ARLINGTON, Va. (May 20, 2014) -- Army and industry leaders discussed the important role of contracting in support of future forces in a panel here May 20.

The "Contractors in Support of Force 2025" panel took place during a Sustainment "Hot Topic" Forum, hosted by the Association of the United States Army.

Chaired by U.S. Army Materiel Command Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, the panel included leaders from Army Materiel Command; the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology; the Joint Staff; and industry. The leaders shared current initiatives and challenges across the Army contracting community, before addressing questions from an audience of current and retired military and industry.

"We have proven over the last 13 years that contracts are critical to our ability to mitigate our risk, and we can count on our contracting partners to be with us on the battlefield," said McQuistion. "Contracting is a way of the future. It is in every one of our contingency plans."

Panelists addressed various topics related to contracting, including Better Buying Power initiatives, the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, and optimizing the entire Industrial Base -- Organic and Industry. A recurring theme was the topic of training, for both contracting officials and those with requirements.

McQuistion discussed the Operational Contracting Support Joint Exercise, known as OCSJX, which brings together various organizations across the joint contracting community, including the requiring activities, as one initiative to bridge the gap in training.

"The best contracts happen when requiring activities are involved through the entire process," McQuistion said. "OCSJX shows the entire contracting community coming together; the framework is there now that wasn't 13 years ago."

Panel members also addressed contract costs, another common theme throughout the discussion.

Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, military deputy/director, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, stressed that contracting officials need to focus on contract maintenance and close-out as much, if not more, than just the contract award.

"We're getting better at the contract award, but contract administration and close-out is where we'll gain the most cost savings," McQuistion agreed.

She concluded by asking industry to continue to partner with the military to get better at contracting.

"We use low price, technically acceptable contracts, and look at a best value approach to contracting," McQuistion said. "We're open to innovation and bold ideas, even in contracting strategies, and that's where we need your help."