What the customer sees
April 27, 2012
Contingency operations are chaotic by nature. Usually they are defined by disorder, uncertainty, and immature processes and procedures.
Contingency contracting officers (CCOs) are normally among the first personnel to deploy in response to a contingency or wartime situation. This first-in, boots-on-ground contracting presence fills the gap resulting from the Army supply systems' inability to fulfill the requirements of a rapid buildup.
Establishing a contingency contracting office is generally the first priority for CCOs; however, before a CCO can focus on serving as a business advisor and executing contracts, a decision must be made concerning how to operate.
Providing contracting support in this environment requires an efficient office that is easy to set up, familiar to Soldiers, and focused on providing contracting capability to customers. Too often, CCOs are so focused on setting up the office quickly that they forget to examine customer needs. A CCO should never establish an office just to have an office; the purpose of a contracting office is directly linked to the capability that it can provide. While the physical layout is important, a contracting office represents much more than that.
Specifically, an office is composed of people, systems, and capabilities that enhance the customer's ability to execute contingency operations. Instead of concentrating on the physical layout of the office, the focus must be on determining what contracting capability will be provided to customers.
Currently, a standard structure for a contingency contracting office does not exist; therefore, this article explores planning considerations and proposed capabilities, and presents a simple layout for establishing and operating a deployed contracting office.
It has been said that failure to plan is planning to fail. CCOs should heed this message as they consider how to establish an initial contracting capability in support of a contingency operation.
CONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS
Even before the deployment, CCOs should have a general idea of how they will operate. Setting the conditions for success requires the CCO to consider key elements of the overall operational environment, including the mission, operational location, the operation's duration, and available resources.
- Mission: An understanding of the mission is crucial in determining what capability is required for the operation. If possible, the CCO must be fully integrated into the mission analysis process conducted by the supported unit.
- Location: A CCO needs to understand, among other things, the local vendor base, predominant languages spoken, types of currency, and the information technology infrastructure (i.e., Internet availability). CCOs can expect to be integrated with the supported units' logistics element, where office space is shared, or to operate out of independent offices consisting mostly of contracting personnel. Additionally, operating out of a tent or hotel room is not uncommon. The capabilities-based approach for a stand-alone office can be tailored and/or adjusted based upon the situation. Whether operating out of a physical location or from a three-ring binder in a remote location, a CCO must understand that the location is not as important as the specific capability to be provided to a customer.
- Duration: The projected duration or length of the mission--whether it will be short-term or enduring--will influence the capability provided. The purpose of a CCO is to provide short-term contracting capability in support of contingency operations. As the duration of the mission changes, the capability provided will change.
- Available resources: A CCO should consider what resources are available to execute the mission: How many contracting personnel will support this operation? What is their level of experience? Are any of these personnel warranted? What type of contract actions have they executed in the past, and what additional expertise is required? A detailed analysis of the mission, operational location, duration, and available resources will help the CCO prepare for the upcoming mission. Many considerations will influence how a CCO operates; however, the key to success is deciding what capabilities will be provided to customers.
What is a capability? It is the quality of performing a specific function that is required, valued, or important to an internal or external customer. How can a capabilities-based approach be applied to establishing a contingency contracting office and to executing contracts during a contingency operation? In short, such an approach is concerned solely with what an office can do for customers: When a customer walks into a contracting office with a requirement, what can the CCO do for that customer? By viewing the office from the customer's perspective, it is easier to decide what capability is required.
In general, most contracting offices provide pre-award and post-award capability. The capabilities approach is a conceptual framework that not only addresses pre-award and post-award capability, but also helps CCOs structure the office and determine what additional capabilities to provide. When considering how to organize a contingency contracting office, CCOs should consider the 10 capabilities in Figure 1. These are not all-inclusive list of required capabilities, but a starting point that allows CCOs to add additional capabilities as necessary.
THE PHYSICAL LAYOUT
The next step is integrating these capabilities into a simple, efficient office layout. CCOs typically approach establishing a contingency contracting office in an ad hoc fashion, with a focus on doing rather than thinking. CCOs should focus on providing specific contracting capabilities that are directly related and inextricably linked to the needs of the customer.
Based upon U.S. Army Field Manual 4-92, Contracting Support Brigade, these are standard sections assigned to a contingency contracting battalion, including plans and policy, operations and requirements, and contract administration services.
Additionally, the layout demonstrates that the battalion has taken on the role of a regional contracting center (RCC) in a deployed location. The leadership and management of an RCC may consist of a director (a lieutenant colonel or major), a deputy director (a GS-14 in the 1102 series), and senior enlisted advisor or sergeant major (in Military Occupational Specialty 51C).
A brief functional description of capabilities, and their corresponding sections or teams, follows:
- Acquisition planning is provided by the operations and requirements section, in coordination with the contract administration services section.
Pre-award procurement is provided by the construction, services, and commodities teams.
- Workload management is performed by the director and/or deputy director, in coordination with the construction, services, and commodities team leaders.
- The operations NCO in charge provides customer service, via a dedicated help desk located at the entry point, by rapidly engaging customers and directing them to the appropriate section.
- Information and data management is accomplished by arranging multiple tracking and status charts or boards that display information about the current operational picture, thereby ensuring that the RCC maintains operational situational awareness.
- The existing theater contracts and regional or local vendor base information capabilities provide real-time information for use in making business decisions.
- Post-award contract administration, along with training for quality assurance personnel and contracting officer's representatives, is performed by the contract administration services section.
- Finally, the plans and policy section provides customer training on the procurement process and field ordering officer's duties and responsibilities.
The capabilities-based approach to establishing a contingency contracting office is a customer-centered method that considers not only what the customer sees, but also what the customer can expect.
As long as the CCO conducts detailed planning, provides value-added capability, and integrates that capability into a simple structure, he or she will excel at helping customers fulfill their critical requirements.
For more information, contact LTC Myers at 210-295-6147/DSN 421-6147 or email@example.com. Or go to the 916th Contingency Contracing Battalion's milBook site at https://www.milsuite.mil /book /g roups /916thcontingency-contracting-battalion.