ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois--Six months after the integration of U.S. Army Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM-SANG) contracting into Army Contracting Command-Rock Island’s (ACC-RI) purview, staff say they are already seeing benefits of the transition.
OPM-SANG is a cooperative program between the U.S. Army and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that supports the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Contracting actions for OPM-SANG were previously executed in Saudi Arabia until September 2021, when the mission was transferred to ACC-RI’s Power Projection & Base Readiness Directorate (PP&BR).
Two branches within PP&BR provide support to Saudi Arabia – one located in the Continental United States (CONUS) and one located Outside Continental United States (OCONUS) on site - via Foreign Military Sales (FMS) cases.
Dr. John Isgrigg, director for OPM-SANG contracting, said that the contracting support of OPM-SANG moved under ACC-RI to give appropriate oversight and guidance with respect to the multi-billion dollar contracts that they are managing.
“It had been ad hoc for many years since its existence,” said Isgrigg. “Working through the issues of contracting as a small stand-alone office, it made more sense to place it under a center and Rock Island was doing the reachback for everything deployed, so it was a natural fit.”
The CONUS branch, led by Jeff Decker, branch chief, is comprised of two contracting teams and handles different facets of the support provided. Decker said one team, led by Luke Darland, procuring contracting officer (PCO), is primarily focused on the larger aviation training support contracts. The larger contracts that this team supports are the Aviation Training Support Services (ATSS) and previously the Ground Training Support Services (GTSS) contracts.
The other team, led by Derek Schnorrenberg, PCO, works on ancillary support contracts. The ancillary support currently includes a number of leases, product licenses, construction projects, cell phones, and base operations to support both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as well as OPM SANG and United States Army – Military Assistance Group (USAMAG) stationed in KSA.
The OCONUS branch, led by Christine Berry, branch chief, is being staffed through permanent change of station and deployments. Berry said her branch is moving toward a structure similar to Government Owned, Government Operated (GOGOs) sites that our Installation division takes care of.
“The vision that we have moving forward would be that all of the large complex requirements are handled by Rock Island,” said Berry. “For the OCONUS branch, we would support the small buys, more of the services, supporting immediate needs, the GPC programs and any oversight that’s required on the large contracts going forward.”
Darland said that the CONUS and OCONUS branches work closely together, and the OCONUS branch regularly provides assistance with the larger contracts especially the aviation contracts that his team is currently working on.
“We do get support from the OCONUS office on the administration and oversight of the contracts and providing feedback on what’s going on, on the ground,” said Darland.
Isgrigg said that it’s tough to maintain acquisition expertise for the large contracts by deploying people to Saudi Arabia who continually redeploy.
“It’s so much easier to have a Reachback skillset with personnel at Rock Island,” said Isgrigg. “We have cost and pricing support back at Rock Island, and it is really nice to have stable expertise that gives us continuity and makes good operations sense.”
Isgrigg also said that there a few long term benefits to having OPM-SANG fall under ACC-RI.
“Just from my point of view, the cost savings alone is going to be amazing,” said Isgrigg. “I don’t want to go out on a limb and predict the number, but reading some of the Independent Government Estimates and the Commission on War Time contracting papers, if we don’t save 20-30% on the recompetition, I would be amazed.”
Isgrigg also said the cost savings will stretch the program dollars for the customer, which is huge.
“On the contracting side, it is going to help us put together a lot more precise contract vehicles that is going to give a lot more support,” said Isgrigg. “That oversight and the help that we are getting from ACC-RI has been immense and life changing here in OPM-SANG.”
With the transition, Isgrigg says that they have faced a few challenges, but those are outweighed by the benefits.
“Any time you have a new way of doing business, the customer has to relearn the process,” said Isgrigg. “There have been some challenges teaching the customer the processes and ACC’s methods of acquisition. Getting it off the ground was tough because we had to get the Memorandums of Understanding in place and lined up.”
Isgrigg said that one of the successes is that their contracting workload has smoothed out significantly.
“The team at Rock Island has been really helping out with the recompetition of the aviation support contract,” said Isgrigg. “It has been an arduous process, but trying to do those in theater was extremely difficult.”
Decker said that from his perspective, one of the main successes has been getting the CONUS branch up and running without many hiccups.
“I think we’ve really built the team pretty quickly and done an excellent job in staffing them,” said Decker. “I have also heard some very positive feedback from the customer as well, I think they recognize that the right resources are being poured in to OPM-SANG.”
Decker and Darland both said that they think the level of engagement team members have in enhancing the contracting support is setting up the future success of the vital effort of supporting KSA, a key U.S. ally.
“One of the major successes is the team build up and how rapidly that occurred,” said Darland. “Also since I work day-to-day with the new team members that have come in to the contracting office, there is a huge desire to learn the OPM-SANG mission and support it.”