Foreign national contracting officers bridge gap between U.S., foreign vendors
August 22, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- For the average person, understanding the rules and regulations involved in securing a government contract can be a daunting task. Add understanding those rules and regulations and those of a foreign country and the challenge becomes twice as difficult.
That's where Expeditionary Contracting Command's foreign national warranted contracting officers and contracting specialists come to the rescue. ECC has 144 foreign national contracting officers and contracting specialists in Belgium, Germany, Italy, South Korea and South America, according to Dan Gallagher, ECC's director of contracting operations.
"For us, you really have to understand the laws and customs of each country we operate in," he said. "Every country and every state within a country has its own rules and processes. Our foreign national contracting officers know those rules and know who to contact to accomplish the mission."
Most of ECC's foreign national contracting officers support the 409th Contracting Support Brigade, Kaiserslautern, Germany. Tony Baumann, 409th CSB deputy director, said the brigade has just over 100 foreign national contracting specialists"26 warranted contracting officers"serving in Belgium, Germany and Italy. Baumann said knowing the language is one key advantage.
"For example, in Germany, a significant amount of contracting is done for construction and utilities requirements where all documents are required to be in German," Baumann explained. "In Italy, many vendor employees"like much of the Italian public"do not speak English. Although contracts in Italy are written in English with Italian translations, native Italian speakers are invaluable in bridging language barriers. U.S. civilians are at a distinct disadvantage due to language skills."
Baumann described how Marius Fara, a German national who serves as the only contracting officer managing acquisition cross-service agreements, helped negotiate an agreement with a Middle East country. ACSAs are country-to-country agreements for exchange of services in-kind or money for services.
"The 409th CSB was managing a high-profile regional security mission in a Middle Eastern country that required significant support services provided by the host nation," Baumann explained. "Mr. Fara traveled with 409th CSB contingency contracting officers to meet with the host nation and negotiate the ACSA. Despite having to be excluded from various meetings due to mission classification (as a German, he is not eligible for a U.S. security clearance), Mr. Fara was able to assess the information provided and develop the appropriate agreement.
"As no other 409th CSB contracting officer has ACSA experience, we could not have executed the mission without him, which would have jeopardized regional security and U.S. national interests."
Baumann said foreign nationals make up 55 percent of the brigade's civilian workforce. They have an average of 24 years experience and "are the stabilizing backbone of our capability." They offer continuity in an environment where Army civilians serve normal tour rotations of three to five years. Foreign national employees have a better understanding of the local laws, applicability and consequences, he explained.
Gallagher said foreign national contracting officers must obtain the same Defense Acquisition University certifications and on-the-job training as U.S. contracting officers.
"It would be very difficult for us to accomplish our mission without them," Gallagher said.