Congressional support critical in acquisition landscape
September 24, 2013
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 24, 2013) -- Fostering congressional support and understanding of Army acquisition practices and policies is essential in executing appropriated taxpayer funds to support Soldiers and their families.
Ryan Mattox, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command congressional affairs liaison, stressed how we communicate with Congress often matters as much as what we want to communicate.
"The MICC not only responds to the needs of today's Army, but anticipates future needs and provides advanced acquisition planning for equipment and materiel solutions that will ensure our Army remains ready," he said. "With this type of mission, it is incumbent upon the Army and MICC to establish and maintain a positive working relationship with members of Congress, staff and committees."
As the congressional liaison, Mattox is the focal point for all correspondence and responses with members of Congress and their staff. In fiscal 2012, he managed responses for more than 70 inquiries in a teaming approach with commanders, directors and legal representatives in the field and here. Through mid-August this fiscal year, another 65 congressional inquiries have been accomplished.
"Answering a congressional inquiry takes teamwork. From the contract specialist and attorneys researching the inquiry to final approval by the commanding general, it involves coordination, communication and collaboration," Mattox said.
In addition, the congressional liaison and public affairs officer are responsible for preparing MICC leaders for congressional engagements by MICC leaders.
"Members of Congress and their staff primarily reach out to us on behalf of their constituents," said Ben Gonzales, the MICC director of public and congressional affairs. "As stewards of taxpayer dollars, an integral aspect in executing our contracting mission is that we preserve the public's trust."
The MICC congressional affairs program is the most active program in the Army Contracting Command, typically responsible for responding to more than 80 percent of ACC inquiries each year.
Response to congressional inquiries is predicated on timeliness. Mattox said the importance of providing timely responses is to build confidence and support for our Army mission and programs. He explained that each year, after the president submits his budget to Congress, the Department of Defense is required to justify its programs to the House and Senate Armed Services committees. DOD also must justify the associated funding of its programs to the Defense Subcommittee of the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
"With this audience, it's important that we demonstrate fair and transparent contracting practices for which we're accountable," he said.
Mattox said this requires all contacts with members of Congress or their staff to be referred to the MICC Office of Public and Congressional Affairs that, in turn, must notify the Department of the Army Office of the Chief of Legislative Liaison within 24 hours. OCLL then begins its five-day clock by which the MICC commanding general must respond to the congressional inquiry.
The condensed timeline necessitates all communications related to a congressional matter be centrally managed by public affairs, which is responsible for informing and educating a number of audiences to include the American public, Congress and industry.
"In the end, our communication with Congress must be consistent and support higher headquarters legislative issues and demonstrate a common thread of priorities and direction. And it must also be professional, expeditious, thorough and responsive."