By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeAugust 22, 2018
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 22, 2018) -- Almost 30 civilian contracting personnel from throughout the organization are benefiting from increased career advancement opportunities almost a year after implementation of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command Readiness Initiative.
Shortly after taking command a year ago this month, the MICC commanding general realigned a handful of subordinate offices and began analysis for what became the implementation of the MICC Readiness Initiative, or MRI, to better support customers. The implementation entailed rescinding an organizational effort that previously converted more than 200 positions in the 1102 contracting career series to 1105 purchasing agents.
The resulting loss of experienced acquisition personnel in the 1102 series prompted a reversal in personnel policy, and MRI restored many of those 1102 positions across the command in order to grant increased acquisition authority to subordinate units. That decision opened the door for civilian employees and military veterans in purchasing agent positions to compete for and in some cases directly convert to 1102 positions to better meet the command's complex workload capacity.
Among the 19 workforce employees who have already converted from 1105 to 1102 are three from MICC-Fort Gordon, Georgia, including Sherrilyn Rice, Martina Bond and Marc Thompson.
As a military spouse possessing a master's degree, Rice relocated with her husband to Fort Gordon in 2015 and accepted a position as a purchasing agent as one of the only few openings available in contracting at the time. She said the opportunity to convert to a contract specialist position at the end of last year expanded her career growth opportunities in the contracting field.
"As a purchasing agent I was very limited to what I was able to do beyond my capability," Rice said. "I converted to a contract specialist, and my responsibilities changes drastically. I am working on bigger competitive acquisitions by performing extensive market research to determine the best way to procure and promote competition that will ensure the government receives the best value."
Her increased responsibilities now include issuing sources sought to formulate acquisition planning and strategy for complex requirements, preparing solicitations to ensure requirements are clearly understood and include measurable evaluation factors and appropriate clauses and provisions. She added that those complex actions require her steadfast vigilance to ensure all acquisitions are procured in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, Army Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement and MICC desk book.
"This fiscal year I have already coordinated and conducted five source selection evaluations boards, (and) prepared and conducted post-award debriefings and contract negotiations," Rice said.
Byron Anderson, who converted in April to a contract specialist at Fort Benning, Georgia, also welcomes the increased complexity of the new role. "I was very excited to be able to learn new things in contracting and take on more responsibility."
As a purchasing agent, availability of training and certification opportunities were limited for Rice. She took it upon herself to further her contracting knowledge by enrolling with the University of Virginia and taking courses equivalent to what is available through the Defense Acquisition University to receive her Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Level I certification in contracting. She plans to schedule her DAWIA Level II training in October following this fiscal year closeout.
Johnny Lyons, a contract specialist at MICC-Fort Benning, said he converted from a purchase agent to contract specialist in February at the encouragement of his supervisor, Elvira Lenoir, and contracting officer, Shawndra Rhoades. Having completed the requisite DAU courses to become a contract specialist, his fiscal 2019 goals include multiple training courses to earn his DAWIA Level I certification leaving only a residency course to earn Level II by December 2019. He added that the opportunity to advance in the 1102 career series is also a critical retention tool for the MICC.
"The conversion from an 1105 to an 1102 played a significant role in staying with the MICC," Lyons said. "Not only because of the career progression and advancement opportunities, but also because I have been doing 1102 work since I arrived, so it was my hope to be rewarded or recognized for my efforts by being provided the opportunity to covert."
Rice agreed that the advancement opportunity played a big factor in remaining at the MICC.
"As a military spouse I have an opportunity to continue my career and be with my family when my husband (relocates) by seeing if another position is available at another MICC. Also advancing as a contract specialist allows career growth and continuous learning," Rice said.
For others throughout the command also seeing such advancement opportunities, Lyons recommends a simple, straightforward approach. "Make sure that you meet the qualification for this position, and put in the work."
He has witnessed the frustration by fellow employees not selected for conversion due to a lack of a bachelor's degree or the required 24 semester hours in a business discipline. He also recommends digging into the FAR and reviewing old contracts, procedures, etc., to become more familiar with what the job entails.
"The work isn't that different, but the processes for higher dollar supply and service contracts along with the methods used to procure the item or service are different, which requires more research," Lyons said. "I have found in this job you have to continue to push yourself to learn and apply the information that you find through research. You can go as far as you want to go in the field, if you are hungry and eager to learn. You will never be a master at one thing in this job, because it is always changing and evolving with new methods and ideas, but I strive to learn as much as I can and to apply and share the knowledge that I possess to ensure that I support the Soldiers to the best of my ability."
In the course of 1 year and 10 months, MICC-Fort Benning contract specialist John Smith converted from career series 1106 to 1105 and then to 1102. He agreed that the conversion to contract specialist was a great opportunity as he was already accomplishing similar tasks for the past year. He is in the process of obtaining his DAWIA Level II certification in contracting.
"DAU is becoming much more user friendly. Take as many classes as possible, because once you start and you see the work, you have a better understanding on how the process works," Smith recommended.
Also earning the opportunity to advance in the 1102 career series are nine military veterans already assigned to various MICC contracting offices who have been selected for conversion to contracting specialist interns through the Army Civilian Training, Education, and Development System. ACTEDS manages planned development of the Army's civilian workforce through a combination work assignments, formal training and self-development allowing for increased upward career mobility.
Letty Walsh from the MICC Human Capital Management Directorate at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston said four interns have already accepted positions while the remaining job offers are still being staffed through the Army Civilian Personnel Advisory Center. Selected by the Department of Army Career Program 14 manager, ACTEDs interns are represented at MICC offices at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Fort Drum, New York.
CP-14 is made up of Army civilians responsible for the management and execution of the Army's procurement and contracting mission. CP-14 workforce members provide contract management and contract execution in the areas of contract structure, cost-price analysis, small business, competition, government property, contract closeout and regulatory compliance.
About the MICC:
Headquartered at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,500 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of Soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. The command is made up of two contracting support brigades, two field directorates, 30 contracting offices and nine battalions. MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 Soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.