By Christopher Walters, ACC-APGJune 4, 2019
The Army recently evaluated its joint capabilities at Warfighter Exercise (WFX) 19-04, held March 31 --Apr 15 in Fort Riley, Kansas. Thanks to the swift contracting efforts of Army Contracting Command -- Aberdeen Proving Ground (ACC-APG), the Program Manager Distributed Common Ground System-Army (PM DCGS-A) team was be able to collect command and control data critical to refining the Army's multi-domain operations strategy.
On Feb. 7, Product Lead Common Hardware System (PdL CHS) submitted an urgent requirement on behalf of PM DCGS-A for an assortment of hard drives. Within 24 hours, the ACC-APG team awarded a delivery order and facilitated the overnight delivery of three hard drives to support the two week exercise.
Kenyata Wesley, Sr., executive director, ACC-APG praised his team's responsiveness.
"I always say, the best ability is availability," Wesley said. "The contract specialist team, they were available. They were willing to work overtime."
Typically, these actions take much longer, but ACC-APG continues to refine its business practices to be more responsive, innovative, and strategic in its purchases. Contract specialists teamed with PdL CHS, APG Office of Small Business Office, and General Dynamics to award a tech insertion off of the CHS 5th Generation (CHS-5) contract, incorporating the hard drives into the existing NetApps Fabric Attached Storage (FAS) 2200 storage platforms.
"We wrote a tech insertion process where we basically built out a pricing structure so that when we have a need, a lot of the hard work is already done. That allows us to rapidly place items on contracts in order to expedite acquisitions," explained Emily Feeheley, Contracting Operations branch chief.
Technology Insertions (TI) are intended to maximize return on investment by predicting the costs and utilization of an operating system overtime. The model proposes the integration of new and/or improved technology into the existing operating system as an alternative to a complete system overhaul to drive down costs. When implemented correctly, tech insertions can provide increased sustainability, reliability, and affordability of operating systems.
Valued at $3.9 billion, CHS is a 5 year Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to provide commercial ruggedized tactical hardware to Department of Defense and its partners. The vehicle has proven increasingly effective at providing rapid solutions to some of the department's most urgent challenges. In FY18, ACC-APG completed 386 CHS actions for $355 million in obligations, saving significant time and money in the process.
"When I think about CHS-5 and its intent, it's not strictly an Army vehicle. It's a strategic sourcing vehicle. Strategic sourcing vehicles are intended to maximize the efficiency of costs as well as delivery. What the CHS-5 contract has done with the TI process, it allows us to make technical changes faster without having to go through all of the individual steps of a new contract," Wesley said.
CHS-4 was a game changer but CHS-5 is designed to be more encompassing. "The difference between CHS-4 and CHS-5, [is that] CHS-5 expanded the options on what you could buy, what warranties you could get, which is a huge sustainment consideration. We got phenomenal rates on our warranties that are built into the fixed price," Feeheley explained.
"We were able to take the lessons learned from the previous contracts and make a tool that literally changes the game. And so the way it works through a modification process, we can negotiate new tech insertions rather rapidly because we have been doing it for multiple years and so we have fine-tuned that process," Wesley added.
Army senior acquisition leaders have taken notice of the vehicle's resourcefulness and may soon mandate CHS as the contracting vehicle for all commercial tactical hardware, according to Feeheley.
"Coming up in the not too distant future, we're supposed to see a mandate. Basically, if you're buying commercial hardware first for business systems, you're forced to go the CHESS. If you're buying tactical commercial hardware, you're going to be forced to go to use CHS-5."
CHS-5 was the star of the game, but teamwork and communication among those involved were key components of the game plan. "The reason this was able to work was because you had cooperation in three phases: contracting, mission partner, and contractor," Wesley explained.
"And with that relationship in place, we just chipped away at that lead to where we were able to come across and hit the buzzer beater at the end to win," he said. "Not just win for our mission partner, but actually accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish, which is a flexible agile vehicle."