Commander discusses local contract
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher Vanek, task force commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, visits Tag Tag, Iraq, Nov. 28, 2007. Vanek will attend a meeting to have local leaders sign a contract to have 5,500 concerned local citizens secure their neighborhoods in coordination with Iraqi security forces and provincial government.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 20, 2010) -- Army leaders testified before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan at a Sept. 16 hearing that the Army continues to make great strides to expand its contracting workforce and improve oversight of the billions spent on warzone contingency contracts.

Army authorizations for deployable contracting Soldiers continues to grow -- from a total of 160 in 2002 to 1,113 across the Army by the end of 2013 -- Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told the commission.

Also, Army leaders testified that the service is implementing all 22 of the Army-specific recommendations contained in the October 2007 report by Dr. Jacques Gansler titled "Urgent Reform Required: Army Expeditionary Contracting."

"We are implementing the recommendations from Dr. Gansler and we are continuing to grow our deployable contracting workforce," Phillips said.

The commission - which was created by Congress in 2008 to examine contingency contracting for reconstruction, logistics and security functions - questioned Army and Pentagon decision-makers regarding efforts to increase the number of overall personnel and general officers working in contingency contracting.

"When you consider that the Department of Defense spent $384 billion on contracts in 2009 -- more than double the level of 2001 -- while its organic acquisition workforce actually declined, you are forced to suspect that opportunities for waste, fraud and abuse have multiplied," said Commission Co-Chairman Christopher Shays. "Before current operations cease, before memories fade, and before the sense of urgency dissipates, we need to be sure that the problems revealed and the lessons learned in Southwest Asia are addressed in reforms of the federal contingency acquisition workforce."

Commissioner Shays, other members of the commission and the expert witnesses all referred to the drawdown of thousands of contracting professionals across the services during the 1990s following the end of the Cold War -- underscoring the need to rebuild the bench over time to meet the fast-growing needs of the current wars.

Witnesses testifying before the Commission emphasized that while much progress has been made, it takes time to reverse the trend.

One of the many Gansler recommendations pursued by the Army was to stand up an Army Contracting Command; ACC was stood up in October 2008, and now has more than 5,000 employees at more than 117 locations worldwide.

"Army Contracting Command is working to help facilitate a cultural change in the Army," Jeff Parsons, director of Army Contracting Command, told the commission.

Parsons outlined five ACC strategic priorities to include growing the workforce, focusing on customers, acquiring and maintaining resources and enhancing the quality of life for personnel.

Commission members said they wanted to help ensure that an emphasis on contingency contracting and needed personnel does not diminish as a result of anticipated reductions in defense spending.

"Historically reductions in force structure are disproportionally allocated to combat service support and the acquisition community. How do you change the culture of realizing the goal of increasing the acquisition workforce' How do we institutionalize some of this momentum we have built up'" asked Commissioner Grant Green.

Army contracting leaders assured the commission they would work to retain the Army's emphasis on contracting, build on the current momentum and work to institutionalize the important changes taking place.

"We will continue to give the chief of staff of the Army our feedback on the importance of having contracting general officers. We will make sure it stays on the radar. You need to have the capability so that when they ask you to deploy - you are able to deploy," Phillips told the commission.

Among the panel of expert witnesses was Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who told the commission that the corps continues to expand as well.

"We have requested an additional 358 contracting positions to be phased in over fiscal years 2011 to 2014. The first 100 of these positions have been approved," Van Antwerp told the commission in prepared testimony.

Since 2001, the Army Corps of Engineers has managed more than 6,000 projects in Iraq and Afghanistan with a construction cost of about $17 billion. Overall, the corps has had nearly 10,000 personnel deployments in support of these missions.

In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers has deactivated a district headquarters in Iraq as the military forces have drawn down there and also added a second district in Afghanistan to assist with reconstruction efforts there, Van Antwerp told the commission.

Members of the commission also asked about contingency contracting requirements and expressed interest in having contracting teams in close proximity to the operational units they support.

Phillips told the Commission that resourcing teams will continue to be co-located with regional contracting teams in theater.

"There has to be a habitual relationship between the regional contracting command and the brigades' area of operation. They are very close. In Iraq and Afghanistan we set up regional contracting centers that were tied to brigade combat teams. When the 101st went into Herat in Western Afghanistan, we immediately deployed a contingency contracting team that went into Herat," he said.

"You can't separate requirements from acquisition and resources. They all have to be synchronized."

Commission members and witnesses alike expressed the sentiment that contingency contracting is an inherently valuable element of the ongoing war effort.

"Contracting is now part of the warfighting - it is not an afterthought," said Commissioner Robert Henke.

Page last updated Fri September 17th, 2010 at 14:56