By Anthony Sligar, Mission and Installation Contracting Command, Fort Drum, New YorkApril 15, 2019
FORT DRUM, New York (April 15, 2019) -- Contracting professionals at Fort Drum, New York, showed that Army acquisitions could be made simpler, quicker and cheaper. They accomplished this by harnessing today's e-commerce technology to more rapidly deliver supplies to Soldiers through the successful pilot of the Simplified Acquisition Threshold Supply Procurement Program, or S2P2.
For more than three years, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, has been leveraging big data from acquisition management systems to drive behaviors in meeting key metrics vital in the success of government contracting.
This data-driven approach identified that the number of contract actions for supplies performed by the MICC in fiscal 2015 and 2016 valued below the $150,000 simplified acquisition threshold outnumbered those above the threshold by a ratio of 4-to-1. Given this ratio, the Army Contracting Command leadership approved pilot testing of a program to reduce the procurement action lead time, or PALT, and hands-on touch labor involved with supply purchases at Fort Drum during the first quarter of fiscal 2017.
S2P2 functions through a reverse auction site that allows companies to quote on government solicitations. The auctioning process drives increased competition and lowers costs for the government. Supported mission partners are able, through the automated system, to request quotes, review quotes, identify the lowest priced quote that meets their needs, and then provide the procurement package to the Fort Drum contracting officer who makes the final award decision.
Online marketplaces were not a new concept when developing the pilot program. Multiple e-commerce and auction sites, such as eBay, already demonstrated efficiencies such as speed and transparency. It does not take long to post a solicitation to an auction site. What takes time is fleshing out with mission partners the specifications of their contract requirements.
The most significant challenges with implementation of S2P2 command-wide were program education and overcoming resistance to change. Designers took careful consideration in developing S2P2 to ensure it could be successful with minimal training.
The use of capabilities within an existing website provided by the ACC reverse auction contractor and the development of an interactive, step-by-step handbook eliminated any arduous training requirement. Successfully implementing S2P2 encompassed education meetings that detailed the program's primary intent of reducing hands-on touch time by all parties involved in the solicitation and reinforced the use of the handbook. Whenever a question was asked, it was answered by referring to the handbook. As necessary, each interactive session conducted resulted in feedback that led to revisions in the next version of the handbook.
The customer base embraced S2P2. MICC customers were interested in reducing the procurement action lead time and more than willing to do their part to support the S2P2 effort. With PALT being the primary driver, the MICC-Fort Drum S2P2 team has awarded more than 5,000 contract actions since the program start, maintaining an average lead time of less than one day.
Measures of Success
Eight objective measurements were assigned from the MICC commanding general during the pilot to examine the success of the program: average PALT, total number of protests, small business utilization, total dollar savings, average touch time, total number of awards, competition rate, and procurement management review findings.
Results of the pilot indicated that S2P2 reduced PALT time from an average of 28 days to one day with no protests, and 98 percent of all actions were set aside for small businesses. Additionally, the amount of hands-on labor spent executing a contract action by contracting personnel was reduced from 17 hours to one and a half. The S2P2 pilot accomplished 119 buys at a savings of $556,000, and 100 percent of all program buys were competed. Additionally, a procurement management review further validated the pilot program by revealing no significant findings.
Having met all objective requirements, the ACC commanding general approved implementation of S2P2 MICC-wide for all supply actions under the simplified acquisition threshold with the following exceptions: information technology subject to the Army's mandatory Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions program, purchases under the micro purchase threshold, and purchases to be made against existing indefinite delivery requirements type contracts. Based on the success of the pilot, officials from the MICC headquarters designated its contracting office at Fort Drum as the command's S2P2 lead.
Communication was the most important part of the success of the S2P2 program. The MICC commanding general asked that an S2P2 call center be established. Strategically, locating all S2P2 buys at Fort Drum allowed for the call center to be successful.
It was clear that most people would like the ability to help themselves, in which communication was accomplished primarily through self-help web devices. An S2P2 handbook and how-to video were created to ensure the MICC contracting workforce properly communicated with its customer base the preferred self-help approach. The handbook successfully communicated the entire S2P2 process to the customer that ensured a buy could be completed without any training. For those customers who are visual learners, the video met their need. Both the handbook and video reside on the command's SharePoint site for secure access by the MICC workforce and its customers.
However, the S2P2 team identified that a small percentage of people require interaction with humans or, more importantly, they need reassurance that they are doing the right thing. To ensure maximum customer satisfaction, a centralized call center for communicating with customers and offering that reassurance by answering their questions quickly and professionally was established. When developing the S2P2 call center, providing one or even multiple points of contact to every S2P2 customer was not feasible. One person would never be able to answer all the customer questions, and if that individual was on leave, questions would be left unanswered, which would erode customer satisfaction.
As a result of the Network Enterprise Center switching all phones on Fort Drum to voice over internet protocol, existing resources were leveraged with the addition of a customer service line to each phone of members on the S2P2 team. Every S2P2 team member's phone has a direct phone line and the customer service line available to provide assistance weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST.
S2P2 also proved to be useful beyond rapidly meeting the everyday acquisition needs of Soldiers throughout the Army. The S2P2 team tested its procurement process in humanitarian relief efforts outside of the United States. At the end of fiscal 2017, S2P2 proved vital in procuring commodities in support of recovery operations in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The S2P2 team awarded necessary contract actions as late as the evening hours on the final day of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, directly supporting Soldiers on the ground. Through the program, an emergency buy for the directorate of public works at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, was solicited and procured within three hours of notification. Although the buy was simple, the commodities procured were vital to the installation's infrastructure.
S2P2 directly supports Army acquisition reform efforts to promptly provide capabilities to Soldiers while being fiscally responsible with taxpayer resources.
Establishing the S2P2 program addressed the problem identified and mission assigned by the MICC commanding general: to reduce PALT and hands-on touch time on supply procurements under the simplified acquisition threshold. S2P2 reduced PALT significantly, by 27 days, to ensure that the warfighter and those supporting the warfighter had the critical supplies needed to train and fight. In addition, S2P2 buys completed to date represent more than 80,000 man-hours saved, which allowed the MICC to shift its resources toward additional priorities and further optimize support to the warfighter. S2P2 operationalized contracting by integrating capabilities to produce outputs meeting commander requirements and Army priorities.
Editor's Note: Anthony Sligar is the deputy commander for the Mission and Installation Contracting Command office at Fort Drum, New York. He served as the lead for developing and implementing the Simplified Acquisition Threshold Supply Procurement Program for the command.
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. 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.