Army Forms Contracting Command, Campaign Plan
February 29, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 29, 2008) - The acting under secretary of the Army told Pentagon reporters today that the Army has begun steps to establish both an Army Contracting Command and an Army Contracting Campaign Plan to help improve Army contracting.
Nelson M. Ford, who also serves as the assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller, said contracting was a matter of priority in the Army, and that the two initiatives will help centralize Army contracting, identifying any continuing problems and resourcing it adequately.
"The Army's a big organization. Lots of interests in the Army. We've got to make sure that we have a solution that will work for the entire Army long term, so a big part of the effort that the campaign plan group is working on is making sure everybody's interests are reflected in the Contracting Command as it's developed," he said.
The ACCP will address the recommendations from both the Gansler Commission and the Army Contracting Task Force and serve as an extension of them, he said. It will identify and implement changes needed across contracting, including doctrine, training, leader development and personnel.
Ford said that the Army may need as many as 1,400 additional active-duty and civilian officers. Personnel, training and leader development are crucial for the future of contracting agreed Jeffrey P. Parsons, director of contracting at Army Materiel Command. Although most specifics of the ACC have yet to be determined, it will fall under AMC.
Parsons said about a third of all contracting officers have less than five years of experience and experienced contracting officers are desperately needed throughout the federal government.
He added that the Army is also looking at ways to increase the accession of active-duty officers into the career field - most don't enter contracting until after 7 years in the operational Army - and is building a contracting noncommissioned officer corps as well.
Parsons and Ford want to ensure they have the right force structure at each rank and the ability to grow contracting general officers, both for the Army and the Department of Defense. Part of that includes assignments across the spectrum of contracting to give them the experience they need.
"One of the things we're learning in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially with doing reconstruction and stabilization work, is that contracting is a lot more complex than just buying gravel," said Parsons. "We need to get the contracting people to have much deeper analytical skills and contracting skills. That's one of the reasons we're looking at bringing this into Army Materiel Command, because the complexity of contracting we do in AMC associated with weapons, large services, even some large installation-type services, will give these military new training opportunities."
In addition to the ACCP, the ACC - a realignment of the Army Contracting Agency - will make it easier to identify and fill these personnel needs, the officials said. As the command is developed, Parsons said leaders are also looking at whether to establish centers of excellence around the country to train contracting officers for dealing with certain products and services.
He also said that ACC will allow contracting officers from commands around the Army, from the Corps of Engineers to Army Medical Command to learn from each other and help each other out if necessary. Ford added that the acquisition workforce, which remains robust, undergoes training very similar to that of contracting, and can be called on.
The ACC will be a two-star level command, with two one-star subordinate commands, including an expeditionary command, which will be able to deploy when and at the level needed and increase the Army's oversight of contracting in theater.
It will consist of 171 contingency contracting teams of two officers and two NCOs each, which will be modular and able to go where needed. The expeditionary command will also have 18 battalions of eight to nine people each and seven brigades. Each brigade will have a Criminal Investigative Division agent and an auditor.
"The whole idea is that the next time we go into a fight, we'll be prepared," Parsons said. "There's going to be organization. There's going to be individuals responsible and accountable for providing that contracting support. The teams deploy. If the fight's going to be a little longer, a battalion deploys. If it's going to be of longer duration, the brigade deploys.
"If it's going to be a very extended operation, like we've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, the whole Expeditionary Contracting Command headquarters will actually deploy."