JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- (Feb. 24, 2016) The development of a tool by a Mission and Installation Contracting Command headquarters team is quickly changing the way contracting professionals handle simplified acquisitions valued at less than $150,000.Lucy Lopez, Raul Guerra and Wiley Cox from the MICC Directorate of Contracting Operations field support team created the Simplified Acquisition Price Analysis and Award Memorandum, which is a PDF-based tool for acquisitions valued at or less than the simplified acquisition threshold.The team packaged a combination of existing documents into one interactive form that integrates regulatory requirements that must occur after a receipt of proposal for the award of purchase orders, task orders or delivery orders. This solution provides verification that pre-solicitation requirements such as market research, consideration of mandatory sources and public notice of synopsis are complete. It also provides the identification of the method of competition and basis for award, and makes a determination of price reasonableness and contractor responsibility.The team developed this as a solution to the findings by the CONOPS oversight and assessment team during its contract management reviews in the field as they revealed that 70 to 80 percent of all MICC actions at or below the $150,000 threshold.This tool features error-checking, real-time reviews of all inputs, automatic generation of more than 40 advisory flags for contracting officers to consider prior to signature, and user guidance for further insight on conducting price analysis."This is what effective contracting is about -- efficiency, standardization and the reduction of touch labor for our workforce," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Gabbert, the MICC commanding general. "With as many simplified actions that we perform each year, this solution will have an impact on the way we execute our actions at this threshold. Under the MICC 2025 plan, this tool will have a great impact on our smaller offices. This will be the tool they use to perform their mission."The central aspect is the pricing analysis function. Guerra developed this function with standardization as its centerpiece."We wanted to key in on price analysis," said Guerra, a price cost analyst. "During the oversight and assessment team's contract management reviews, the team found documentation for pricing analysis for simplified acquisitions was inadequate, and there were a significant number of findings in this area."The field support team pulled records of simplified actions from past years to find patterns for any particular types of buys they could develop into training. It found a lack of standardization as the issue, so instead of creating more training, a solution was to develop a form for people in the field to consistently and accurately document the price analysis for these types of actions.Since its introduction last month, the team has received praise from the field about features that have led to reduced touch labor and increased workforce efficiency.The team inserted advisory flags to ensure contract specialists performed required documentation steps. For example, a function was created to validate contractor registration, suspension and debarments, representations and certifications upon receipt of proposals during completion of the acquisition and again prior to award of the contract. An additional prompt advises contracting officers of the actions completed so that they may sign contracts with the assurance that contract specialists have completed the necessary steps."Through the course of seeking user feedback, we were able to derive secondary benefits of the new pricing tool," said Lopez, a procurement analyst.Most notably, Lopez said field-testing at MICC-Fort Drum in New York revealed the contracting office is now 100 percent compliant in checking the System for Award Management. The system combines federal procurement systems and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance into one new system. Acquisition personnel are required to review this site prior to awarding any contract.Lopez's role is ensuring the content used is compliant with governing regulations and policies and able to withstand any audit or review.Incorporating the findings and inputs from Guerra and Lopez, Cox spent the next several months creating and testing the form."The great thing about this is it reduces time spent on reviewing simplified actions and frees contracting officers to perform more complex acquisition actions," said Cox, a procurement analyst. "By employing drop-down menu choices, data cells that reconfigure based on user selections, and automatic sum tallying, this tool makes documenting price analysis much easier. And on a side note, this tool aids in the training of new acquisition personnel."In May and June 2015, the team introduced a prototype of the tool to acquisition professionals from several MICC installations attending a cost and pricing workshop here. The team used their feedback and assistance in refining the development of this tool. The field support team continued developing and implementing additional functions that streamlined day-to-day tasks."One of the key things I encourage users to do is to continue finding areas that can be improved," Cox said. "I have already implemented two rounds of improvements. Ultimately, the users' feedback fine-tunes the form."Cox is even receiving feedback from Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Wyeth Anderson, the 925th Contracting Battalion commander, learned about the tool and contacted Cox about using it in the deployed environment. Anderson is using the tool to provide contracting support while his unit is deployed in support of Operation Resolute Support, the NATO mission in Afghanistan."Colonel Anderson contacted me after discovering the form on the MICC SharePoint page," Cox said. "He requested to use the form in theater as it saved time. He also requested an 'unlocked' version of the form so that he could tailor it further for use in expeditionary contracting."Through these user inputs, Guerra said the tool is helping reduce touch labor by decreasing the amount of time spent providing citations from the Federal Acquisition Regulations.For contracting officers, the embedded FAR references and self-training nature of the tool's real-time guidance also helps reduce time previously spent providing just-in-time training to new acquisition personnel, which has increased functionality. Newly hired purchasing agents and other contracting professionals are using the tool to improve their consistency across the command. Supervisors in the field have stated their junior employees are very excited to have this tool. In fact, according to the team, this same group reports they are using the tool as a method of training for what constitutes prices to be fair and reasonable.Headquartered on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, the MICC is an organization of more than 1,500 military and civilian members responsible for contracting for Soldiers. In fiscal 2015, the command executed more than 36,000 contract actions valued at more than $5.2 billion across the Army, including $2.25 billion to American small businesses. The command also managed more than 600,000 Government Purchase Card Program transactions in fiscal 2015 valued at an additional $747 million.