Lately, there has been an increased focus on acquisition reform. It seems with each administration the pendulum swings from one end of the spectrum to the other. On one end is more oversight, constraint, restriction, firmness, and fixed contracts, and then at the other end, we relax, loosen up, seek flexibility, and open up to cost-plus and reimbursement acquisition arrangements. However, other acquisition reforms supporting the field in general exist as Jessie Bur identifies in her July 2019 article , “The 4 cornerstones of government acquisition reform” on the Federal Times website.The enterprise-wide contract writing system discussed within the work is beneficial for multiple reasons. To level-set, when I refer to enterprise-wide, I am referring to an organization (e.g., business, school, government, etc.) and all pieces and parts an organization encompasses (e.g., geographically separate locations, non-profit and profit components; human resources, engineering, logistics, supply, finance, accounting, and more type divisions).Then, all of an organization’s pieces and parts use the same system, in this case a contract writing system, making it an enterprise-wide system. For the purposes of this article, enterprise-wide refers to Department of Defense.First, there are historical research and archival benefits an enterprise-wide contract writing system could support. My argument is heavily based on how the theoretical, all-encompassing enterprise-wide contract writing system is configured; I presume it will have a functional module for users to accept requirements and craft solicitations, issue and manage requests for information, and draft contracts in addition to a storage module for staging and archiving all contracting actions.A single repository eliminates the guesswork of wondering or guessing how many contracts a vendor has, or has had, and for what organization. It is reasonable to think organizations like the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) would experience a significant leap performing their audits, comparisons, and multiple, central roles if an enterprise-wide contract writing system like this theoretical, all-encompassing one existed.Last I recall reading during a triannual review, DCAA remained in a three-year backlog in closing out some contracts. Let us not forget those learning the ropes, seeking sanity checks, and assigned scavenger hunts. I am referring to the interns, new employees, career-broadeners, and others.My uncle was a perfect example when he started as a U.S. Air Force contracting specialist intern in a rapid promotion program called “COPPER CAP.” We shared intern ‘war stories’ from time to time. He was not shy when claiming some of his best resources were file cabinets, boxes, and staging spaces full of hard copy contracting actions as they did not exist anywhere else. They filled in the blanks absent people could not, and gave both good and bad examples to follow or from which to learn.Next, an enterprise-wide contract writing system would provide greater content consistency. You may know the phrases, “Don’t recreate the wheel” or “Don’t fix it if it’s not broken.” These two phrases largely ring true when it comes to consistency in the world of contracting and data. Referring back to my uncle’s contracting officer experiences, an entirely new contract does not have to be created from scratch if there is an existing copy, template, or analogous version a person can modify as needed. There are only so many contract types after all!From a data perspective, the actual data should be consistent or lacking irregularities and manipulation to the maximum extent possible. Then, data can be shown and leveraged in snappy and informative ways (e.g., visualization and organization) without detrimental alterations. I can point to years of financial management documents preaching data integrity in areas like execution, auditing, accounting, reporting, and more. Further, the costs of achieving data consistency are hefty.The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed operations research analysts earn more than $83,000 on average per year with 75% earning over $109,000 a year, according to May 2018 reports. In my view, paying this sort of top-dollar salary for a person to essentially clean up data is wasteful, especially of taxpayers’ dollars.Another phrase comes to mind, “Garbage in equals garbage out.” If individuals are doing things like ‘hand-jamming’ entries into systems and disregarding purposeful guidance, then we are bound to continue employing massive crews of operations research analysts and related jobs performing data clean-up and ensuring consistency. An enterprise-wide contract writing system, like the theoretical, all-encompassing one I have in mind, would entail automated check and balance features for all sections of a contract as possible with special emphasis on the financial pieces like cost, quantity, line of accounting, Accounting Classification Reference Number, and others.Systems like Procurement Desktop-Defense and the Army General Fund Enterprise Business System attempted initiatives to remedy some of the more common technology glitches and inconsistency-generating points when transferring data in recent years, but manual intervention remains required.Finally, the economies of scale could be tremendously valuable from an enterprise-wide contract writing system. For people, the learning curves may be better while intentional and unintentional knowledge sharing could peak as developed knowledge is captured, referenced, and leveraged. Two recommended knowledge development activitiesare special research projects and databases that efficiently use resources and expertise, but also collect and update data supporting an organization’s endeavors (e.g., contract awards to small businesses or set-asides for procurement offices, reader demographics for publishers, sales and survey results for marketing campaigns, ad activity for search engines and websites, and consumption reports for restaurants).A more directly related example of economies of scale in an enterprise-wide contract writing system ties both quantity and quality together with machine learning curves. That is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts to use artificial intelligence (AI) to aid contracting officers with past performance evaluations. First, there is the fact AI recognizes patterns, which means it needs significant quantities of data, to learn and then to provide consumers more efficient and effective insight. The catch is the previously mentioned lack of data consistency, but AI can provide support when data is qualitative and tends to lack consistency.AI learns with quantities of data and time. Just think: no more (or far less) labor-intensive reading of ratings, explanations, and other qualitative data. Instead, AI can perform the grunt work and provide more distilled content to informed decisions. The DHS solicitation authors stated contracting officers’ current hurdles best: volume of records and the inability to rapidly identify relevant reviews. Thus, economies of scale could be tremendously valuable from an enterprise-wide contract writing system—from the perspective of human resources and machine resources benefits.On a final note, the tides of scale potential are turning kinetic as captured in instances like the General Services Administration combining 10 acquisition-focused websites under one web roof, SAM.gov, according to Aaron Boyd’s article in Nextgov. From the perspective of an enterprise-wide contract writing system providing value with economies of scale, I have little doubt shifting these 10 sites and systems will result in worthwhile maintenance and sustainment savings. The 10 systems are those with features I envision an all-encompassing enterprise-wide contract writing system providing:CatalogsPerformance reportsAward managementGrant informationHistorical informationFunding reportsPublicly releasable information per various actsIn closing, acquisition reform is a fiery focus point for many inside and outside of the community. Several factors influence the amount of focus let alone the target of foci. Even more reforms seem to take life in the interest of making things better. I am a raving fan of an enterprise-wide contract writing system for multiple reasons. In this essay, I limited my reasons to historical research and archival benefits, greater data consistency, and economies of scale advantages. I admit an all-encompassing enterprise-wide contract writing system as I propose is a monstrous and intimidating idea, but I firmly believe it is possible if we are hungry for it.--------------------Dr. Jennifer Miller is an operations research analyst for the U.S. Air Force Cost Analysis Agency, in Maryland. She has previously supported the Air Force, Army, and National Guard Bureau at locations along the East Coast. Miller is a Certified Government Financial Manager and a Certified Defense Financial Manager with acquisition specialty. She is a member of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Association of Government Accountants and a member of the Washington Chapter of the American Society of Military Comptrollers.-----------------------------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