Up until recently, Army Vantage — a data analytics platform facilitating real-time, data-driven decision-making — was known primarily for its ability to enhance Army readiness. Now, however, the tool has proven its value for the contracting community as a way of readily identifying excess funds that can be deobligated from certain contracts and used to fund other Army priorities.
In March 2020, Army Vantage and the Army Contracting Command (ACC) began working together to address a seemingly simple set of questions: How much funding is currently on a contract, and when does that funding expire? At the time, answering those questions required ACC personnel to query multiple, disconnected systems for large chunks of data, download it into Excel and then piece it together from various sources. This work could sometimes take days to complete. Without easy situational awareness of the amount of excess funds on a contract, contracting officers (KOs) and financial managers often were unable to identify excess funds until they had expired and were no longer available to use for other Army priorities.
Over the course of six weeks, Army Vantage and ACC planned and developed a way to address this challenge, integrating data from the Army’s General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS), Logistics Modernization Program (LMP), Virtual Contracting Enterprise (VCE), Electronic Document Access (EDA), and Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) into one cohesive data layer. Together, the partners designed an unliquidated obligations (ULO) identifier tool to sit atop the data foundation.
The ULO identifier tool, which employs artificial intelligence to predict which Army contracts are most likely to have excess funds, rapidly surfaces how much money is outstanding on them — and crucially, when that money expires. This allows KOs across ACC to much more efficiently sort through and identify contracts they may wish to deobligate.
The initial pilot project conducted by Army Vantage and ACC paid immediate dividends, leading to an expansion of the project in June 2020. First tested at ACC-Aberdeen Proving Ground, Army Vantage’s ULO identifier tool now has over 1,000 users across several countries.
According to ACC officials, the results from the tool’s use have been outstanding. During fiscal year 2020, ACC successfully deobligated more than $3.3 billion in funding, versus ~$2.0-$2.6 billion in previous years. From March 1 to September 30, 2020 specifically, usable deobligations were more than $2.7 billion, versus ~$1.5-$2 billion in past years. The Army can now redeploy those deobligated funds for more effective purposes.
“Army Vantage revolutionizes the process of acquiring, cleaning and joining data from different, previously stovepiped domain data systems to create novel information that Army leaders need to make decisions,” said Kevin Foster, operations research analyst and chief of the data analytics division at ACC. “Tasks that took several days before Army Vantage now take minutes, allowing analysts to focus on advanced analytics that will further improve the outcomes that contracting provides for the Army.”
Miranda Coleman, product lead for Army Vantage at PEO EIS, agrees that the project bodes well for the future.
“Our successful collaboration with ACC shows that Army Vantage has great potential for driving cost savings and return on investment in military contracting, acquisition and finance domains,” she said.
Army Vantage became a chartered product office within PEO EIS’s Army Data and Analytics Platforms (ARDAP) portfolio in November 2020. Its mission is to enable the Army to “see itself” by empowering Army users at all echelons to make real-time, data-driven decisions.