This article was originally published in Perspectives – The Newsletter for AKC Delegates.
Approximately 80 to 90% of the explosives detection dogs in the U.S. --whether they work in law enforcement, private security, or government-- are sourced from 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. Increasingly, the U.S. must rely on high-quality, American-bred, -raised and -trained dogs to protect our national and public security.
The AKC Detection Dog Task Force (DDTF) 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 an explosives detection dog. 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.
AKC focuses on three specific areas: Public Policy/Government Relations, Networking/Raising Awareness, and Breeder/Puppy Raiser Education to advance these goals. As part of its networking efforts, the DDTF has regular webinars on a variety of topics to advance this mission.
Government Working Dog (GWD) Acquisition Report
In March, the DDTF sponsored a webinar on Government working dog acquisition practices and challenges. Guest speakers Captain Jason Passarella (USAF) and 1st LT. Robert Ocampo (USAF), presented their recently published report “Research and Analysis of the American Domestic Government Working Dog Industry”. Their research was sponsored by the Acquisition Research program of the Graduate School of Defense Management, and conducted while the authors were students at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 2020.
Passarella and Ocampo outlined their research problem as: “The lack of a robust supply of Government Working Dogs (GWDs) creates increased supply chain risk and may threaten the ability of departments and agencies that utilize working dogs to maintain readiness if the supply from foreign markets is contested or interrupted for an extended period.” Based on this statement, their research focused on two questions:
- What are the factors affecting the domestic supply of working dogs?
- What actions can the federal government take to improve the domestic supply of working dogs?
Using traditional research methodologies including a literature review, mixed qualitative and quantitative analysis (including in-depth interviews and spend analysis), and market analysis, Passarella and Ocampo put together the most comprehensive report on acquisition of working dogs in 15 years.
They found that the $38 million spent on GWDs by the federal government did not correlate to formal contracting procedures, and concluded that GWDs are purchased domestically and overseas by a variety of government agencies and departments (including Departments of Defense, Justice, State, Homeland Security and others) via an inconsistent variety of contracts, agreements, purchase cards and other contracting vehicles, not all of which are identified within the Federal Procurement Data System.
In-depth interviews with a broad spectrum of stakeholders (including AKC DDTF members) further revealed that small businesses and individuals consistently experienced significant challenge in attempting to collaborate and/or conduct business with the federal government.
They concluded, much in keeping with concerns previously stated by AKC in Congressional testimony, direct government outreach and other forums, that the shortage of available domestically produced GWDs is not a shortage of production capacity, but rather caused by other barriers including: a lack of consistency in sourcing standards, a lack of transparency regarding requirements, cultural factors, and a lack of agency communication with breeder/providers to achieve an understanding of requirements and appropriate pricing for GWDs.
Key factors include: the economics of importing versus domestic production, the challenges faced by small domestic dog breeders/trainers in doing business with the government, and the forces driving decisions by dog breeder/trainers (“potential suppliers”) to participate in government contracts.
A study of market segmentation assessed potential suppliers’ levels of availability and information as indicators of their current ability to sell dogs to the government. This informed specific goals and recommendations to help interested potential suppliers improve their ability to become future suppliers. Analysis from this study contributes to recommendations in the report’s marketing plan and recommendations.
The report provides numerous specific recommendations, including establishing and implementing a GWD Small Business Communication Plan with a focus on a marketing plan and activities that increase public awareness of GWD programs, improving the relationships between government and industry, providing tools and resources to industry to facilitate participation in GWD program, and improving information and availability to help potential suppliers become successful GWD suppliers.
External Perceptions of the Value of AKC Efforts
Delegates can be proud to know that throughout the report AKC and AKC programs are cited as part of a solution.
“Some of the prominent influencers within the industry are the American Kennel Club (AKC), various breeding associations, and university-sponsored research organizations”. [i]
“Representatives from the GWD Program as well as the GWD Marketing team should regularly attend industry events such as conferences sponsored by the AKC, shows organized by specific breeding clubs, and webinars led by various canine organizations to raise awareness and improve relationships within the working dog industry. [ii]
“The working dog industry acts as an insular and self-reinforcing body. Most of the communication is conducted directly from company to company through personal correspondence. There are several prominent trade shows, conferences, and industry events, such as the yearly AKC U.S. Detection Dog Conference. These events reinforce the prevalent direct correspondence through the formation of interpersonal networks between breeders, trainers, and vendors of varying size and experience.” [iii]
To learn more about the AKC Detection Dog Task Force, or request additional invitations to DDTF webinars (delegates currently receive invitations via email), visit https://www.akc.org/akc-detection-dog-task-force or https://www.votervoice.net/AKC/campaigns/94315/respond .
or contact DetectionDog@akc.org .
[i] P.107 Research and Analysis of the American Domestic Government Working Dog (GWD) Industry; full report available here.
[ii] pp. 53, 115