The last decade has seen extraordinary contracting
activity in support of contingency operations.
Contract support has been critical to operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan and has been a significant part
of operations in other nations such as Haiti and Japan.
At one time, in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)
areas of responsibility (AORs), the ratio of
contractor to military personnel was 1-to-1. Every
deployed Soldier, Marine, Sailor, and Airman had a
contractor counterpart. The cost for this level of contract
support will not be finalized for years to come, but
the number will not be small.
Numerous inquiries and investigations have been
made into contracting practices, irregularities, and illegal
activities over the last decade. One such effort was
the Gansler Commission, named after its head, former
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology
and Logistics Dr. Jacques Gansler. The Gansler Commission
was appointed by Secretary of the Army Pete
Geren to review contracting linked to the war effort.
Although the commission made many recommendations
in its final report, which was released in November
2007, I will focus on just one area: training.
The Gansler Commission recommended that the
Government provide training and tools for overall
contracting activities in expeditionary operations. One
of the Army’s training solutions was to develop the Operational
Contract Support (OCS) Course at the Army
Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia, to address
the implication that “overall” contracting activities
include both acquisition and nonacquisition personnel.
The Procurement Process
All procurements go through five basic steps: requirement
development, funding, solicitation and
award, management, and closeout. Each step requires
an organization with an individual who is responsible
for executing its procurement responsibilities.
The chart below illustrates a simplified view of what
I consider to be the Army’s approach to what makes up
overall contracting activities. It shows the five steps in
the procurement process, the areas of greatest weakness
highlighted by the commission (depicted in red and
amber), and the organization and individual responsible
for each step of the process [resource manager (RM),
contracting officer (KO), and contracting officer’s representative
Within the requirement development step, the
requesting unit is responsible for drafting the performance
work statement, independent Government estimate,
and letter of justification, providing a purchase
request, nominating a COR, and developing a quality
assurance surveillance plan.
Funding is a unit responsibility and is typically
handled by a budget analyst or RM. Solicitation and
award is a contracting office function and is managed
by a warranted KO. Contract management (not administration)
is a unit responsibility and is performed by a
So at each step of the process, someone is trained to
perform each specific function. These functions make
up what the Gansler Commission called “overall” contracting
The Unit Contract Management Officer
In looking at the chart, you may notice a question
mark at the beginning of the process. This is where the
chart should show who at the unit is trained to develop
and draft the requirement.
The answer, until the creation of the OCS Course in
2009, was “no one.” What typically happened was that
a COR would be tasked to develop the requirement
because he was the only member of the unit who had
any contract training. Unfortunately, as depicted in the
diagram, CORs are trained to manage contract performance,
not develop requirements. Tasking a COR usually resulted in improperly written requirements
that led to reworking of requirements, inefficiency,
and a high level of frustration among all players in the
Today, the person responsible for requirement development
(as well as management of all aspects of a
unit’s contracting effort) is the OCS Course graduate.
We will call this person the unit contract management
officer (CMO). The Army is now building a cadre of
CMOs trained to develop requirements and manage “overall” contract activities involving operational units.
Support organization tables of organization and equipment
(TOEs) are being updated to add the additional
skill identifier associated with these trained individuals—just in time for the drawdown of forces.
|This chart depicts the Army’s overall contracting activities. It shows the five steps in the procurement process,
the areas of greatest weakness highlighted by the Gansler Commission (depicted by the colors red and amber),
and the organization and individual responsible for each step of the process. The question mark indicates that
no one was responsible for requirement development until graduates of the Operational Contract Support
Course began performing that role while managing all aspects of a unit’s contracting activities.
Contingency Versus Garrison Contracting
Is the application and training of operational contract
support only useful in an expeditionary or contingency
environment? Or, to put it another way, is the procurement
process any different in Taji, Bucha, Kandahar,
Islamabad, Fort Lee, Fort Hood, or Fort Stewart? The
answer, basically, is no. There certainly are differences
on the fringes. Spending thresholds may be different,
staffing processes may be different, and additional or
different documentation may be required. But at its
core, the procurement process is the same, whether in
a contingency operation or a garrison. Every procurement,
no matter where you are located, requires the
five steps mentioned above.
Does an installation require less outsourcing (contracting)
than a contingency operation? No. Installation
outsourcing is a fact of life and will continue to be so
for the foreseeable future. Just look around your post.
Who cleans your buildings? Who does grounds maintenance?
Who landscapes? Who teaches? Who maintains?
In many of these cases, it is contractors.
Garrison outsourcing requires the same amount of
effort and oversight as expeditionary or contingency
contracting. Poorly written and managed requirements
do not magically cost us less money or less frustration
just because they occur in a nonwartime environment.
This is why I contend that the OCS skill set is applicable
and critical to garrison contracting efforts. The
CASCOM commander understood this in 2008 and
placed the burden for sustainment contracting squarely
on the shoulders of the sustainment community, on and
off the battlefield.
Earlier, I mentioned that the procurement process
is the same no matter where it is executed, except for
possibly around the fringes. This does not mean that
the fringes are unimportant. For example, in a garrison
environment, the requiring activity (the unit) is
still responsible for preparing the requirement package
needed to initiate the process. This includes drafting
the performance work statement, independent Government
estimate, letter of justification, purchase request,
and quality assurance surveillance plan and nominating
The difference in a garrison environment is that the
package may include different forms and must be input
into the General Fund Enterprise Business System
(GFEBS). The basic OCS skills used by CMOs to
begin and manage the process in a wartime environment
are duplicated in garrison. However, because of
the automation used in garrison, CMOs should become
as familiar as possible with GFEBS, Wide Area Workflow,
and Electronic Funds Transfer when performing
their duties in a garrison environment.
Another “fringe” difference is the level of procurement
process standardization. In the current operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan, procurements must comply
with the requirements in a document called “Money
as a Weapon System” (MAAWS). This document is
the standard operating procedure (SOP) for spending
money in each of CENTCOM’s AORs. It details
spending thresholds, the approval levels for those
thresholds, and the boards or forums that must approve
Many of you are familiar with the term “Joint Acquisition
Review Board,” or perhaps “Joint Facilities
Utilization Board.” These boards, their members, and
their roles are built with input from key players such as
the J−4, J−8, J−6, J−7, legal, and contracting staffs to
ensure that everyone follows the same rules. Approval
authorities, roles, and processes are known.
In garrison, this should be the case as well. I say “should” because each installation has its own way of
vetting requirements and may or may not have an SOP.
However, the garrison will have a process for vetting,
whether it is formal or ad hoc. The spending thresholds
may be different, the key players may have different names, and the forms may be
different, but the garrison will
use an established process.
So all requirements will be
vetted to some level of authority
based on the commander’s
guidance and the nature or cost
of the requirement. Just as in a
contingency environment, the
responsibility for initiating and
tracking a requirement through the process remains
with the requiring activity (the unit) and its respective
CMO (an OCS Course graduate).
Operational contract support should be an enduring
unit training requirement. This includes our sister
services. The procurement process is not unique to the
Army. It is a Federal process that must be followed by
all Federal agencies. Here are a few recommendations
to help improve requirements development and contract
management in garrison:
- A Department of Defense (DOD)-level version of
the OCS Course should be developed.
- Army TOEs should be modified to require that
personnel with the OCS additional skill identifier be
added to all S−4 and G−4 sections at battalion and
- The Army Mission Installation Contracting Command
(MICC) should consider developing an SOP
similar to the MAAWS to be used as a guide by
installation commanders in managing installation
- G−4s should own the local process and formally
establish the local SOP using the MICC SOP as a
Although operational contract support may be perceived
as only applying to wartime contracting, this is
clearly not the case. With impending budget reductions
and the strong potential for a reduction in the size of
the Army and DOD, outsourcing both in garrison and
in contingency environments will be a growth industry
that places a premium on the operational contract support