Contracting interns utilize skills to save resources

By Liz GlennApril 1, 2022

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

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois -- The Intern Homeroom (IHR) at Army Contracting Command-Rock Island (ACC-RI), charged with training the center’s newest employees to become fully capable contract specialists, provides a variety of methods for building interns’ skill sets. From classroom-based and on-the-job training that includes rotations through the center’s buying and pricing divisions, to targeted training sessions and leadership engagement opportunities, each intern has gained valuable experience by the end of the program.

One specific job duty of a contract specialist – conducting market research – is not unique in and of itself; however, two interns recently utilized their training to apply market research skills to find more efficient ways to get their customers what they need. Due to their initiative and research skills, they were able to save the customers’ time, funding and resources.

In the first instance, the contracting team led by Ryan Pierce, contracting officer and IHR trainer, was assigned a requirement for a fuel Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA). This requirement supports the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s (SDDC’s) Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO), whose mission it is to receive, stage and load ammunition as well as act as a strategic launch platform in support of DoD Pacific Rim operations.

Haley Olson, intern contract specialist, said when the team received the contract, there was only one contractor holding a BPA, meaning there could be no competition on the contract. There were also other issues with the contract including inconsistent documentation on option clauses.

“Instead of fixing the problems with the current BPA, the team decided to do market research, solicit this requirement again on and get a couple of other vendors so that we do have the competition that we are looking for and have everyone on the same timeline,” said Olson. “If we kept our current vendor and then awarded new BPAs, their timelines wouldn’t match up, so by awarding five new BPAs all at the same time, their timelines match up so they will all expire at the same time and be able to resolicit those all at the same time.”

Additionally, while they were looking at the files, they saw that the fuel delivery BPA was set up as a service and not a supply. Service contracts have additional reporting requirements for the customer, higher tracking visibility within the organization, which isn’t ideal for something as simple as the delivery of supplies.

“By switching it over under these new BPAs as a supply, we saved the customer time and effort in that they don’t have to continually report something as if it were a service,” said Pierce. “We’ve also saved them time, and realistically money, by having more competition and being able to solicit for call orders quickly and receive price quotations very quickly and ultimately move to the award of the call order within very short order.”

In the second instance of an intern utilizing market research skills, Katherine Lawson, intern contract specialist, used her market research skills to make an award for Oracle licensing software for Pine Bluff Arsenal. Lawson has a strong background in research, as she used to teach information literacy as a professor.

“One of the things that I like to think about when it comes to market research is that we would teach the students that it is strategic exploration,” said Lawson. “We are exploring, but we are being strategic with the methods and the way that we look at things.”

Upon receiving the requirement, she realized it had previously been available through an expired ordering agreement. Before contacting ACC-RI about the requirement, the customer conducted its own market research and provided a quote with the best price they could obtain.

Lawson set to work on doing further market research and discovered the software was not available through required sources like Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions (CHESS); however, she did find several other vendors by searching through GSA.

“The quote that I got ended up being the lowest bid, and was lower than the quote that the customer received originally, so I was able to save some money there by being able to have access to more vendors and finding one that offered the product at a better price,” said Lawson. “Adding option years into the contract, for a base plus four years winds up saving a couple hundred dollars over the course of the entire contract if all the options are used.”

Lawson also said awarding in this manner will save resources in the future because she already conducted the market research up front and locked in the best price.

“All we will need to do is exercise the option, instead of using time, resources and energy to recreate this wheel for this pretty standard software purchase,” said Lawson.

The efforts these interns have made in finding the most economical and efficient contracting solutions are representative of the overall focus of ACC-RI’s IHR program in fostering a knowledgeable and proactive acquisition workforce, now and in the future.