Contracting is "the cheapest, most certain, and consequently the best mode of obtaining those articles which are necessary for the subA,A!sistence, covering, clothing, and moving of an Army." Robert Morris made this observation during the Revolutionary War.

Morris used his personal funds and credit to provide supplies, sustenance, and transportation for Gen. George Washington's Continentals and one of his top priorities was receiving the best return for his money.

In 1781, Congress unanimously appointed Morris to the first executive office created, superintendent of finances. Morris initiated the first sealed bid system for awarding service and supply contracts for the Army.

For roughly the next 60 years Morris's system was adapted and modified by the government. However, for most of this early period, the government contracted personnel to perform military contracts. The Army and the government held no control of the contracting process.

This system provided ample opportunities for corruption, fraud, and suffering. During Gen. Andrew Jackson's war against the Creek Indians in Alabama and Henry Atkinson's campaign against Blackhawk in Illinois and Wisconsin, American troops frequently marched and fought on empty stomachs when sustainment contracts failed to arrive.

After the War of 1812 Brig. Gen. Thomas S. Jesup became the quartermaster general of the Army. He began implementing changes and by the Mexican-American War Army quartermasters became the contracting agents for the Army.

Between the War with Mexico and the American Civil War a position as quartermaster became the second most prestigious and sought-after position for officers in the Army. During these 15 years of expansion, quartermaster officers took on responsibility for sustaining remote forts across the American frontier.

Those frontier quartermasters refined their experiences rapidly after 1861. The senior officers found themselves quickly transferred to major industrial cities throughout the northern states where they established depots. Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs became quartermaster general in May 1861 and continued Jesup's reforms. Each contracting quartermaster held his own direct account with the Treasury Department.

In the first year of the war these quartermaster officers used several options to obtain the best cost for supplies. They could advertise large-quantity contracts, make small direct local purchases, and even held the authority to build and staff their own factories. Congressional acts in 1861 and 1863 combined with an inability of the Treasury Department to make prompt payments for services led to large-quantity advertised contracts as the exclusive vehicle to sustain and supply U.S. Army forces.

At the close of the Civil War the contracting quartermaster officers returned to their frontier forts. At the same time junior and field grade officers from the combat arms branches found themselves assigned to the new Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. For the next decade these officers negotiated and enforced labor contracts between newly freed slaves and southern land owners.

Bureau chief, Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard focused on labor contracts negotiated by Army offices as the primary vehicle to teach the responsibilities of freedom and as the vessel to change the economic model for southern society.

The Army spent the remainder of the 19th century downsizing. The Spanish-American War at the end of the century caught the small regular Army unprepared. The Army needed to mobilize and equip tens of thousands of militia troops and transport regular Army units, militia, and volunteers to Cuba and the Philippines.

Emergency, or contingency contracts were quickly awarded for uniforms, weapons, ammunition, food, rail transport and even an armada of transport ships to move troops from Miami, Fl., to Cuba. The rapid mobilization and transportation of forces repeated almost two decades later when the United States entered World War I.

After the Great War the Army once again began massive demobilization as the U.S. entered a period of isolation. Earlier periods saw quartermaster officers take over the responsibility for contracting at all levels of the Army from central depots to brigade-sized units.

For the first time the Army began consolidating and coordinating contracting operations. The experiences of World War I showed contracting officers competing with each other for items and services, a situation that artificially raised the costs for the Army and left units wanting for supplies and services.

The new consolidation aimed to avoid this competition by centralizing all orders in a single organization. This organization evolved into the Army Service Forces established in 1943. The ASF coordinated the needs of the Army in all theaters and the industrial base. This limited internal competition for contracts and allowed a prioritization of supplies and services based on operational needs.

The ASF, like most of the Army, was demobilized after World War II. A few years later the U.S. found itself embroiled in another war, this time in Korea. Once again, contracting officers wrote contingency contracts for transportation, services, and supplies.

The Korean War added a new aspect to contracting when the U.S. volunteered to equip and supply all of the United Nations forces in Korea. Rations needed to be augmented to meet ethnic and religious requirements and uniforms needed to be modified and created to fit allies of smaller stature and physique. Without the coordinating capabilities of an organization like the disbanded ASF, Korean War contracts competed with each other and created redundancy of efforts.

The second half of the 20th century saw an increasing reliance on contracted services. The war in Vietnam saw a significant increase in contractor use on the battlefield from construction to services.

The transition to an all-volunteer force in July 1971 increased the reliance on contractors to fulfill services formerly conducted by troops. In 1985, the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) was established to provide the Army with a contingency contracting capability. Learning from the previous century of experience, contracts for services and supplies began to be pre-planned for various needs around the globe that could be implemented as needed.

First used in Somalia starting in 1992, LOGCAP evolved into a multi-billion-dollar program providing life support, logistics, and infrastructure for the Army in combat and continA,A!gency operations.

For all of the experience gained during the 20th century, contracting at the beginning of the 21st century was still missing something.

The sense of professionalism and specific training from Jesup's and Meigs's Quartermaster Corps and the central coordination of the ASF were historic memories at the dawn of the 21st century and the beginning of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. By 2007, over half of the personnel currently in Iraq and Afghanistan were contracted employees. Army contracting personnel faced over a 600 percent increase in workload.

The secretary of defense established an independent Commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations, commonly called the Gansler Commission.

Within a year, on Jan. 30, 2008, the Army established the U.S. Army Contracting Command (Provisional).

In forty-two days, on Mar. 13, ACC (Provisional) was activated at Fort Belvoir, Va becoming the newest major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. Six months later, Oct.1, 2008, the U.S. Army Contracting Command became fully activated with two subordinate commands, the Expeditionary Contracting Command and the Mission and Installation Contracting Command, formerly Installation Contracting Command.

The Gansler commission provided four key improvements needed in Army acquisition.

First, it recommended an "increase in stature, quantity, and career development of military and civilian contracting personnel." This harkens back to quartermaster generals Jesup's and Meigs's policies during the mid-19th century.

Second, the commission recommended a "restructure of organization to restore responsibility to facilitate contracting and contract management in expeditionary and CONUS (continental United States) operations", much like the ASF's mission during mid-20th century.

Third, the commission recommended "training and tools for overall contracting activities in expeditionary operations."

Fourth, it recommended "legislative, regulatory, and policy assistance to enable contracting effectiveness in expeditionary operations." These final two recommendations add to the historical development of Army contracting.

For three years ACC has grown and adapted to meet the needs of the Army, the recommendations of the Gansler commission, and the heritage of Army contractors past. ACC has coordinated and provided support for U.S. and allied troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and provided humanitarian assistance after natural disasters in Haiti, Pakistan, and Japan.

ACC has emphasized the professionalism of Army contracting, constantly updating and improving training for the acquisition workforce, and harnessing technology to enhance efficiency.

Over the last year ACC Headquarters has moved personnel to Redstone Arsenal, Ala. Those early personnel continued the evolution of ACC, performing their duties at Redstone while coordinating with Fort Belvoir, Va. In ones and twos, then half dozens and dozens ACC's center of gravity began to shift. On June 15, 2011 the fulcrum shifts.

Redstone Arsenal ceases to be the home of ACC (Forward) and becomes the official home of the Army Contracting Command. From Redstone, ACC will continue to evolve, seeking to improve professional contracting support for the Army, America's allies, and those in need of humanitarian support.

As of April 4, 2011

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16