications and marketing plan.
They believe the key is to gain public awareness of the GWD programs by improving relationships between the government and breeder-trainers through new resources to encourage participation in these programs. This includes better information and availability to help potential suppliers become successful in their role.
Their marketing recommendations include exposure through print and digital media and attending industry events, such as the conference of the AKC Detection Dog Task Force. They also noted that GWD programs would benefit by attending AKC lead events, AKC sporting invitationals, and providing interviews to canine magazines such as AKC Gazette.
Other recommendations include addressing inconsistencies in contractual agreements to help small businesses navigate the government contracting process, understanding the influence of working dog culture overseas, and expanding regional selection sites across the U.S. instead of relying on a single location (currently Lackland Air Force Base).
These latest findings offer a clearer view of the market forces impacting the acquisition of working dogs, and the importance of having a reliable source domestically-bred government working dogs as the need for dogs increases to address security vulnerabilities. This research can be a catalyst for the U.S. government to work more closely with the AKC to achieve this change and more.
Read the full report and detailed research, here.