By Ryan Mattox, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeJune 3, 2014
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (June 3, 2014) -- In preparation for the 150th Anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery, contracting professionals at the Mission and Installation Contracting Command-Fort Belvoir, Virginia, became heavily involved with much needed updates to the ANC Memorial Amphitheater Display Room.
Since being built in 1920, the Amphitheater's Display Room received its only update in 1975. The room houses exhibits and a collection of gifts presented throughout the years to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
"With the surge of historical interest in ANC because of the 150th, this space was identified as one that needed updating that included the context of historical exhibits," said Stephen Carney, Arlington National Cemetery historian. ANC was established June 15, 1864.
Carney felt the public, the president, and other VIPs was seeing a space in desperate need of repair and updating.
"As a national shrine we had to show we were taking appropriate care of items of historical significance, which include flags and Medals of Honor for each of our unknown entombed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier," Carney said. "The contracts that were awarded met the requirements for sufficient updating. The space is now a safe environment for those artifacts because of the contract support from MICC-Fort Belvoir."
The display room has been used as the VIP entrance and holding area for major ceremonies and events at the Memorial Amphitheater since 1920. Presidents, heads of states, senior domestic and foreign military and civilian leaders frequent the room. In addition, a large number of the cemetery's 3.5 million-plus visitors annually walk through the space either before or after they watch a changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
"This Memorial Day, the updated display room was the first room the president of the United States, the secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff entered after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown. How cool is that! Contracting professionals involved with the project should be extremely proud of what they accomplished," said Maj. Justin Schaeffer, a seven-year contracting veteran and leader of the ANC contract support element.
The process to update the display room for the anniversary began in September 2013 when ANC officials identified three requirements in order to improve the room. With subsequent ANC leadership approval and budgeting in October, the on-site contract support element began its work with the customer.
The activity identified its requirements early, conducted market research with local small business vendors and submitted the requirements package in a timely manner to MICC-Fort Belvoir. The requiring activity immediately identified and nominated its contracting officer representative, trained by the on-site MICC Quality Assurance Representative Kathy Manokey, who Schaffer said, was extremely responsive during the review phase of the requirements package.
During the performance of the contract, the customer's contracting officer representative was constantly on-site using all resources necessary to ensure the contractor was meeting specifications of the awarded contract.
"Understanding exactly what the customer was looking for helped out tremendously," Schaeffer said. "We were able to develop a hasty timeline, identify any in-sourcing opportunities or streamlined procurement methods, assist with developing the requirements packages, and facilitate the link-up of the customer with the contracting officer and contracting specialist."
"The biggest challenge was preparing and organizing all of the requirements documentation for the procurement," said Ryan Marion, a contract specialist for MICC-Fort Belvoir assigned to the project. "When (the MICC) became aware of the timeframe for these projects and the purpose it was for, we immediately started to plan for what we had to complete on our end. Thanks to the support team at the MICC, we were able to plan and prepare the proper documentation in order to execute the contracts."
According to Schaeffer, contracting personnel involved exceeded expectations. Deliz Soto-Carreras, David Wallace, Marion and Staff Sgt. Juan Rendon all used their institutional knowledge of awarding similar types of contracts in the past that led to successful procurement for this project. He said their knowledge of the local vendor base assisted with the customer's market research and their willingness to be on-site throughout the contracting process was helpful. Their expertise produced insightful recommendations concerning the customer's requirements documentation that led to improving the customer's requirements package.
"The results of this effort are textbook acquisition management and oversight 101, which contracting has enormous involvement," Schaeffer said. "Here is a case where acquisition professionals were leading the requirements development team. There's early and proactive involvement by the contracting office, sufficient lead time, constant, open dialog between requiring activity and contracting office, and a trained, dedicated customer contracting officer representative."
Marion agrees that communication and coordination between MICC and ANC was tremendous.
"Any questions, clarifications or changes that needed to be addressed pertaining to the requirements were answered in a timely manner," Marion said. "Because of this, we were able to meet the deadline and provide ANC with the best product."
The display cases and exhibits contracts were awarded in February 2014, and the display room renovation in March 2014.
"The results and impact of these contracts will last for years beyond the commemorations and celebrations as visitors honor our nation's heroes at the Memorial Amphitheater. Contracting professionals need to be aware of what value they add to the Army and their customer," Schaeffer said. "The time and dedication taken not only by contract specialists and contracting officers for these particular requirements but also by the support staff at MICC-Fort Belvoir -- from legal reviews to peer reviews -- was remarkable."