By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeAugust 31, 2018
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 31, 2018) -- Twenty of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command's 30 contracting offices began participating this month in the Supplier Self-Services invoicing pilot to assist the Army in achieving its goal of 500 vendors actively using the process by the end of fiscal 2018.
In October 2012, the Army initiated a pilot program to reduce the number of vendor invoices requiring manual posting. The Army estimated that approximately 30 percent of vendors' invoices failed to post correctly because invoice information submitted through the web-based Wide Area Workflow did not match purchase orders created in the General Fund Enterprise Business System.
These failures require additional touch labor at an additional cost to both vendor and DOD personnel, according to Scott Kukes, the special advocate for competition at the MICC at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
The Supplier Self-Services, or SUS, pilot process aims to reduce the number of failures within the invoice submission process by pre-populating and pre-validating invoice information against a GFEBS purchase order for the vendor.
"To reach the Army goal, participating contracting offices must actively engage to identify all contract requirements that meet the criteria for participating in the pilot, advocate to vendors the positive aspects of the pilot, and encourage contracting officer representatives to complete the necessary GFEBS training modules," Kukes said. "All three pieces of this triad -- the contracting officer, COR and vendor -- play an important role in this pilot."
Upon the start of the initial Army pilot, the MICC-Fort Jackson contracting office in South Carolina was identified to participate beginning in fiscal 2013. Championing that effort for the office was Cynthia Hall, the chief of the contract management division.
Hall explained that after obtaining two regulatory approvals, the SUS pilot was formalized as an official exception to invoice submission through the Wide Area Workflow application allowing DOD vendors to submit and track their invoices, receipts and acceptance documents electronically. Nine vendors elected to participate in the pilot. She cites one example early in the pilot in which a contract to deliver and treat water had multiple contract line item numbers, or CLINs, that required many modifications due to budget constraints and changes in needs by the supported customer.
"In previous years, the vendor was unable to maintain a conformed contract to track the open amount or correct price per CLIN," she said. "SUS provided the conformed contract, correct pricing and open amounts as well as prevented submission of incorrect invoices resulting in faster payments to the vendor with less manual intervention."
Hall added that the pilot program proved successful with similar issues related to contracts for training where the customers' needs change often. This pilot program allowed for the correction of and quicker payments ranging from two to seven days.
Finding the right vendors to bypass the traditional complex invoicing system for the new pilot did not require much convincing by the office. Working with Installation Management Command at Fort Jackson, Hall said they identified candidates whose contracts, such as refuse and custodial, relied upon timely payment to avoid a break in service and mission failure.
"Most vendors were anxious to participate to see if SUS could improve the invoice process for them to be paid faster," Hall said.
After explaining the pilot benefits and conducting training for participating vendors, the MICC-Fort Jackson office next turned its attention to ensure contracting officer representatives, or CORs, were trained. CORs who already had access to GFEBS only had to complete one hour of training. Those who did not have access needed the mandated 30 hours of GFEBS training.
Once training was complete, Hall said the contracting office focused its attention on ironing out a few challenges along the way, to include coordinating communications with resource management offices and Defense Finance and Accounting Service review procedures.
"With improved communication throughout the business process, resource managers, CORs, vendors, MICC and DFAS have all seen the benefit of SUS and respond quickly when a change is needed," she said. "For example, the enhancement to require period-of-performance dates was delayed due to delays in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement deviation, so if a vendor failed to populate and the acceptor did not catch it, DFAS would reject and the vendor would have to re-submit for re-acceptance."
Results from the initial pilot test led the acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for financial information management and deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement to expand the pilot in fiscal 2016 .They identified additional Army contracting offices to participate in the pilot in hopes that the increased number of vendors and contracts in the pilot would better validate its effectiveness. Following that expansion, Hall said her office received several calls regarding the pilot program from additional customers supported by the MICC who stated their desire to participate. This led to the addition of vendors who provide contract support to the Army Training and Doctrine Command and Medical Command.
However, in February 2017 the pilot was suspended following expiration of the DFARS waiver allowing its use. Hall said this proved problematic as many vendors wanted to continue in the pilot and could not, or they sought to participate in the pilot and could not. In January 2018 a new DFARS waiver allowed its use once again after which the Army established a participant goal of 500 vendors. Additional MICC contracting offices began engaging potential vendors to participate earlier this month.
With the expansion of participation by MICC contracting offices, Army Contracting Command officials sought and obtained this month a modification to mandatory training requirements for CORs from the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for financial information management. Kukes said this reduces COR training from more than 20 hours to two and a half hours in order to be assigned the necessary GFEBS roles to approve invoices submitted by vendors through SUS.
Progress of the pilot program will continue to be monitored by the MICC Contracting Operations Directorate at Fort Sam Houston and reported to Army Contracting Command leaders at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
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.