The Army needs to improve its integration of
tactical unit planning and management of contracted support.
Contracting is just now emerging as a focused subject in our
current logistics officer and noncommissioned officer (NCO)
professional military education courses, but operations in
the contemporary operating environment demand a significant
knowledge of this subject. This article will focus on the
tactical-level unit’s role in obtaining and managing
theater support contracts through servicing regional contracting
centers (RCCs) in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
It will not address contracting support through the Logistics
Civil Augmentation Program or deployable systems support contracting
What happens if, while deployed, your unit needs support that
is not available through organic means? What is the process
to get this support? What is your unit’s role as the “requiring
activity” in this process? The requiring activity is
the organization that identifies what it needs and when it
needs it. The role of the contracting activity is to procure
urgently needed supplies, services, and minor construction
projects that are not available through the Army supply chain
or through host nation military support channels.
The first step is for the requiring activity to identify specific
support requirements and determine if the supplies or services
it needs are available through organic supply channels. If
the unit determines that the supplies or services are not
available through military means, then the requiring activity
must inform the supporting contracting activity of the need
as precisely and clearly as possible. For a supply requirement,
the requiring activity must provide a specific item description
and estimated cost, but not a specific make or model. For
a services contract, the requiring activity will need to develop
a performance work statement (PWS).
stands next to a sign for the Camp Taji Contracting
Center. The sign had to be written in two languages,
so the color red was chosen for English and black
was chosen for Arabic. Details such as these should
be documented in a performance work statement.
The Performance Work Statement
The PWS is essentially a detailed set of written standards for everything you
want the contractor to perform or produce. A PWS needs to be very specific because
contracting officers and contractors are not mind readers. If a requirement is
not put into writing, you cannot expect it to get done. Although developing the
PWS is the requiring activity’s responsibility, your supporting RCC may
be able provide an example or assist you in developing your PWS.
A good PWS includes descriptions such as size, dimensions, colors, materials,
and unique characteristics. For example, suppose you need signs to notify local
national personnel of a vehicle checkpoint. You, the requiring activity, know
you want an 8-inch by 10-inch sign stating in both English and Arabic, “Caution:
Checkpoint Ahead. Be Prepared to Stop!” But that description is insufficient
for a PWS. It does not provide instructions concerning the color of the sign
and the letters, the size of letters (remembering that local nationals use the
metric system), the arrangement of the words (are the two languages supposed
side-by-side or one below the other?), or the material of the sign (wood, metal,
or plastic). You also need to include examples of any graphics that should be
displayed on the sign, including details of the graphics’ sizes and colors.
While a contract can be executed with a less detailed description, chances are
very good that the end product will not meet your expectations. In this case,
the best approach would be to develop a graphic example of the sign along with
a written description.
After the requiring activity has accurately described the requirement, it is
responsible for helping to identify possible sources of supply. The contracting
administrative NCO at the RCC can provide assistance in this matter. Next, the
independent government cost estimate (IGCE) must be determined either by estimating
the cost of the item using previous purchases for the same item or by obtaining
the price of the item from catalogs or local vendors.
Funding for the Contract
The next step is to complete Department of the Army (DA) Form 3953, Purchase
Requisition and Commitment. This form is the funding source from which a contracting
officer will award a contract. The requiring activity must ensure that the form
has been approved and signed by the initiating officer, the property book officer,
the resource manager, and the brigade commander. This form will also need to
contain the description, quantity, and approximate cost of the items required
in the contract, and, if the contract is for a service, a PWS must be attached.
Finally, the requiring activity’s resource manger will type in the account
code indicating that funds are available to procure the item or service; without
authorized funding, the contracting officer cannot award a contract.
The chart below is a quick reference to help you obtain contracted support. The
segments shaded in green are responsibilities specific to the requiring activity.
It is important to understand that contracting officers receive their authority
to commit the U.S. Government to an acquisition through a unique and narrow chain
of command. This chain flows from the Secretary of Defense, to the Secretary
of the Army, to the head of the contracting activity, to the contracting support
brigade commander or principle assistant responsible for contracting, and, finally,
to the contracting officer. Remember, only a contracting officer (with his warrant
authority) can award, modify, or terminate a contract. This authority does not
extend to your commander or any of his subordinates.
It should be noted that, in current operations, certain items (identified by
the joint force commander) require Joint Acquisition Review Board (JARB) approval
before you can proceed with your acquisition. Items requiring JARB approval generally
include procurements costing over $200,000, force protection items, and other
special interest items that must be prioritized for procurement. If an item has
to go before the JARB, be prepared to justify your acquisition request.
As soon as your advance party hits the ground, it is essential
to designate someone in your unit to become familiar with
any existing local contracting support capabilities and
procedures. This individual must be prepared to coordinate
the formal handover of existing contract management responsibilities
from the redeploying unit. He should know when your recurring
service contracts will be ending because it generally takes
30 to 60 days to get funding approved. If the unit waits
until the contract is about to expire to request funding,
it will probably lose that service until funding is available.
For every service contract awarded, your unit must appoint
a contracting officer’s representative (COR). A COR
is a Soldier or a DA civilian from the requiring activity
who is nominated by the unit and appointed in writing by the
contracting officer. CORs receive training through formal
COR classes; your supporting contracting officer can provide
information on obtaining this training.
The COR functions as the “eyes and ears” of the
contracting officer by monitoring and managing the contract,
but he has no authority to modify the contract or give instructions
to the contractor. Being the COR is usually an additional
duty, but this duty may require significant time and attention
to detail to ensure that the contractor is performing according
to the awarded contract. In current operations, the COR also
may be required to ensure the safety of the contractor. For
example, a COR may be required to arrange for an armed escort
for local national employees whose area of performance is
on a U.S. military base.
Finally, you should plan to have a field ordering officer
(FOO). In current operations, FOOs serve in lieu of a unit’s
government purchase card holder, since the local infrastructure
does not support the use of credit cards. A FOO provides your
unit with a quick method of purchasing nonrecurring services
and limited supplies, such as printer cartridges and office
supplies. FOOs have limited authority to obligate the Government;
they have the same purchasing constraints as government purchase
card holders, and the amount they are authorized to obligate
is generally less than or equal to $2,500. Keep in mind, however,
that all FOOs need to be officially nominated by their commands
and appointed in writing by their contracting officers. FOO
training can be accomplished before you deploy or can be set
up through the RCC.
Remember, the more complex the requirement, the longer it
will take to award the contract. In some cases, you may also
need to get additional technical support for complex service
contracts. For example, construction contracts may require
engineer staff support to develop the PWS or to assist the
COR in quality assurance.
Contracting at Camp Taji
The following example of a minor construction requirement
in Iraq represents a fairly complex theater support contracting
During a rotation to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 and 2006,
the 1st Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, had a requirement
to renovate a building at Camp Taji. To get this project approved
by the JARB and the Joint Facilities Utilization Board (JFUB),
the brigade was required by the established joint force commander’s
policy to develop a PWS and an IGCE. Since it had no engineering
expertise on staff, the brigade requested assistance from
the designated forward operating base (FOB) engineering office,
the Air Force Red Horse Engineering Detachment, to assist
The unit then submitted the IGCE, an approved DA Form 3953,
and a letter of justification to the JARB and JFUB. Once approved
by the boards, the packet was sent to the Joint Contracting
which sent the packet to the RCC located at Camp Taji. A contracting
officer from the RCC then prepared the solicitation, compared
bids, awarded the contract to a local vendor, and issued a
proceed notice to start work. Once the contract was awarded,
the local vendor had 30 days to complete all work, not including
holy days and any delays caused by the Iraqi government.
Since this was a service contract, the RCC required the unit
to provide a COR to ensure the work was completed according
to the PWS. Because the vendor and his employees were local
nationals, the unit also had to provide an armed escort for
these employees for the entire period of performance. The
Camp Taji security policy required 1 armed unit guard for
every 10 local national personnel, and this particular contract
resulted in 12 to 18 employees working on the building each
day. The armed escort had to meet the contracted personnel
at the FOB’s gate to process them onto the base, escort
them to the work site, guard them through the workday, and
then escort them off the FOB by 1700 each day. Once the work
was complete and accepted by the RCC, the unit was responsible
to escort the vendor to the finance office to receive his
payment. The renovation took approximately 70 days, from the
time that the requirement was identified to the time that
the work was completed.
Contracting is a key means of obtaining required support during
a deployment. Because of this reality, it is advisable to
designate an officer or senior NCO from your support operations
office or S–4 office to be the contracting support coordinator.
This individual will be your lead action officer responsible
for coordinating all contracted support efforts, managing
current contracts, monitoring CORs and FOOs, and establishing
a solid working relationship with your servicing RCC. Remember
that contracted support is not a fire and forget means of
support; significant planning and time management have to
be dedicated to ensure that adequate support is received.
The recently revised Army Training Support Package 151–M–001,
Contractors Accompanying the Force, contains additional information
concerning contracting and contractor management support and
can be viewed online at www.train.army.mil.
Major Houston E. Baker is a contracting doctrine developer
in the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology-Futures Office
at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia.
He deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 4th Infantry
Division and served as a contingency contracting officer for
the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan. He has a B.S.
degree in education from Auburn University and an M.S. degree
in materiel acquisition from Florida Institute of Technology.
He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the
Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, the Acquisition
Manager Course, and the Army Command and General Staff Officer