Maintaining and achieving strategic readiness among our tactical and operational formations is principally achieved through the effective management of contracts in the Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB). The logisticians seeking to achieve effects through the maneuver of contracted solutions in the AFSBs, who consider themselves ignorant or inept in the practice of contract management, may find themselves creating strategic-level risk with global implications.Attributes of the most effective contract managers include mastery in tactical- and operational-level logistics; the desire to become experts in contracting; the analytical capacity to hold contractors accountable with quantifiable metrics; vigilance in quality assurance inspections; and a confident demeanor while engaged with corporate leaders. AFSB leaders recognize they are operating in a forprofit, business-oriented, corporate atmosphere; and they also understand the corporate leadership will be the first to notice ineptitude on the part of the government.OverviewFor those unfamiliar with AFSBs, Army Doctrine Publication 40, Sustainment, states: An AFSB provides materiel readiness focused support to include coordination of acquisition logistics and technology actions to Army operational forces, serving as Army Sustainment Command’s (ASC) link to the generating force.Contracted support is integral to the ability of the AFSB to accomplish this mission and impacts the lives of thousands of service members and their Families on a daily basis; often without the customer’s awareness that these employees are members of AFSBs. A very short list of the contracted services provided might include passback field level maintenance support to tactical formations, dining facilities, household goods shipments, dress uniform tailoring and seamstress services at Basic Combat Training centers, emergency vehicle maintenance services, and contracted school bus drivers.The 406th AFSB provides direct support to XVIII Airborne Corps with four battalions aligned to 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, and 3rd Infantry Division. Additionally, 406th also provides direct support to 14 garrisons through 14 Logistical Readiness Centers across the Eastern United States. This is accomplished through the oversight of 85 service contracts worth approximately $442 million.Two recent missions that highlight the importance of these contractors in building strategic readiness is the recent deployment of 82nd Airborne Division’s Initial Response Force (IRF) and the divestiture of U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s (USASOC) High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles for their fielding of the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. The personnel responsible for managing these contracts reside in the Support Operations (SPO) Operational Contracting Support (OCS) cell. This team plays a critical role in resolving issues, assisting subordinate organizations, and ensuring the commander has the necessary information to make informed decisions.BasicsA tactical logistician’s competency is judged by their ability to verbally communicate request/distribution processes, author and brief concepts of support, and achieve unity of effort across key organizations within a decentralized command-and-control environment. These same logisticians in the AFSB are also judged with respect to their contract management skills in a corporate business atmosphere at the strategic level where the language, tools, and stakeholders are drastically different.Speak the LanguageThe first step in acquiring the necessary contracting knowledge to be successful in this new environment is to read the Performance of Work Statement (PWS), which is the foundation of the contract. It can be expected that the contractor has certainly read it and will quickly be able to identify those who have not. If you’re a battalion commander with 50 service contracts, read all 50 PWSs. The following paragraph, describing the elementary basics of the contracting process, can be utilized as a guide to determine current baseline knowledge of the subject. Multiple resources are available through Army Contracting Command (ACC) and Mission Installation Contracting Command (MICC) if a majority of the terms are foreign and new.A unit or organization that identifies a shortfall requiring a contracted solution is referred to as the Requiring Activity (RA). The RA must clearly define the requirements which ultimately evolve into the PWS. Next, an independent government estimate (IGE) is created to determine potential costs used to compare against future bids. The PWS and IGE go through an approval process and, once approved, are sent to a contracting office for solicitation and contract award by the contracting officer (KO). The RA nominates a member of their organization to serve as the contracting officer’s representative (COR), as a liaison between the KO and the contractor (KTR).The COR plays a critical role as their primary duties include monitoring KTR performance, providing quality assurance, and certifying receipt of services. Quality is monitored by quality assurance evaluators (QAEs) in accordance with the quality assurance surveillance plan (QASP) developed from the specific tasks outlined in the performance requirement summary (PRS). The KTR provides a project manager (PM), outlined in the PWS as a counterpart to the COR, and both work closely to ensure mission success.Understand the StakeholdersThroughout the contracting process, a high degree of coordination and collaboration is necessary with ACC and MICC to achieve successful contract implementation and management. At its core, this relationship is based on the ACC or MICC providing the contract vehicles while the AFSB defines requirements and executes contract management upon award. Successful contract management depends on functional working relationships between the AFSB (as the RA), the KO, and the PM. Each stakeholder plays a vital role to ensure the customer receives the contracted deliverables, the KTR is provided the necessary resources to execute the contract, and the KTR is being held accountable within the scope of the PWS.AccountabilityOne of the most critical roles the AFSB plays is that of the RA holding the KTR accountable to the PWS and assuring the necessary quality control measures are in place. The RA provides the COR, who ensures QAEs are performing inspections to a standard outlined in the PRS and graded within the standards captured in the QASP. If inspections are not conducted to standard, there is no legal basis for holding the KTR accountable, thus any disciplinary action on the part of the RA will likely not withstand the scrutiny of litigation. It is the QAE’s responsibility to identify PRS tasks from the PWS, understand the established acceptable quality limits (AQLs), determine lot and sample sizes, conduct appropriate types of inspections, and document deficiencies.Contracting Battle Rhythm EventsThere are multiple venues in which contracts are reviewed or discussed to ensure KTRs are adequately performing and contract cost is being effectively managed. Performance management reviews (PMRs) are conducted quarterly or semiannually within AFSBs and are always chaired by a commander. Attendees include the KO, COR, QAEs, PM, and corporate leadership. The purpose of these events is to provide the commander the opportunity to provide contract performance feedback directly to all of the key stakeholders. This is also an opportunity for the KTR to express concerns or issues that are negatively impacting their ability to execute the contracted services. Contract management reviews (CMRs) are also conducted quarterly by ASC; providing comprehensive performance and cost analysis across all the AFSBs service contracts. This provides commanders the information needed to take measured risks in incremental funding environments. tice hiring suspense, downsizing workforces, forward deployed, etc.). It is the responsibility of the commander to take corrective action when appropriate and necessary, as there is an art to finding and providing the right balance.When a KTR’s performance falls below the established AQL, the commander’s options include:Noncompliance reporting (NCR)Invoice deductionsNegative or interim reporting on annual Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) assessmentsRe-competing the contract before it expires to bring in a new KTRIt is critical that deficiencies are documented in NCRs when meeting with the KTR to discuss their performance so the KO can issue a corrective action request (CAR) to be annotated in the KTR’s CPARS assessment. These assessments are archived by the government and can impact the ability of KTRs to compete for contracts in the future. All of these tools may be achieved through the AFSB’s effective establishment of unity of effort across the stakeholders as previously discussed. AFSBs managing significant numbers of service contracts often employ all of these tools, simultaneously, across multiple contracts. Organizations that are not vigilant in the use of these tools will not be able to effectively manage their contracts and ensure the government receives the services for which they pay. This puts the AFSB at risk of being vulnerable to efficiencies taken by the KTR in an effort to increase profit margins.Stewards of the Defense Industrial BaseWhile it is important to understand the business relationship we have with our contracted partners, it is equally important to remember they are important members of the strategic enterprise intended to deliver readiness to our fighting formations. Commanders at the battalion and brigade level in the AFSB must consider the impact of any invoice deductions or actions resulting in potential employee layoffs as it relates to the profit margin for the KTR and the health of the local economy. Employees that are laid off today might be needed tomorrow. Corporations and small businesses that cannot earn a profit do not tend to survive in the marketplace. It is important to take into consideration some of the difficult positions in which KTRs find themselves (short-notice hiring suspense, downsizing workforces, forward deployed, etc.). It is the responsibility of the commander to take corrective action when appropriate and necessary, as there is an art to finding and providing the right balance.Commanders have a role in maintaining the health of our Defense Industrial Base (DIB). They have a responsibility to support those corporations and small businesses that are contributing in a positive way to the DIB and to take corrective action against those that are not. This is difficult and complex government work that requires persistent vigilance and prudent decision making. This is why it is not a suitable task to be left alone on the shoulders of a COR or KO. Contract management is the business of a commander, who oftentimes must make decisions as if they are running a business instead of an Army unit.ConclusionIn closing, if you are inept or ignorant in the practice of contract management, the KTR will be the first to notice and you risk them attempting to take advantage of the government. This is not the norm; a majority of the KTRs are valuable members of the Army team. KTRs are very knowledgeable about the contracting process and the methods by which the Army provides contract management, however, the average senior Army logistician is not. For most of these senior Army logisticians, it’s a matter of “when”, and not “if”, they find themselves involved in some capacity with contracts. This is a business. When some KTRs bid on a contract, they are banking on the government to fail to provide proper oversight. This is not a circumstance that is ideal for our Soldiers or Families, and directly impacts the strategic readiness of our Army.--------------------Capt. Christopher Carlstedt is contract management support officer for Support Operations, 406th Army Field Support Brigade. He holds a Master of Project Management degree from The Pennsylvania State University, and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Colorado State University. He has completed the Logistics Captains Career Course, Operational Contract Support Course, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Army Pathfinder Course, Army Airborne Course, and Operational Electronic Warfare Course.--------------------This article was published in the April-June 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.RELATED LINKSArmy Sustainment homepageThe Current issue of Army Sustainment in pdf formatCurrent Army Sustainment Online ArticlesConnect with Army Sustainment on LinkedInConnect with Army Sustainment on Facebook