ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Pride in one's job and ensuring the readiness of the nation's warfighters are hallmarks of the Army Contracting Command-Rock Island workforce. One ACC-RI employee has taken the lessons from her 16 years in contracting to make a difference in the acquisition community that she is passionate about.
Jessica Dobbeleare, currently serving as branch chief, Logistics Civil Augmentation Program V but who was formerly a branch chief in the center's Information Technology Directorate, recently spent six months detailed to the Advisory Panel on Streamlining and Codifying Acquisition Regulations, more commonly known as the Section 809 Panel.
The Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act established this panel to examine ways to streamline Department of Defense acquisitions. The panel delivered its research and recommendations to Congress in an Interim Report and three volumes of a Final Report, the last volume being submitted in January. The panel's final publication, dubbed the Roadmap, was released in February and provides a summary of all the recommendations.
The panel was comprised of 18 commissioners who are highly regarded as experts in the field, as well as over 25 professional staff members with a broad range of acquisition expertise. Included on the panel was Col. Harry Culclasure, the panel's IT team lead, who worked with Dobbeleare while he was the Project Manager for Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program under the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems.
Prior to her detail, panel members occasionally sought out Dobbeleare's IT contracting knowledge, asking her questions and having her review documents.
"As an example, one of the teams had developed a questionnaire on simplified acquisitions and they needed someone to look at it and give them advice on what other questions they should ask so that when they went to the field, they would have a good set of one-size-fits-all questions," said Dobbeleare.
While assisting the panel informally on an ad-hoc basis, Dobbeleare suggested it could benefit from working directly with more professionals who perform acquisition and contracting on a daily basis. Shortly after that, Culclasure contacted ACC-RI leadership asking for Dobbeleare's detail.
"Part of the reason I got detailed was that I brought additional current contracting experience to the panel and was able to help develop recommendations that would improve the processes we use every day," said Dobbeleare. "I think it was an area that, if they had submitted their reports and not looked at from the working level, it probably would have been a missed opportunity."
Jay Carr, executive director, ACC-RI, said Dobbeleare's participation on the panel was a great opportunity for her personal growth, as well as a significant recognition of the specialized skills the ACC-RI and ACC workforces contribute to the DoD.
"Jessica served on this detail with distinction, providing value to the entire acquisition community, said Carr. "To have someone from ACC on the panel demonstrates the impact our workforce has on decisions that are made on long-term, meaningful improvements to the acquisition process."
In June 2018 she began working -- primarily in a remote status from Rock Island Arsenal - on a team of three 1102s to identify redundant, outdated, or time-consuming components of the contracting process. Dobbeleare was lead author on the final recommendations to eliminate or streamline more than 10 requirements that routinely frustrate contracting officers. One that she really hopes will be implemented is elimination of redundant documentation and lowering approvals to local levels, found in recommendations 74 and 75.
Across the panel's 10 teams, research took several avenues, from looking at the overarching flow of statutes down to the regulations, as well as pinpointing specific areas like the training and engagement of the acquisition workforce from entry-level through the most senior levels. Other areas of investigation included the possibility of delegating more authority to working levels, identifying factors that deter small businesses from working with the DoD, and addressing end-of-year spending spikes.
"The 10 teams looked at all parts of acquisition, but my role was looking at the process from a contracting perspective and evaluated how we get these things on contract," said Dobbeleare. "What would make it easier? What would make it harder? I think that's part of the reason they reached out to the 1102 community, so they could pull the thread from the law, down through the ideas and then down further to where we actually write the contract."
Dobbeleare said the experience taught her many things. Personally, it helped her address her inclination toward introversion as well as enhance her written communication skills.
"When the report goes to Congress, you're one blip on their radar," said Dobbeleare. "Aside from this panel, there are other panels going on that are looking at initiatives across the DoD. Being able to perform problem identification and figure out how to communicate what's not working well, what the root problem is and then how to go about fixing it--that's key to getting solid recommendations to Congress."
Dobbeleare also gained a greater appreciation for the connection between--and all of the work involved in coordinating--acquisition policies and regulations and the statues governing them.
"I think from where we sit, we get these blanket emails about new polices or regulations and don't always understand the background or politics behind them," said Dobbeleare. "Now I know firsthand it's not just bureaucrats out in Washington making up these rules. When they talk about acquisition reform, there are folks that are really serious about trying to make our jobs easier and allow us to be more effective and efficient in what we're doing."
Some of the panel's recommendations have already been implemented by Congress in the FY2018 and FY2019 NDAAs, including changes to simplify commercial buying practices. The bulk of the recommendations will be addressed in the next year, with far-reaching impacts to the ACC contracting workforce, DoD, and partner agencies such as the Small Business Administration and Department of Labor. These changes have the potential to dramatically reduce the acquisition time and improve the quality of everything in DoD's portfolio, including readily available items, innovative technologies, and complex weapon systems.
"From the start, the panel knew the quality of our recommendations would depend on the quality of the people who contributed their time and expertise to develop data-driven recommendations," said David Drabkin, Chair of the Section 809 Panel. "Jessica was instrumental in developing recommendations that met our goals of enabling the workforce and simplifying acquisition. Together, the panel's recommendations will improve defense acquisition by putting mission first and providing warfighters what they need when they need it."
Interested in learning more about the Section 809 Panel's recommendations? David A. Drabkin, 809 Panel Chair, and Charlie E. Williams, 809 Panel Commissioner, are scheduled to provide an overview on May 22 at 1 p.m. during the 2019 Midwest Government Contracting Symposium at the TaxSlayer Center, Moline.