Sequestration and its impact on ACC mission
September 18, 2013
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.- "Sequestration is having a huge impact on the Army Contracting Command," said Jason Detko, chief, Policy and Head of Contracting Activity Support, ACC Operations Group here.
"The unprecedented cuts, combined with the uncertainty of where the funds will come from are driving us to do contracting in less-than-optimal ways," he said. "The effects are compounded by the limits we now have on overtime and compensatory time.
"Traditionally, we do between 35 to 40 percent of our work in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year," Detko said. "We don't hire more people. We work a lot of extra hours, typically 10-hour days, Monday through Friday; 8 to10 hours on Saturday; and maybe some hours on Sunday."
Yet despite the civilian furloughs and automatic budget cuts triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Army has funds that it needs to obligate, he added.
Because of where ACC is in the procurement cycle for a lot of those actions , work continues at pre-sequestration rates at least through this fiscal year, Detko said. "The (Secretary of the Army) has already said there won't be any slip in mission support to the war fighter -- so we're 100 percent on board with that.
"Our workload is driven by statutory, regulatory and policy requirements that aren't necessarily budget driven," he said. "The Army has requirements it needs to fulfill and we still have contracts we need to execute to meet those requirements. Our timeline remains constant even at the reduced levels."
Detko explained that it takes six to nine months to execute a $100 million contract and that's in a normal year with overtime and compensatory time available -- tools ACC uses to push procurements through the pipeline.
"So now that $100 million contract goes to $90 million," he said. "You still have the exact same timeline to get it through in order to keep that requirement. Our timeline doesn't reduce by 10 percent because the budget is reduced 10 percent. We still have the exact same amount of time to execute those requirements."
Compounding the issue, Detko said the Army is trying to strategic make cuts across the board, but is not specifically choosing items to eliminate.
"By not selecting something to eliminate, we are still trying to fulfill all the requirements that the Army has," he said.
In order to meet these unspecified targets, the command is strategically reviewing and determining which of these contracts can be pushed into fiscal year 2014, then focusing its attention on those mission-critical actions that must be completed this fiscal year, which ends September 30.
"We're making use of focused overtime to push through the system those critical contracts determined mission essential," Detko said. "It's not a blank check for overtime. It's only for those things that are absolutely mission critical."
But according to Detko, by pushing that work into fiscal year14, ACC is creating another potential issue -- low employee morale.
"We're setting up fiscal year 2014 to be an anomaly as well -- another stretched year starting at the very beginning," he said. Because of the automatic budget cuts "the Army is pushing real hard for 80-20 with the statutory requirements -- 80 percent of its single-year appropriations obligated by the end of July and 20 percent by the final two months."
Typically, the contracting workforce uses the first and second quarters to catch up, complete administrative work, conduct training or take time off -- things it can't do in the fourth quarter, he said.
"We've curtailed training. The vast majority of the training we're doing right now is certification training across the command to become either Level I, II, or III certified in our career field," Detko said. "We've reduced a lot of the non-obligatory activities that we do as a headquarters. We're (ACC headquarters) not doing procurement management reviews and seeing how they're (ACC contracting offices) executing contracts -- that's a regulatory requirement we have to complete every two years -- so we defer these until next year.
"Contracting is a unique profession. Contracting professionals are driven and dedicated. They want to get the job done. They're very mission-focused.."
To help alleviate the situation, Detko said the command has asked the Army Inspector General and Army auditing agencies to limit their audits of its contracting professionals as much as possible.
Additionally, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Procurement) has issued several waivers from policy that can help the command move some packets through a little faster, "so we're getting a little flexibility," he said.
"It's an interesting time we're in," Detko said. "We're trying to meet our obligation goals though our targets are fluctuating as the department (Army) moves funding around. It's difficult for us to accurately predict what our overall contract actions and dollars will be this fiscal year."