(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

In 2017, the then-commanding general of Army Materiel Command, Gen. Gustave Perna, challenged Army Contracting Command (ACC) to operationalize contracting. Over the past four years, ACC leaders made significant progress integrating and synchronizing with supported commands.  Based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, the 413th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB) demonstrated this shift in business practice at a large scale during the 2021 Pacific theater summer exercise cycle. Contracting officers deployed to more than a dozen countries across Asia and Oceana to write and manage local contracts to enable supported commanders’ end-states. To “set the theater,” contracting officers administered the expeditionary employment of large-scale, strategic contracts, such as the 5th generation of the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program V (LOGCAP V), to establish intermediate staging bases at theater gateways. Forward contracting elements (FCE) communicated across international boundaries and used combinations of contracting support vehicles to enable a “catch, pitch, catch” methodology to support dynamic force employment through the theater. On-site and with constricted timelines, contracting officers executed commercial theater support contracts for Army watercraft employment in support of multi-domain operations at echelon. This article will cover the planning, execution, and lessons learned from providing contracting support to United States Army Pacific (USARPAC) - “America’s Theater Army” operations.

Expeditionary LOGCAP 

For the first time within United States Indo-Pacific Command, the Army deployed a large-scale, strategically sourced sustainment contract, LOGCAP, in an expeditionary manner to establish a Pacific theater gateway in Guam. Historically, large contracts of this nature are used for long-term base operations support, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kwajalein Atoll. LOGCAP recently transitioned into its 5th generation with Vectrus as the Pacific’s new performance contractor. Because LOGCAP support was requested late in the planning cycle, Vectrus was tested in Guam, rapidly setting up base life and transportation support to receive more than 3,000 Soldiers into theater.

A key task to supporting the 2021 summer exercises in the Pacific was setting the theater for large-scale force employment throughout the region. Sustainment planners developed a concept to establish an intermediate staging base as the theater gateway in Guam to support this task. Planners explored existing Navy and Air Force contracts in Guam to support the operation but found limitations on the flexibility to support larger requirements. One example of these limitations is the existing Air Force catering contract with a built-in capability to support a surge of up to 300 personnel, but the Army was bringing 3,000 Soldiers. Instead of using existing sister service contracts, planners had the option of generating new contract requirement packages, but meeting procurement lead times proved too difficult in the current global environment. Units preoccupied with pandemic-related missions and challenges could not dedicate the necessary time and analysis to meet required lead times. Sustainment planners turned to LOGCAP V as the execution-ready, integrated solution to mitigate these challenges.

This large-scale commercial solution to enabling force employment is impressive as a strategic capability, but it comes at a significant cost compared to smaller theater support contracts. The 413th CSB deployed a team to provide contract administration services (CAS) for LOGCAP in Guam. Given the large and short suspense expeditionary requirement, along with the tyranny of distance to the middle of the South Pacific, Vectrus had to transport LOGCAP assets to Guam by air instead of by sea to meet the required timelines. As any seasoned sustainer knows, the iron triangle of project management remains to be true; between cost, quality, and time, you can only have two. Though it did come with a hefty bill near $50 million, Vectrus did excel in delivering quality base life support to more than 3,000 Soldiers within an exceptionally short amount of time, demonstrating an expeditionary proof of concept for future operations.

Dynamic Force Employment (DFE)

The global response force must be ready to deploy forces around the globe to execute a myriad of tasks within hours. A joint forcible entry (JFE) is one of the most difficult tasks that the Army is required to execute and falls under the dynamic force employment umbrella. The 82nd Airborne Division and Indonesian army conducted combined airborne operations to execute this task supporting USARPAC training objectives. Sustainment planners relied on theater support contracts and LOGCAP to enable JFE operations in Guam and Indonesia. The 413th CSB synchronized surges in commercial base life support and drop zone logistics support, using a “catch, pitch, catch” methodology, to enable mission success across international boundaries.

As previously mentioned, the 413th CSB CAS team executed LOGCAP support to establish the intermediate staging base in Guam. Synchronizing with sustainment commands, the CAS team executed short suspense changes to LOGCAP services to “catch” the 82nd Airborne Division Soldiers at the theater gateway in Guam after a long journey from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. LOGCAP services surged to provide base life support and transportation for the JFE package as it prepared for the next movement phase. When the time arrived, LOGCAP services enabled the “pitch” of the JFE package to the final destination in Indonesia.

Simultaneously, 413th CSB FCEs in Indonesia worked with local vendors to ensure theater support contracts were postured to enable the successful “catch” of the airborne Soldiers. Contracted land clearing services ensured designated primary and alternate drop zones were ready to receive airborne troops within U.S. safety standards. Transportation and base life support services enabled successful follow-on training for both the 82nd Airborne Division and the Indonesian army.

Army Watercraft Systems

In the Pacific, employing Army Watercraft Systems (AWS) continues to be in high demand for special missions, logistics support, and landing craft. The theater is consistently challenged with the number of requests outnumbering capabilities and funding. USARPAC mobility planners considered several options for supporting 2021 Pacific summer exercises. First, they requested Navy commercial vessel support through Military Sealift Command, but the program manager was hesitant to use Navy contracted assets for Army operations. Next, planners considered exercising Army prepositioned stocks to support requirements, but Army watercraft crews were limited in the region. Then, they looked at the feasibility of contracting civilian crews to operate prepositioned equipment, but pandemic setbacks, country restrictions, and costs put the option on hold. As execution neared, multi-domain operations training tasks received priority for watercraft support.

With the high demand for sealift support exceeding AWS availability in the Pacific, contracted commercial vessels enabled exercise units to meet training objectives. Army contracting planners synchronized with the joint contracting community to secure additional watercraft through existing theater support contracts. General Services Administration Federal Systems Integration and Management Center roved to be another useful resource for obtaining supplementary vessel support. By understanding available resources, contracting officers and planners could leverage multiple acquisition vehicles to meet operational requirements.

Army watercraft employment required joint coordination with the Navy and Coast Guard in the Mariana region. Freedom of movement among the islands required Coast Guard vessel inspections and movement schedule approvals. Sustainers coordinated with Navy port authorities to reserve staging space and portside support. With tight scheduling and limited space, competition at Navy ports proved to be unforgiving to changes in plans. The 413th CSB mitigated vessel support constraints by awarding commercial contracts for portside crane support at Navy Base Guam and negotiating with commercial ports for docking space.

Conclusions

Efforts to operationalize Army contracting have been immense, and units continue to build upon best practices and lessons learned in the Pacific theater. Up to two years before exercise execution, contracting professionals integrated with planners from initial concept development through exercise closeout to ensure operational success. Contracting planners consistently messaged the Pacific theater exercise enterprise's acquisition and support methods, procurement lead times, and contracting risk expectations. The 413th CSB sent teams across the Pacific to train and advise supported commands on operational contracting support roles and responsibilities, recommended processes, and building contracting requirement packages. Contracting officers on the ground during exercise execution solved unforeseen and short notice problems through negotiations and commercial contract solutions. The Army contracting community's integration, messaging, training, and advising in the Pacific theater provided exercise planners and training audiences with the tools needed to meet commanders’ end-states and training objectives, including the DFE from Fort Bragg through Guam to Indonesia.

--------------------

Maj. Ray Wagenheim currently serves as an operations officer for the 413th Contracting Support Brigade within Army Contracting Command. His sustainment background includes 10 years as a logistics officer, serving at tactical and operational levels before joining the Acquisition Corps. He is a Demonstrated Master Logistician, Warranted Contracting Officer, and holds a master's degree in Business Administration from the University of West Florida.

--------------------

This content is published online in conjunction with the Winter 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.

RELATED LINKS

Army Sustainment homepage

The Current issue of Army Sustainment in pdf format

Current Army Sustainment Online Articles

Connect with Army Sustainment on LinkedIn

Connect with Army Sustainment on Facebook