JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Nov. 24, 2020) -- A developmental training partnership for Soldiers in the finance and comptroller career field continues to provide them valuable experience while also serving to slash contract closeouts for a handful of Mission and Installation Contracting Command offices.
The U.S. Army Forces Command Finance and Comptroller Soldier Training and Development Program sources Soldiers in the 36 military occupational specialty to various organizations including garrison or division resource management offices or contracting offices co-located with their respective financial management support unit. The program came about in 2013 as a pilot designed to counter the impacts of a government shutdown, sequestration, employee furloughs and a hiring freeze.
Marlena Walker, a financial management analyst with FORSCOM Resource Management who manages the program at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said the phased training approach has benefited finance and comptroller Soldiers immensely over the past seven years.
“I firmly believe that no one course prepares finance and comptroller Soldiers to fully execute their mission. As such, this program has been instrumental in either filling a gap in training or providing the foundation necessary for finance and comptroller Soldiers to execute their assigned duties,” Walker said. “The technical competency gained as part of the program has proven vital to Soldiers sourced to execute several iterations of the commercial vendor services, or deploy-in-place, missions supporting the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as well as those identified to fill individual deployment resource management or finance requirements.”
As financial management technicians, Soldiers are responsible for ensuring the Army’s financial matters. This involves budgeting, disbursing and accounting for government funds, maintaining and preparing files and financial reports, and reviewing contracts and invoices.
C.T. Fortune, a senior plans officer and procurement analyst with the MICC Operations and Security Directorate at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, serves as the program manager for the command in this partnership working directly with FORSCOM. He said the expertise these Soldiers bring to the MICC allows the command to place greater emphasis on its contract execution priorities.
“One of Army Materiel Command’s top priorities is the reduction of contract unliquidated obligations and expiring funds in order to make funds available for other critical contracts,” Fortune explained. “It takes time to research and solve these issues before closing out contracts and making the funds available.”
He added that contracting personnel in the 1102 career series often spend much of their time executing and awarding contracts in support of mission partner needs leaving little time to devote toward researching and resolving unliquidated obligations and expiring funds issues.
“Financial management Soldiers assigned to MICC do the research and often solve the issues for the 1102s so they can close those contracts and return the excess funds back into the system. This frees 1102s to focus on critical procurement awards,” Fortune said.
Sgt. 1st Class Mayda Rivera-Pena, one of the financial management Solders completing their developmental training at Fort Stewart, Georgia, this month, agreed the contracting experience benefits her military occupational specialty knowledge and contributes to a better understanding of the fiscal triad.
“I was able to work in one important aspect of the support we provide. The acquisition of funds and expenditure of the same are key for units to accomplish their missions,” Rivera-Pena said. “Being able to identify all the excess of funds during the contract closeout process and returning the same to the units ensured unit readiness.”
Fortune is also instrumental in the selection of two MICC instructors aimed at preparing Soldiers to take on duties at their local MICC contracting office as well as ensure those offices are prepared to receive and integrate select Soldiers into daily contracting operations. Previous instruction had been accomplished face to face at Defense Finance and Accounting Service locations in either Rome, New York, or Indianapolis. Due to the coronavirus, MICC instructors contract specialist Scott Oakley from Fort Irwin, California, and contracting officer Karen Sorapuru from Fort Stewart recently accomplished the training virtually.
“It’s a full five days of instruction, and they do have to test out,” Oakley said. “The contracting officer goes over contracts in general so that they understand what they’re looking at, and I cover a block of instruction on what is necessary to close out a contract.”
He added the training provided includes financial management features of the General Fund Enterprise Business System, a web-based Army enterprise system for planning resources, financial reporting and asset management. Contracts are considered over age if they are not closed in accordance with procedures outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which governs the timelines for closing out contracts. For most simplified acquisitions, contracts are considered closed after the receipt of supplies or services and final payment. Fixed-priced contracts should be closed within six months after completion, and cost-type contracts should be closed within 36 months after the contracting officer receives evidence of physical completion.
Oakley, who has almost eight years of experience in contract administration with an emphasis in construction, said this first attempt at virtual training removed the one-on-one interaction often essential in gauging the full understanding of concepts communicated through body language from which more personal attention can be given. However, once financial management Soldiers arrive at MICC contracting offices, they are assigned to a mentor for continued training and accomplish a side-by-side hand off of duties with the Soldiers they are replacing.
Five financial management Soldiers have been assigned over the last few weeks to select MICC offices across the command that are co-located with their respective financial management support units so that they may still accomplish wartime skills and physical fitness training. Locations include contracting offices at Fort Stewart, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Fort Drum, New York, and Fort Bragg, where they will complete a nine-month rotation.
In advance of a developmental rotation in contracting, Soldiers accomplish a second phase of training led by the Army Financial Management Command Systems Support Operations. The second phase includes the spending chain and contracting course, which provides extensive training in GFEBS. Rivera-Pena explained the spending chain includes the processes of how funds are spent and specific roles of personnel involved while the contracting portion covers acquisition procedures in accordance with regulations.
“These courses help build up more knowledge as far as the entire process on how units go from identifying their requisitions all the way to obtaining and paying for the same,” she said.
Walker said that to date, 281 students have graduated from the program, of which 130 completed their developmental assignments with their respective MICCs.
“The collaboration between FORSCOM Resource Management, the U.S. Army Financial Management Command, and Mission and Installation Contracting Command has proven crucial in training finance and comptroller Soldiers to better understand the big picture, or what the finance and comptroller community often refers to as the fiscal triad,” Walker said. “Training with local MICCs on closing out contracts has been beneficial in aiding Soldiers to better understand and execute their roles specific to the GFEBS spending chain or the end-to-end process.”
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.