Program integrator provides embedded contracting expertise to PEO-Soldier
June 25, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Essential to the Army Contracting Command--Aberdeen Proving Ground, customer relations is a high prirority.
To gain additional leverage with its customers, ACC-APG has placed highly trained experts, program integrators, into program offices to acquire programmatic information and requirements data.
A program integrator serves as a liaison between the customer and the ACC-APG workforce to facilitate contracting actions. The duties of this position are two-fold.
First, the individual must have extensive contracting experience to serve as an advisor to customers. Second, the individual must have internal knowledge of the program to guide the contracting workforce. This function is offered through a support agreement between the customer and ACC-APG and is funded by the customer.
As a program integrator, Angie Sawyer works with the Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Va. Through her efforts, the ACC-APG contracting workforce enables the PEO provide state-of-the-art equipment to the Soldier.
"Dozens of contracting professionals in both the Aberdeen and Natick divisions provide support to the program managers within the PEO," Sawyer said. "In fiscal year 2011, the ACC-APG executed 1,309 contracting actions totaling over $1.7 billion for the PEO. The ACC-APG provides 90 percent of all of the PEO's contracting support."
It was this workload that led ACC-APG's leadership to establish a dedicated PI position within PEO-Soldier. Sawyer's 24 years of contracting experience contributed to her selection as PI.
"Angie was a logical candidate," said Steven Bryant, ACC-APG's deputy director. "She was already residing near Fort Belvoir, had a wealth of experience in contracting and a proven record of working well with customers. Since the ACC-APG had experienced success with a PI position within the Joint PEO Chemical and Biological Defense, it was a logical step to expand the concept to PEO-Soldier."
Sawyer has weekly contact with contracting officers and specialists to facilitate communications and resolve work issues on PEO contracts.
"Having face-to-face interaction on a regular basis between both contracting and the customer helps us collectively understand what needs to be done to execute actions as quickly as possible," Sawyer added. "The concept of a PI is multi-faceted. Being in close proximity to the PEO enables me to bridge the geographical gap between the contracting staff at APG and the customer. Since APG is located almost 100 miles away from the PEO, it's difficult for busy contracting officers and specialists to spend as much time as they would like addressing the many issues that arise on a daily basis on the wide variety of programs."
The PI position is an essential ingredient to ACC-APG's support to PEO-Soldier, according to Susan A. Greider, chief, Aberdeen Division D.
"Angie provides the greatly sought-after translation and facilitation of the program manager and contracting officer perspective to clarify each other's objective," Greider said. "This clarity of objective allows the team to focus on the preparation and timely execution of regulatory compliant and enforceable contracts. Contract quality has improved which results in enhanced contract management and oversight which saves time, money and resources."
Sawyer assists the program managers and project leaders across the full scope of their acquisitions. This includes early brainstorming of acquisition strategies and plans, facilitation of source selections, and troubleshooting any contractual issues after award. The PI concept allows both the PEO and ACC-APG leadership to have a horizontal and holistic view of their contracting progress.
"PEO-Soldier identified the need for contracting support within the organization through program manager input," said Jerry Varela, director, acquisition, policy and oversight. "The program manages wanted dedicated contracting advice and assistance to support a wide range of PEO products including over 400 end items."
The initial PI support within PEO Soldier started within one of the PM offices. Col. Stephanie Foster, program manager, Soldier, Sensors and Lasers embraced the idea of a PI and Sawyer became an integral part of program planning on each of the PM SSL contracts.
"Having a dedicated PI made a significant difference in navigating the contracting process," said Foster. "Through Angie's efforts, improvements were implemented that resulted in savings of cost, time and resources. The PI helped communicate what we were trying to achieve and offered possible options to encourage solutions through critical thinking. It has been a win-win situation as ACC-APG and the PEO work together to reach a desired end state."
The PI concept gained support and acceptance throughout the PEO. The PEO leadership realized that having PI involvement across all of the programs could provide improved oversight into the overall health of PEO contracting. With a recent reorganization, the PI position was restructured at the PEO level, providing support to four program managers.
"Sawyer is now part of the formal organizational structure and her concurrence is required on all acquisition packages," Varela said. "With her internal involvement, the PEO has experienced an improvement in the quality, timeliness and completeness of acquisition documentation."
Sawyer provides training workshops for the PEO employees and prepared an 82-page acquisition training guide to serve as a desk reference for program managers. She also provided guidance and articulated contracting policy such as the requirements of the new efficiency initiatives.
According to Dan Kitts, deputy product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors, a PI acts in three capacities: translator, problem solver and facilitator.
"The PM focuses on cost, schedule, performance and the contracting agency focuses on Federal Acquisition Regulation provisions, award documentation, reviews by the small business, competition advocate, and attorneys," said Kitts. "Angie is supremely competent in both languages and can help each party understand the motivations of the other."
One example of Sawyer's work was the contracting actions for the pelvic protection systems. She communicated daily with team members to ensure that all pertinent contracting language was not omitted from the acquisition package and she personally reviewed numerous drafts of the statement of work, technical evaluation summaries, and independent government cost estimate to ensure the efficacy of all contract language.
For her work she was recognized by Maj. Gen. Camille M. Nichols, former Program Executive Officer-Soldier and now commanding general of the Army Contracting Command.
According to Nichols, Sawyer contributed significantly to the success of this effort with her precise talents and interpersonal skills.
"I love my job and find it very satisfying to work with both the customers and contracting personnel to figure out the most efficient way to do things," Sawyer said. "Although both are working toward a common goal of getting critical items in the hands of Soldiers, sometimes translation is needed between the two organizations to find the most efficient and resource-saving mechanisms to employ.
"Communication is an important part of being a PI," she added. "My goal is to try and make the contracting officer's job a little easier by running down issues for them while helping the customer think through and better understand the contracting process. This avoids unnecessary re-work later."