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The Battlefield Contracting
Community of Practice

A LOGNet forum permits members of the contracting community to share knowledge, expertise, and experience between the institutional and operational forces.

In its October 2007 independent assessment, Urgent Reform Required: Army Expeditionary Contracting, the Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations (also known as the Gansler Commission) presented the Secretary of the Army with a number of findings and recommendations for achieving “timely and efficient contracting for materiel, supplies, and services in support of expeditionary operations.” The assessment included, but was not limited to, the following major weaknesses—

  • “Contracting should be a core capability of the Army, but it currently is treated as an operational and institutional side issue.”
  • “[There is a] Lack of planning and training for expeditionary contracting and contract management.”
  • “[There is a] Lack of recognition (by operators) of the impact of contracting and contractors in expeditionary operations (yet approximately 50[percent] of ‘force’ in Iraq is contractors).”

Certainly this study may drive a variety of much needed “big Army” transformational efforts, ranging from enhancing the quantity and development of contracting personnel to revamping regulatory policies and procedures. But many of these initiatives will take time. Obtaining and developing contract professionals requires a long-term investment. Restructuring the acquisition and contracting community to facilitate both continental United States and expeditionary operations will take years. Likewise, achieving the necessary legislative, regulatory, and policy support is a lengthy, laborious process. Clearly, these and other shortfalls identified must be acted on, but how long and what form implementation of any commission recommendations may take remains to be seen.

So what can we do now? More specifically, what immediate steps can be taken to improve contracting management and support within the current operational environment? Several Army organizations are now answering this call by capitalizing on the expertise within the Army Sustainment Command, Army field support brigades, and the acquisition, logistics, and technology community and by improving on the contracting-related training and education provided at Army Training and Doctrine Command centers and schools.

However, this article focuses on a parallel initiative launched by the Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) to leverage the expertise and experience of the aforementioned organizations through a “battlefield contracting” community of practice (CoP).

The “Battlefield Contracting” CoP is a globally accessible discussion forum, where anyone with Army Knowledge Online (AKO) credentials can submit inquiries, initiate discussions, contribute content, and otherwise share questions, experience, and knowledge on the subject of contracting. It functions as an online workspace, where “virtual teaming” occurs between experts and novices and contracting professionals and customers (requiring agencies) converse about operational issues and concerns in the realm of contracting.

This forum provides three primary benefits. First, as opposed to individual email inquiries, questions asked and answered within the CoP are shared and viewed by all participants. This produces a “knowledge compounding” effect, resulting in subsequent group discussions that are of a higher caliber. Second, the CoP is more than a traditional website; it not only acts as a means to find “what” you need to know, but more importantly, “who” you need to know. Finally, the forum is powered by two-way dialogue, allowing members to disseminate institutional knowledge and gather relevant operational insights and observations. Coupled with other initiatives, the “Battlefield Contracting” CoP will provide a vital link between the institutional and operational Army and assist in correcting some of the shortcomings identified by the Gansler Commission.

As part of CASCOM’s Sustainment Knowledge Management (SKM) program, the “Battlefield Contracting” CoP (as well as many other sustainment and logistics communities) can be found on LOGNet, a subset of the Battle Command Knowledge System (BCKS). The forum currently includes topics on contingency contracting, field ordering officers, contracting officer’s representatives, and other important subjects related to operational contracting practices and procedures. Launched in November 2007, the community is led by a growing team of contracting subject-matter experts who are standing by to share and support others engaged directly or indirectly in contracting.

Those who wish to further explore this important capability should follow these instructions. If you are new to LOGNet, you must (1) sign in with your AKO credentials at https://forums.bcks.army.mil/ secure/communitybrowser.aspx?id=239599; (2) click on “Become a Member” to fill out required information; (3) activate your “Subscription”; and (4) click on the “Battlefield Contracting” folder. You then should follow instructions within the site for initiating discussions, finding resources, and making contributions. If you are already a LOGNet member, you can directly access the “Battlefield Contracting” CoP at https://forums.bcks.army.mil/secure/ CommunityBrowser.aspx?id=456816&lang=en-US.

Patrick Conway is the Chief Knowledge Officer at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia.