By Maj. Stephen R. Tautkus, 408th Contracting Support BrigadeSeptember 8, 2011
Personnel assigned to a contracting support brigade can expect to deploy in support of contingency operations any-where in the world, even under some very austere conditions.
Missions may include natural disasters, humanitarian assistance, combat missions or on the other end of the spectrum, military exercises halfway around the world such as Steppe Eagle 2011 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Such missions often include local popu-lations that speak little if any English and whose business practices can be quite dif-ferent than what is expected here.
Steppe Eagle 2011 is an exercise that the 408th Contracting Support Brigade, Camp Arifijan, Kuwait, has supported for many years. A great deal of planning goes into each successful exercise and awarding and administering contracts are no exception.
This is the first year the 408th CSB has executed all the commercial contracts for the exercise. Contracts included life support, automatic data processing rent-al, food service, transportation and a significant amount of micro-purchases (those purchases under $3,000). The exer-cise, however, could not have been achieved without a contracting team conducting a thorough pre-deployment site survey. Dur-ing the PDSS, the team conducted a market research to find and establish a vendor base near the Iliskiy Training Center.
Veterinarian medicine and food in-spections were also critical components to this process. Inspectors validated food vendors for sanitation and whether they could support exercise requirements. The PDSS also helped solidify requirements for solicitations and gave contracting team personnel a better understanding of what was available in Kazakhstan.
Generally, contracting teams tap into the U.S. Embassy's Procurement Section to help with vendor source lists. In this case, however, the Embassy in Kazakhstan was about 11 hours away and its list consisted primarily of vendors from the Astana area.
When the contracting team returned from the site survey, it refined the exer-cise requirements, posted and sent the solicitations to potential vendors as expe-ditiously as possible.
The team then worked to obtain funded purchase requests and commitments for the requirements. This was critical because no contract can be awarded without its fund-ing being approved and any delay in the process can make awarding of the contract more expensive given the vendor's ability to meet the contractual timeline.
Based on the short time between con-tract award and mission execution, the contracting team deployed immediately and stayed in Kazakhstan for about two weeks. This allowed the team to review the contract with the vendor and to clarify requirements prior to the start date.
By getting on the ground early, the team was able to make the majority of micro-purchases prior to the exercise start. Hav-ing a pay agent on the ground with cash funds readily available gave the team more latitude to purchase from any vendor. With-out the pay agent, purchases would be re-stricted only to those vendors with credit card machines who could accommodate government purchase card transactions.
Once the vendors are contracted, con-tracting officer representatives and con-tracting officers ensure contract oversight is established to verify the contractor is performing according to the terms and conditions in the contract.
Prior to departing, the team conducted a final vendor conference to discuss invoicing and payment procedures. Once the team leaves, future correspondence will be con-ducted through an interpreter and the better informed the vendor is on the proper invoicing procedures, the more promptly he can expect payment.
Though the team has redeployed to Kuwait, it still can provide reach-back contracting support.
The unit CORs still remain forward to interact with the vendors until the contract is completed, ensuring required reports are in compliance and all services rendered are certified in accordance with the terms and conditions of the contract.