Welcome to Crazy and the King!!
Dec. 8, 2022

The CATK Interview: Buffer Springs' Founder Rob Arndt

The CATK Interview: Buffer Springs' Founder Rob Arndt

Join Torin and Julie in welcoming Buffer Springs' Founder and CEO, Rob Arndt to Crazy and the King.

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Join Torin and Julie in welcoming Buffer Springs' Founder and CEO, Rob Arndt to Crazy and the King. Rob Arndt, United States Marine veteran, Founder and CEO brings his no bullshit approach to veteran hiring and engagement to Crazy and the King. An interview not to be missed.

Learn more about Buffer Springs: https://www.buffersprings.com/

Connect with Rob: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robarndt1

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Production and Music: DJ Cellz


0:00:01.4 Torin: We've been about this work, diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, shared through the voices of a white woman and a black man. We bring lived experiences. We have pursued D&I progress for most of our professional lives. We use Crazy and the King to cover news, tips from colleagues. And host incredible guests. Listeners, count on Julie and I to transparently drive the conversation. We thank you for rocking with us. Check it. Julie, kick off the show.


0:00:34.8 Julie: Welcome to Crazy and the King.


0:00:41.9 Torin: So let me just say this. We are going to actually have an interesting guest. You know, we say that all the time. Let me let me just back up. Let me let me say it differently. First of all, how are you? You good?


0:00:54.7 Julie: I'm good. Enjoying Portugal.


0:00:57.0 Torin: Okay, alright. So I'm not going to say an interesting guest. And this is not to suggest that our guest is not interesting. I just think that we use these familiar phrases. I'm looking forward to just talking to Rob about his passion and the work that he is doing in the veteran community. That's what's interesting to me because I believe we are going to have a different conversation. I saw an article, Jay, as we were preparing for the show. And the article is actually dated September 13. So just a couple of months ago, a month or so ago, and it was on a website called the war horse. Now we're not going to focus on abortion. However, this article talked about abortion.


0:01:46.0 Torin: And here's here's the headline. It says more than 40% of troops face limited or no access to abortion care. This was a study. More than 40%. Actually in the article, it went on to say that women in the military are even more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. There are other stats around homelessness that you found. I just think that we, yet again, we are reminded that we are not as important as we think we are, that we should be thinking about all these other audiences and communities and groups because they have issues and things that they are grappling with, that they are wrestling with and that we are not as singularly, singularly as important as we might think that we are.


0:02:45.4 Julie: Yeah. I mean, the world isn't about us, right? It's about all of us. And I was watching an interview with Scott Galloway a few months ago and he was just talking about, again, as Americans, how disconnected we're getting from each other and how insulated and isolated we're becoming as Americans. And that's where we really start to see the breakdown. And we can't see the things that are so clearly in front of our face and then start to work to solve them and sort of grapple with that American exceptionalism and have our eyes on these things. Like, there are so many things around female veterans that I didn't know and not necessarily that that's Rob's expertise, but just being November and knowing that we need to do a better job. You and I, in year five, let's say we're going to do a better job of highlighting the needs and opportunities for veterans. We've done a great job this year with Disability Twitter. There are things that we can do to help our audience better understand the plight and the opportunity for American veterans.


0:03:54.7 Torin: Yeah. And the bottom of the article, I don't know who said it. The person's last name is Meadows and it's Sarah Meadows. Actually Sarah Meadows is a senior sociologist at RAND, which is a policy institute. And Sarah Meadows says that, "Once you start thinking about the potential consequences and that cascade of consequences, and it's the big R's, it's recruitment, retention, readiness and you can even throw in resilience if you want. These things add up to national security." And I believe that our guests this afternoon is going to really, really help us understand, you know, when we think about those that have volunteered to fight, that are transitioning out of the military, how organizations, how companies can do a better job of reaching out to them, marketing to them, and then making the scenarios inclusive and accommodating once people arrive inside of the workplace. I think he'll be able to do that.


0:05:06.5 Julie: Yeah. Again, I'm kind of shocked it's year four and we haven't had Rob on the show yet. I'm so excited for everyone to hear his voice, to hear his thoughts. He's been in the space for a long time and he's one of the best. So let's get to it. All right. Welcome back. I am very excited to introduce our guest today, a longtime friend of Chad and I's, one of my favorite conference drinking buddies. Earlier this year, finally married a very wonderful woman, smartly took her off the market. Rob Arndt, Marine veteran, CEO and founder of BufferSprings, which is a veteran owned training and consulting firm, where the missions of smart companies and the military experience community merged together. One of the best architects of veteran programs that I know in this space. Welcome to Crazy and the King, Rob Arndt.


0:06:12.7 Rob Arndt: Yeah. Well, long time listener. Thank you so much for having me on. Love listening to both of you. Love the passion, everything in this. So looking forward to being a part of it today. So let's get rolling.


0:06:21.4 Torin: Absolutely. And when you say long time listener, you know, we don't really cut corners in these parts. And so you actually put up a post at the end of the summer. And I want to read the post because people may not be following you. And I thought it was like so spot on. And the post said, "Don't get me wrong, patriotism is amazing, charity is an awesome thing, but those are shitty reasons to hire veterans, especially as we live in a capitalistic society." Now, that's it. Rob Arndt, episode 73 of a podcast that you were on. Those are your words, correct?


0:07:02.6 Rob Arndt: Yes, 100%. And I'll die on that hill.


0:07:04.2 Torin: I just want to repeat one of them. It says, but those are shitty reasons to hire veterans. And what really resonated with me is what you are saying is the same thing that Julie and I have been saying for the longest. Just being a good human and hiring individuals, positioning them for opportunity, supporting, developing, inspiring and resourcing them. These are things that we should absolutely simply be doing and not be doing them out of gestures of charity. Can you elaborate on why you put that post up?


0:07:46.1 Rob Arndt: Yeah, I mean, that's a hill that I'm really going to die on here and kind of the foundation of BufferSprings. So I've been in the space and working with organizations in the military talent space for a good part of 22 years now. But usually when people come to us, or me in the past, it's, you know, we want to hire veterans, we want to do the right thing, which is great. But at the end of the day, you can't hire for charity, you can't take somebody off a street corner because it's a nice thing to do and make them your CFO. It's recipe for disaster. There has to be a match, there has to be a talent fit for that organization. And even with veterans, I see organizations paint it with the same red, white and blue brush and hero this, hero that of what's out there, but you can't hire all veterans just like you can't hire all women, or all people of color or any other diversity spectrum. There has to be a match, a skill set match of what that company is looking for, what that job entails, and then finding the right people.


0:08:35.0 Rob Arndt: So, when you're looking for vets, you can't just wave a flag and hope they all flock to the door because the problem is right now is that 67% of veterans are leaving that first post military job within the first 18 months because there wasn't a match. Almost 40% of veterans are underemployed and taking a job and doing work that they have no business doing because of that era, you know, that aura of patriotism and things that are out there. There has to be a match. Think of it as like a dating game. You can't just marry somebody because they're a veteran. You can't work with this person because they're a veteran, there has to be that match there. And that's what's missing. When companies are more intentional and understand the skill sets, the attributes and knowledge that military brings to the table and how that can propel their organization forward and move the needle, then it makes sense. And then you have those matches and that minimizes those stats of attrition and everything else that happened from just doing it the wrong way up front.


0:09:25.2 Torin: See, the tenor in what you just said is you are making people be accountable for their why, not just topical, but being accountable for their why. Making them dig deep and be responsible for how they are curating their program, resourcing their program, supporting their program and then taking that program out into the marketplace so that we have business impact and efficacy and efficiency, not so that we just have that nice, beautiful thing to do. I love how you said painting it with the red, white and blue brush. I love that.


0:10:00.1 Rob Arndt: And that's what we do. And that's why I made our logo and everything and our branding and everything else is BufferSprings is we take all that red, white and blue bullshit, we condense that down to beautiful purple programs. And really what we focus on first is retention, finding the right veterans, the right companies, where they fit in there and then scaling it back from there. Rather than getting a bunch of veterans in the front door and then they're heading right out the back door, what we do is help build that ecosystem and that infrastructure internally so it's sustainable and it's effective. And everyone on each side of the coin knows because the problem with the military space right now is... I call it the sea of goodwill. There are 47,000 nonprofits, veteran service organizations and people that are in the veteran game. However, veterans go out there and they don't know which services are going to be right for them. So they drown in that sea of goodwill.


0:10:49.7 Rob Arndt: Companies do the same thing where they buy into the hero narrative or the victim narrative, but nobody needs either of those. You need great people who can show up to work on time, do the job that needs to get done. So what we do is kind of bridge that gap and make it so companies and the veterans that we're working with are not drowning in that sea of goodwill. And we are dual purpose in our focus. Even though we generate revenue from companies that are hiring us for training and consulting to rebuild their military programs and build a strong foundation there, we also care about that opposite side of the coin because I'm a veteran myself, everyone we work with are veterans, we want to empower and lift our community as we continue to climb as well. So we're looking at both sides of that coin and we equally give a shit. Even though one side is paying us and one side is not, we care about our people.


0:11:34.0 Julie: So talk about that a little bit more. You've woven a little bit of a thread in here for us, that we wave the flag, we play the patriotism game, we do the hero thing and veterans go in, they have an expectation, there's not a match, goodwill aside, right? There's not a match. And then they leave that company and there's reputational damage to the company. And so what you're saying really is the missing component and I think where BufferSprings fits in so well is stop waving the flag, get your shit right, then talk about it. And then you've got stories to tell where veterans can actually trust what they're hearing from your employer brand on your website, all of those things because they've put their money where their mouth is and we're actually doing it the right way instead of just doing it in November.


0:12:30.0 Rob Arndt: And that's it. And that's when it's usually forefront of mind is in November, people give a shit about veterans for one single month. And there's other months that are dedicated to other populaces as well. But it seems like that's the only time that people paint their logo a rainbow or do something like that. But it has to be intentional. It has to be year round. A few months ago, I saw something that was national hire veteran day. Like how the fuck do you actually do that of hiring veterans on that specific day when hiring spans take anywhere from like six weeks to two months at any of these times? So it's all like fluff at the end of the day but it's...


0:13:02.9 Torin: Now, now, now, now, now, now, now, you got to be nice to the people that... You got to be nice to the folks that created national veteran hiring day. You know, you bring up something. Here's what's interesting, Rob. I didn't hear that. I missed that day.


0:13:21.4 Julie: I did, too.


0:13:21.8 Rob Arndt: And so did probably everybody else who didn't hire a veteran that day, [laughter] which is 89% of the listeners right now. You know? But you see that stuff where it's like, you know, wear blue jeans to work on this day for veterans. There's all this stuff, but it doesn't move the needle. It's just kind of throwing a bandaid on a bullet wound. It's not going to work out. So really what we want to focus on with organizations is finding out relevant talent. There's over 7000 different jobs in the armed forces that people are transitioning from. We're not all warfighters kicking in doors and jumping out of helicopters and shooting bad guys. My job was supplying logistics. I'm not a hero of anybody except for hopefully my own children. But other than that, you can't hire everybody and just wave that hero flag.


0:14:04.0 Rob Arndt: There has to be a relevant talent match. You have to understand the skill sets and backgrounds that these individuals are coming from and then match them there. And then even the marketing that's out there, the flag waving, the people wearing some camouflage pajamas that are supposed to resemble a uniform, but it's stock imagery and bullshit. Veterans see right through that. And it's actually doing more harm than good. What we need to do is we can't hire all veterans. We need to hire Marine Corps avionics technicians or we need to hire Army infantry people that have these specific backgrounds. And that's what actually equates to effectiveness and people thriving with an organization rather than just throwing a token veteran in there and seeing what happens.


0:14:43.8 Torin: It sounds to me like you at BufferSprings and your team, you provide operational support, that operational cover, one of those military terms that we are familiar with. And when I think about operational support, I think about the narrative or the argument for the longest, Rob, has been the misperceptions of folks in the military. You just said it a moment ago that everyone is kicking in doors or on the military side or the veteran side, the challenge around transferable language. When I think about operational support, help listeners understand newer perceptions, newer understandings, for instance, around disability ratings, how so many people have a disability rating, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they are incapable of being inside of the workplace.


0:15:37.9 Rob Arndt: Yeah. And that's a really good point there. So even myself airing out my dirty laundry, when I left the Marine Corps, so I stayed in for 14 years, I deployed to Iraq, I rode around in a Humvee, which is the equivalent of sitting on a park bench riding through the desert. And that screws up your back. I had other things that I saw and did and everything else. But according to the VA, I am 90% disabled. However, I don't need special accommodations. I don't need anything in the workplace, any adjustments to anything. I can outrun, I can outlift people on a warehouse floor. I do not have any limitations as far as I know there. But according to the VA, I am 90% disabled.


0:16:12.5 Rob Arndt: So veterans specifically is one of, you know, if I leave company X or civilian company or Pepsi or Amazon or anything else that's out there, they're not checking me out on the way out and giving me a disability rating or having me do some sort of exit physical. But in the military, they are. So with that, veterans may have anywhere from a zero to 100% disability rating, but not need accommodations, but then in a self-identification checklist. I don't know who's on the opposite side of that. And that's how Julie and I have run in circles for so many years is that there is a lot of cross-sectionality of veterans and people with disabilities and misperceptions that are out there that we help to clear up. But when a veteran applies, we're looking at a job application on an ATS somewhere and we're being asked the question, are you a veteran? And it's like, I don't know who's on the other side.


0:17:00.1 Rob Arndt: I don't know if they think that I'm a victim and PTSD or I don't know if they're a patriot. I don't know if they're a veteran themselves. So it doesn't mean that I can or can't do that job. So a lot of veterans will not self-identify. And even if they do, the next question that usually comes up is, are you disabled or do you identify as a person with disabilities? I'm thinking that these are knockout questions, because if I have somebody that a Marine stole their girlfriend when they were 18 years old and they don't like vets and they don't want to make accommodations, now I think I just knocked myself out of the running for a job that I am 100% qualified for. So that's why in both of those, there's a stigma on both sides where we don't know whether we should or we shouldn't self-identify when we should be able to bring our whole selves to work, but that's not the way it looks at the entry level.


0:17:44.5 Torin: Yeah, we learned long ago that that whole self to work phrase is nothing but a phrase. And so let's stay with the theme of operational support and you've touched on it. So what can we do? A lot of employers feel like they are handcuffed, whether by design or by legal reasons, if you will. What can we do to make people feel more comfortable about self disclosing and people being more supportive or more... What's the word that I'm looking for? How can we help organizations do a better job? Because what we are not doing in the podcast, we are not suggesting that you all out there are not being genuine. We believe most of you want to do a better job. So how can we help them to do a better job, Rob?


0:18:39.9 Rob Arndt: The key word is authenticity. And I know that that's watered down and overused as it is, but authenticity is the key. If you're looking to resonate with a certain populace, any kind of marketing or anything has to be geared towards that audience. So if you're trying to resonate with military, don't just put a flag and some weird camouflage stock image on there. Show your veterans, show actual veterans in your workplace, kicking ass, doing great things, so I can see myself as part of that. When I join your organization, what does that interview or that intake process look like? Am I meeting with a bunch of non veterans that don't understand my skill sets or what I bring to the table or able to even read my resume out of the gate? Or am I working with other veterans or people that at least know and are educated on what military folks are and what military folks are not? So it's all that experience and the protocols that go into that in onboarding.


0:19:27.8 Rob Arndt: And then it's the sustainment. It's keeping your workforce. It's making your ERG more than, hey, veterans get free coffee and donuts in the break room on every second Tuesday of the month. It's, hey, veterans, we have some people from the VA coming in today to help you with your disability claim or your benefits. It's about taking care of your people and locking down and showing them that you genuinely give a shit and taking care of them, so they have their stuff at home lockdown, so they can focus on doing great work for you and know that you care and that you're part of the process with them and you're bought into it. So those are the biggest things that I see there is authenticity and then putting your money where your mouth is and taking action and not just saying stuff on your website or on a podcast somewhere. It's taking action and making your words speak louder or your actions speak louder than the words that fall flat.


0:20:12.7 Torin: Hey, Julie, he just riffed off like three or four really easy things that individuals can do. And as he was talking, Julie, I smiled because I know you have TikTok and I have been absolutely hesitant in establishing an account on TikTok. But what I heard in Rob is, you know, we don't have to do the boring, the stale, the staticky corporate video, if you will, but that we can absolutely leverage platforms like a TikTok, Instagram, IG Live chats, TikToks, showing our veterans maybe talking about their disability ratings, talking about, hey, this was a challenge. I didn't necessarily know how to change the language, work with somebody like Rob and transfer my language or figure out a way to transfer my skill over to the resume. We can absolutely do things that are more authentic and genuine.


0:21:06.8 Julie: And they don't have to be hard. Right?


0:21:08.5 Torin: They don't have to be. Nope, nope.


0:21:10.1 Julie: VA wants to show up. They want to do things. These things are not hard. And corporate ends up sort of creating this analysis paralysis or something that is so orchestrated and over-marketed, especially I feel like on the veteran side, it always has to be so over the top. And then you miss the point of, at the end of the day, you got to take care of your humans, right? Because this isn't about patriotism. It isn't about being a good American or anything else. It's about people who are already working for you or already a part of your organizations who want to be successful and grow and just need, occasionally, what every employee needs and thinking positively and authentically towards that community. And so Rob, there are... What? Roughly 19, 20 million veterans in the United States right now. What do employers need to know about veterans? You and Chad have taught me so much that I as a civilian would never know about the veteran community and even just military life over the past 10 years. What are kind of the top things that we should know when we're thinking about building a program or bringing people in about your community?


0:22:30.9 Rob Arndt: The first thing that I'll say is that we're not leaving some foreign distant planet somewhere that we're transitioning back to earth or anything. Think of Department of Defense as a Fortune One company. We have HR, we have IT, we have cyber, we have all these in demand roles, CDL drivers, supply chain, logistics. Everything that you have in your companies exists within the military. It might be called something different, but it's people leaving a non-traditional background. You may have chosen to go to college. You may have chosen to go to the workforce. I decided to go into a Marine recruiter's office, but we're all meeting back out here in the real world. I have real world skills that I learned and acquired throughout the way. Even if you have a direct competitor, if you have somebody that's... Target is pulling people from Walmart, it's not an apples to apples match.


0:23:18.3 Rob Arndt: You still have to learn that other company's way of doing business, their culture, their people, their rank structure and all of that. It's the same thing. So, stop treating military as if we're leaving some foreign land somewhere. We've been in the same backyard as you. We're just coming from a different company. Think of DoD as a Fortune One company and that you're pulling top tier talent. The other thing is that only one in five Americans between the age of 17 and 24 even qualify for military service. This isn't your great, great grandfather's military where they're bringing out the dregs of society, pulling them out in the draft and sending them to Vietnam and places all over the world because they weren't doing anything else. This is a highly intelligent, highly sought after. I spent seven years on Marine recruiting duty.


0:24:01.1 Rob Arndt: We weren't looking for that kid who was dropping out of school and everything else. He's not even qualified for service. We're finding that key man, that key woman, that captain of the football team, the valedictorian, because we need the best people. Organizations can only be as strong as their people allow them to be. We have the strongest fucking military on the planet because of the people that volunteer, enlist, step up when it's not the popular or safe thing to do and go out there and make shit happen, especially with our country being at war for the last 20 years. These are people that want to get after it and want to challenge and want to do more. And they're getting out of the military now. If the military is losing that top talent, this is an opportunity for you to pick up those high caliber individuals.


0:24:43.1 Torin: Let me just say, when I hear a person say Fortune One company and do it as smooth as you just did it, there absolutely is nothing more that I need to say. I wanted to let listeners know that they can find you at buffersprings.com. Again, that's Buffer B-U-F-F-E-R buffersprings.com. Do you recommend they engage with you on any of the other social platforms?


0:25:12.9 Rob Arndt: Yeah, so my email is simply rob@buffersprings.com. I'm pretty active on LinkedIn. So if you look up Rob Arndt, my last name is spelled A-R-N-D-T. It gets fucked up pretty constantly, but just look up BufferSprings and you can backtrack it to me. But we share best practices. I'm on Twitter, although not all that active. But best way to engage is give me a shout, talk to us, let us know what's going on in your company. We get to know you. We get to know the right veterans that are there and help you make matches and not just do lip service, but really want to work with individual companies, just as each individual veteran is unique, each individual company is unique too. We'd like to get to know you and find out if we're a match for you or we can help what you're trying to do.


0:25:52.2 Torin: Rob Arndt, Marine veteran, CEO and founder of BufferSprings. If you go to his website, there is a page on the website that just simply articulates, if you're not serious, then don't fill out the contact us page. Like literally, he says it right there for you to understand that everything that you heard in this episode is exactly the dynamic way in which he leads his organization and provides service and support to a number of clients out there. We appreciate you, Rob, for rocking with us during this holiday season.


0:26:29.7 Rob Arndt: Yeah, that was great being on with you today and I'll keep listening with you guys and appreciate everything that you're doing in this space to help move the needle and help make change. So glad to be a part of that today. So thank you so much.


0:26:39.3 Torin: Appreciate you. We'll be right back. Her Voice is where we amplify women that are making moves. In the spirit of our incredible conversation with Rob Arndt, we decided to feature women that have some connection to the military. Now I'm going to tell you, Julie, this was a challenge. And I don't run from challenge easy, but I got to tell you, it was a real challenge for me to uncover and find women. What I really started to do here, I wanted to focus on women that had ascended into the highest ranks of corporate leadership. They have a connection, have served in one of our armed forces, exited out of the military and have now grown a career in corporate America. It was like pulling teeth from a rhinoceros to find women. I'm serious, first of all, when I would put in the different phrases in Google, I would come back with like one or two pages. That's it. And all of the first page was advertisement to nonprofit organizations, to support groups, to community groups, maybe events that were happening.


0:28:01.4 Torin: So I'm telling you, either I didn't do a good enough job of identifying the women that have served in the military and have transitioned into corporate America, or we have not done a good enough job of identifying and highlighting those women. But we do have a couple. First up, Ginger Miller, who is president and CEO of the Women Veterans Interactive Foundation. It's the National Women Veterans Leadership and Diversity Conference that I want to highlight. It was actually held in November of this year in Northern Virginia. It's one of the largest gatherings of women veterans in the country. You can find Ginger Miller on Twitter at WomenVetsAction. Again on Twitter at WomenVetsAction.


0:28:52.6 Julie: And then we have former Lieutenant Colonel Nahaku McFadden, founder of Veteran CEO, which helps veterans transform from trauma after serving in the military so that they can have more impact, freedom, and inner peace. Nahaku spent 30 years as an officer in the military.


0:29:12.4 Torin: Thirty. And then I wanted to end it by highlighting the current women, just the current women in general that are serving as officers in the armed forces. Now, I don't know how accurate the site is. I go to Statista every once in a while. But Statista says that there are currently 16,987 women that are officers in the Army, 11,076 women that are officers in the Navy, 1847 military officers in the Marine Corps, and last but not least, 14,325 women that are officers in the Air Force where I too served. So shout out all of the women that are military officers, all of the women that are enlisted. You all are our shout out for Her Voice because we want to amplify you in the moves that you continue to make.


0:30:11.3 Julie: And we'd ask any of our listeners to share those female veterans that we didn't find so that we can highlight them in future episodes of Her Voice.


0:30:24.5 Torin: So, thanks, man. I know it's the holiday season. What? Did I say, "Thanks, man"? I know you're not offended by that. Thanks. Thanks, woman. I know you're not... I know you're not... I know you're not all that particular. But anyway, Julie and I close reminding each and every one of you to continue to share the power with your digital tribe. Enjoy this holiday season. We want you to find your voice. Now, I don't know what your work schedule is. But if you are going into the office, do not stop trying to find your voice just because it's the holidays. Be a better human. Let's create better culture, better teams and workplaces. For now, Jay and I, the woman, are ghosts.


0:31:00.9 Julie: See ya.

Rob ArndtProfile Photo

Rob Arndt

Founder & CEO

BufferSprings Founder and CEO, Rob Arndt is a 14-year Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, with 8 of those years focused on armed forces Recruitment & Retention. Since transitioning from military service, Rob has spent the past decade working consultatively with some of the smartest organizations in the world. Ranging from innovative start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, federal contractors, government agencies, and educational institutions to build effective military veteran and diversity recruitment and compliance initiatives. Rob and the BufferSprings team leverage a vast array of insider connections, cutting-edge HR technology, and expansive online communities to build talent acquisition solutions that provide immediate and ongoing results for smart companies.

BufferSprings is proud to be a Certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business