By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeAugust 5, 2014
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 5, 2014) -- An acquisition database application developed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to better manage contracting operations and enhance customer support and contract management is being fielded across the Mission and Installation Contracting Command.
MICC officials at Fort Belvoir launched the Contracting Tactical Operations Center application at the end of 2013 to provide online, real-time procurement insight to address challenges of a geographically dispersed command, acquisition training, managerial capabilities and resourcing levels.
In January, application capabilities were demonstrated to MICC leaders at the brigade and field directorate office level during the Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2014 at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Lt. Col. Maria Schneider, the commander of MICC-Fort Belvoir, said an informal canvas of offices interested in fielding CTOC was then conducted to determine if the application had further effectiveness at other sites. Locations identified included Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Fort Carson, Colorado, and Fort Polk, Louisiana. This month, officials are adding Fort Drum, New York, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to that list of early adopters.
Following the success at MICC-Fort Belvoir and six months of field testing at the select contracting sites, Army Contracting Command officials approved expanding use of CTOC across the MICC as a tactical contract management system.
"The system has been very successful," said Cyp LaPorte, the chief of contract plans and programs here who is leading the plan to field the application across the MICC enterprise. "So much so that ACC headquarters has agreed to allow the MICC to field it across the command."
The CTOC software program helps to bridge the gap between the needs of the tactical operational mission at the local contracting office level versus the strategic needs of the higher headquarters, which are supported through Virtual Contracting Enterprise-Contract Management module.
Schneider explained that several objectives had to be accomplished over the first half of this year to reach the point of command-wide implementation.
The first of those was gaining access to the necessary software. CTOC is operated in the QuickBase business application platform. MICC officials reached out to the Army Materiel Command and gained support for QuickBase licenses in support of CTOC efforts.
Next, MICC officials refined procurement management requirements and expanded the application software to focus on the three functional management pillars of workforce, contract operations and oversight.
Schneider and the MICC integrated process team leading the CTOC effort also worked closely with the operators of the ACC VCE for four months conducting necessary analysis to ensure a smooth transition. At the end of May, the two teams arrived at a successful interface for all mandatory record fields.
"This virtual demonstration was a major milestone required to receive concurrence from the ACC commanding general on the fielding of CTOC to all MICC offices," Schneider said.
As the CTOC application is fielded throughout MICC contracting offices, the integrated process team will continue refine its capability to include establishing and implementing a configuration management process; constructing sustainment support consisting of a help desk, survey and functionality reviews; and validating reporting requirements and dashboard aides.
Deployment of CTOC capability is being accomplished over four phases. Officials are now coming to the end of the first phase and have been working with leaders across the command to collect requirements and organizational structure. By the end of this fiscal year, all MICC offices will be virtually loaded into CTOC while those where the software has already been field tested will be fully operational.
During a second phase beginning in October, the CTOC team will focus on conducting training workshops for the remaining MICC offices and putting in place sustainment measures.
This phase comes with a clear understanding that the timing of the CTOC deployment may be cause for concern.
"There is never a good time to field a new process in contracting, and it can't get any worse than right in the middle of fourth quarter, year-end operations," Schneider said. "However, the MICC CTOC team is confident that with the demonstrated capability, offices will embrace the change; and the information required on the front end from offices is minimal."
She encourages contracting leaders and supervisors to reach out to other MICC offices at which the CTOC is already in place to learn more about its value.
Also during the second phase of deployment, officials plan to mitigate funding constraints and the limited number of trainers with the establishment of a CTOC training university and development of a train-the-trainer concept. They will also optimize training opportunities through virtual sources such as the Defense Connect Online as well as a regional approach to on-site workshops, the MICC-Fort Belvoir commander said.
The third phase will center on all MICC offices achieving fully operational capability in November and December.
"The fourth and final phase is focused on sustainment efforts of CTOC application," Schneider said. "Primary emphasis for the CTOC team is to closely monitor the progress of the Army Contract Writing System and integration of capabilities within the application for day-to-day workload management."
The approval by ACC officials to expand use of CTOC offers acquisition members across the command a new tool to replace antiquated methods that offered little insight into the effective management of resources.
"In order to manage something you have to be able to monitor it; that is where CTOC provides an advantage over other existing management systems," LaPorte said. "Currently our office directors, division chiefs and branch chiefs at the tactical level are using various non-automated tools to manage their procurement workload. CTOC provides MICC operational leaders with the ability to review their current workload without having to learn or rely upon additional systems."
LaPorte added that organizational leaders can drill through multiple levels of data and various graphic interfaces to gain an understanding on office trends or status of procurements.
"All of these abilities allow leaders to gain a better understanding of the procurement workload within their office and the effects on their workforce and customer support through one automated system," he said. "CTOC enhances the leaders' ability to align resources to appropriate work areas based upon a given set of leader developed criteria."
Although built around the better management of the acquisition process, its workload and resources, officials believe efficiencies offered by the new application ultimately benefits MICC-supported customers.
"Better management at the tactical level will increase the office efficiency and effectiveness providing more timely support to the customer," LaPorte said.