Making contracts - old school and new
January 29, 2014
Military service members don't always have the luxury of electricity during their deployment, which can sometimes leave them without the use of computers or electronics.
For contracting specialists whose job revolves around order forms, contracts and memos, being able to work on a computer helps them be more efficient, but they still have a mission to complete when the power goes out. That is why the Regional Contingency Contracting teams of Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2014 focused on contract processing manually with pen and paper as well as digitally using computers and networks.
To simulate the multiple federal and civilian agencies involved, contracting specialists communicated with the white cell, the section of the joint exercise that managed the role-player agencies requesting or supplying contracts.
"We are here to facilitate the exercise and make sure it flows; so the RCCs have all of the information they need to procure the goods and services that the task forces need," said Army Lt. Col. Seth Blakeman, the deputy commander of the OCSJX-14 white cell.
The contracting process begins with the white cell as a simulated agency, like an engineer unit, in the earthquake scenario making a purchase request for supplies, such as concrete. The request is then given to each of the 16 regional contingency contracting teams to review.
"We identify which requests are services, which are construction and which are commodities, then divide them out to the teams to begin the contracting process," said Maj. Frank Mendoza, a contracting officer leading one of the RCC teams.
This is normally a very quick process, but when the teams work on paper forms, they have to fill in the forms by hand and deliver them, instead of completing and emailing an electronic document, said Army Staff Sgt. Tiffany Fields, contracting specialist with the 915th Contracting Support Battalion out of Baltimore, Md.
"Working on manual forms just means that the automated systems are not functional, but we still need to award contracts. We are not going to stop that process just because the computers are down," said Mendoza.
The RCC teams review the request using federal and Department of Defense guidelines to verify that all necessary documents are present and correct, so the request can be forwarded to the agencies in charge of the recovery effort to be verified. Once the purchase request is verified, the contract specialists are able to have the vendors provide the goods or services, then close out the contract.
After each contract is fulfilled, the RCC team moves on to the next task. With the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and all of the federal agencies in a joint environment, there are so many moving pieces that there is always more work to be done.