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History and Heritage

75 Years of Federal Service

Celebrating a remarkable career milestone

Sarkis Tatigian's contributions to the Department of the Navy span more than seven decades.

He began his civil service career in July 1942 as a junior radio inspector, and rather than wait to be drafted, he enlisted as an active-duty Sailor in April 1943. In 1946, Tatigian transitioned back to the civilian side, and since then, he's been an integral part of the Navy's small business programs.

"I started the small business outreach as a grade seven in the civil service," Tatigian said in an interview. "For 66 years of my Navy Department career, I have been involved in helping small businesses. We have expanded the industrial base for the Navy and have created a foundation of support from small business, which is essential to our economy."

Tatigian spent much of his early career with the Bureau of Ordnance as both a Sailor and civilian, and assisted in the development of the Navy's first operational guided missile, the ASM-N-2 "BAT." During his time on active duty, he and two co-workers presented the BAT to then-Chief of Naval Operations Fleet Adm. Ernest King. King declared the weapon operational and established two Pacific flight squadrons to use it in opposition to Japanese shipping.

Upon departing active duty, Tatigian remained with the Bureau of Ordnance as a small business analyst. He developed a small business exhibit that traveled across the U.S. and visited cities with populations of 400,000 or greater.

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"Richmond Watson said the first thing we're going to do is, 'We're going to get ahold of a trailer,'" recalled Tatigian, speaking of the Bureau of Ordnance's then-small business specialist, "'and we're going to equip it with pieces and parts and components that small businesses have made.' And he outlined that this trailer would go to every state in the country."

The purpose of the exhibit was to increase public knowledge of the Bureau of Ordnance, and to extend invitations for contract bids. The bureau ultimately awarded 11 contracts to 10 firms in fiscal year 1953 that totaled approximately $668,000, saving the Navy almost $143,000 over the next lowest bidders.

The nationwide exposure of his small business exhibit earned Tatigian Congressional recognition, and he joined the Navy small business office in 1951. In 1979, he was appointed associate director of the Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

During his tenure, NAVSEA's longest-serving employee has made it his mission to ensure small businesses have suitable procurement opportunities for both prime and subcontracting opportunities. In recognition of his influence and experience in supporting defense contracting, Tatigian received the Secretary of the Navy Small Business Omnibus Award in December 1983. The honor was renamed the Sarkis Tatigian Small Business Award in 2012.

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"It's rewarding in the sense that it's a personal accomplishment," he said. "And this is very important because, as you grow older, it isn't fame or certainly not fortune, because we passed that 30 to 40 years ago. So, there must be something else there, and that's the satisfaction of watching companies grow by having contributed to these programs."