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Operational Contract Support:
Not Just for Contingencies

The differences between contracting in contingency and garrison environments
are small. The Operational Contract Support Course provides graduates
who can manage all aspects of contracting, whether in a war zone or at an installation.

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 (COR)].

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 COR.

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 activities.

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 process.

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 COR.

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.

Standardizing Procedures
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 each requirement.

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 above.
  • 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 skill set.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Gould, USA (Ret.), is the course director of the Operational Contract
Support Course at the Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia. During his military career, he
served in the Air Defense Artillery and Aviation branches and the Army Acquisition Corps. He is
Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act level III certified. He holds a B.S. degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas and an M.S. degree in procurement and acquisition management from the Florida Institute of Technology.

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