By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeFebruary 13, 2015
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- (Feb. 13, 2015) Mission and Installation Contracting Command officials are implementing a new warrant testing program for contracting officers possessing or seeking the warrant authority to award and administer contracts valued at more than $6.5 million.
George Cabaniss, the deputy to the MICC commanding general, directed the testing program, which became effective Jan. 2. As the headquarters' principal assistant responsible for contracting, or PARC, Cabaniss is responsible for the oversight and execution of contracting functions for MICC offices at 31 locations throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico.
"This program sustains the MICC's continued endeavors to provide leadership within the Army Contracting Command by being the first to establish a contracting officer warrant testing program," Cabaniss said. "The MICC test is modeled after the Air Force warrant test and is both fair and relevant. It affirms that contracting officers possess the requisite knowledge for performing their complex responsibilities."
In a December 2014 memorandum, Cabaniss said the new testing requirement ensures MICC warranted contracting personnel seeking such authority are aware of established contracting regulations, laws and procedures to safeguard taxpayer dollars and others involved in the contracting process.
The decision to move ahead with implementation of a formal warrant testing program came in advance of guidance by the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement that was outlined in the Army Contracting Officer Warranting Program Guide revision in January. That guide reserved standardized testing, leaving the decision to the Army and its contracting commands.
Approximately 400 individuals in the MICC hold active warrants, of which about 280 are valued at more than $6.5 million, according to Kim Drake, the chief of the acquisition policy division for the MICC at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. She added that the number and value of future warrants in the command are dependent upon the workload and value of acquisitions within each office.
"For candidates seeking a warrant over $6.5 million for the first time, a passing test score is required before submitting the warrant package for consideration," Drake said. "Although passing the test does not guarantee a warrant, it will be part of the package for the MICC headquarters PARC to consider as part of the contracting officer review board."
The $6.5 million warrant threshold for testing mirrors thresholds included in the Army Contracting Officer Warranting Program Guide. PARCs at the MICC brigade and field directorate level have the authority to grant warrants to award and administer contracts valued up to $6.5 million. The MICC headquarters PARC is responsible for granting warrants above that value.
The test consists of 50 randomly generated questions from a databank of more than 730 questions. Questions will be formatted as multiple choice, fill in the blank and true-false. Individuals will have up to four hours to complete the test while having access to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement and Army Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement as reference tools. A minimum score of 85 percent is required to pass the test, which is proctored and administered during duty hours.
As a survey of test's effectiveness, three acquisition professionals from the command completed the manual version of the test in January and each passed.
"The test, while likely to prove a challenge of timely research skills, should not surprise seasoned acquisition professionals," said Wolf Jouett, the chief of the MICC-Fort Hood Business Systems Division and one of the first to take the test. "Yet for newcomers to the field, it will function well as a measurement of whether their knowledge of and ability to properly cite relevant acquisition regulations is sufficient to serve as warranted contracting officers."
Angela Jacobs, the acting director for MICC-Fort Campbell, Kentucky, said "the test was not difficult at all. It adequately assessed basic acquisition knowledge. It is a great avenue to ensure contracting officers have understanding and knowledge of basic acquisition rules and regulations."
Angela D. Hodges, a contracting officer at MICC-Fort Hood who received her warrant in January, agreed that the test adequately measures the knowledge of the FAR. MICC officials are using feedback to improve the testing and aim to implement an online version of the test in March.
Drake said the warrant testing program gives our customers greater assurance that contracting personnel who are awarding their contracts are best qualified to hold the warrants and work their contracting actions.
Cabaniss agreed that in addition to reinforcing the skills and knowledge of warranted contracting officers, the program serves as a litmus test for those entrusted to execute multimillion dollar contracts on behalf of the government and leaders across the Army.
"Everyone working with a MICC contracting officer will have even more confidence in their comprehensive acquisition skills and abilities because they will have proven themselves by taking a test that demonstrates their contracting knowledge," Cabaniss said.