FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 20, 2011) -- Mission and Installation Contracting Command officials here are shifting their strategic approach to Army acquisitions by incorporating a more meticulous planning process to improve communication, standardize the development of milestones and increase accountability.Implementation of the Acquisition Milestone Agreement process across the MICC is set for January 2012 and will rely on a cooperative partnership between contracting experts, requiring activities and Army leaders to ensure efficient and effective acquisition strategies are executed to meet the mission critical need dates of customers, according to officials."The AMA process kicks off the teaming arrangement early in the acquisition," said Kimberly Wentrcek, the installation contracting office acting director at Fort Meade, Md., who is leading the integrated process team for implementing the new process. "The AMA process invites our customers to play a more active role earlier in the acquisition process, which results in better working relationships and customer buy-in."The change is a result of a number of missed milestones that resulted in the need for sole-source contract actions to continue services, which increased costs and placed MICC customers' missions at risk.Wentrcek said the IPT found that under the previous methodology, the teaming did not typically begin until receipt of an acquisition package at the contracting office, which led to a disconnect between the acquisition strategy and evaluators' perceptions."Our efforts resulted in a strategic shift in how the MICC conducts business by not waiting for acquisition packages to arrive in contracting, but rather proactively plan and team with our customers to generate better acquisition strategies that meet customer mission need dates and reduce costs," she said.The agreement marks a significant departure from previous procedures by bringing parties to the table much sooner for a back-to-basics approach in developing and managing procurements. "The AMA process defines expectations for all parties, provides expert assistance and identifies and alleviates stumbling blocks to meeting milestones," Wentrcek explained. "It symbolizes a culture shift from reactive to proactive contracting while leveraging the resources of the MICC and our customers."The change calls for initiating a communication and tracking measure much earlier in the process. Contracting experts will create and coordinate the agreement as part of a kickoff meeting that documents the customer's understanding of responsibilities in the acquisition process.The agreement will then serve as a binding document with agreed-to procurement milestones thus creating joint accountability between mission partners. Any changes in milestones would require concurrence by both the MICC and requiring activity.The AMA process will help maintain the MICC's commitment to ensuring that requirements are developed and tracked in a disciplined manner supporting the warfighters' needs by including an in-progress review."In-progress reviews are a major component of the AMA process," said Jennifer Hastedt, a MICC procurement analyst and IPT member. "Contracting officers and specialists will brief both the contracting approval authority at the appropriate level and equivalent manager at the requiring activity. This will ensure the MICC and requiring activity management knows the procurement status and identifies issues that could develop into delays."The transformation from the Milestone Tracking Report to the AMA process got under way in January. An integrated process team then set out to identify requirements and develop tools for the new process. A successful beta test was conducted this summer at Fort Eustis, Va.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz."The test went very well," Hastedt said. "The MICC test sites provided positive feedback and constructive comments to improve the AMA tools."Training for the new process at MICC field offices gets under way Oct. 1 with full implementation of the AMA process set for January. Representatives from the MICC Contracting Support, Plans and Operations directorate will provide training at the requiring activity headquarters level.In addition to reduced lead times, MICC officials believe implementation of the AMA will also help meet the government's fiduciary responsibility by forging a partnership between the requirements and acquisition communities to field capabilities on cost and schedule."It shifts the mindset from simply meeting a date to working as a team to create documents that meet all of the stakeholders' needs," Wentrcek said.The MICC is responsible for planning, integrating, awarding and administering contracts in support of Army commands, direct reporting units, U.S. Army North and other organizations to provide the best value for the mission, Soldiers and their families. Contracting professionals at the MICC's subordinate units work with installation leadership throughout the generating force, or institutional Army, to translate their requirements into contracted materiel and services. The institutional Army prepares, trains, educates and supports the operational Army, which is made up of deployed forces.