By Liz Adrian, Army Contracting Command-Rock Island, Ill.September 26, 2012
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. --- Initially established as a six-person Air Force team , the Army Contracting Command-Rock Island Non-Complex Reachback Branch has grown to 18 temporary duty personnel, augmented by an additional two civilians and seven Army permanent party personnel stationed here.
The ACC-RI's Non-Complex Reachback Branch now consists of the six-person Air Force team; the Air Force's Enterprise Sourcing Group; deployed Soldiers from the 412th Contracting Support Brigade, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas; ACC-RI contract specialists and the seven additional Soldiers.
Since its inception in February 2010, the Non-Complex Branch has completed approximately 8,000 actions valued at more than $250 million.
The six-person Air Force team is part of the U.S. Central Command and is in its sixth six-month rotation. Team members work on simplified acquisitions for commodities, with the requests coming from the field via the theater contracting center in Qatar.
According to Air Force Maj. Lee Dent, Langley Air Force Base, Va., the cell's chief during its fifth rotation, the cell was established in coordination with Headquarters CENTCOM Joint Contracting Command as a process improvement initiative.
Previously, many commodities supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq were bought through regional contracting centers in Southwest Asia from vendors in the United States. With the establishment of the Non-Complex Reachback Cell, the Army is able to realize a more efficient buying process and minimize the number of contracting personnel required in forward areas.
Members of the Expeditionary Contracting Command's 412th CSB, began their third six-month rotation to ACC-RI in April where they are gaining contracting experience.
"The primary reason for most of us is to help reduce the workload of commodity buys from Afghanistan regional contracting centers by making these non-complex purchases from CONUS," said Maj. Tangela Robinson, 611th Contingency Contracting Team, Fort Stewart, Ga. "In addition, it's a great on-the-job training opportunity."
"On average, our current rotation team has a minimum of two years of contracting experience," Robinson said. "So every opportunity to support our customer, the war fighter, and write more contracts is a good one."
The Air Force ESG, which was established at ACC-RI in December 2011via a memorandum of agreement, is on its fourth four-month rotation. Air Force Master Sgt. Deric Harris, 772nd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, led the team during the ESG's third rotation.
He said that instead of supporting just the installations on which they are stationed, members of the ESG conduct research and award strategic sourcing contracts that support multiple bases throughout the Air Force.
Like the 412th, ESG personnel are here for training in order to get certified on their core tasks, which is an essential career component.
"One of the original intents in bringing the ESG folks here was to get them experience in foundational contracting," said Dent. "Because they work with such high-level strategic source contracts, they don't always have an opportunity to do the more foundational type of contracting."
Rounding out the military presence at ACC-RI are seven ACC Soldiers. The Soldiers stationed at ACC-RI work in various divisions throughout ACC and work occasionally with the non-complex cell.
In addition to the military teams, there is a civilian team assigned to the Non-Complex Branch which provides the continuity as military teams rotate in and out. The civilians also support buying and handling the backlog of challenging contract closeouts.
"They have closed out more than 300 contracts that were backlogged for about a year and they continue to work the problematic closeout contracts for us," said Dent. "They also work the long hours alongside us in order to support the war fighters."
Though the Army, Air Force and civilians are divided among separate teams, they work closely together. This was not always the case.
"When the 412th folks first got here, we were two separate teams - an Army team and an Air Force team," said Dent. "In the fourth rotation, there was the idea of integrating the teams, so now we have Army sitting next to Air Force. We work together to support the war fighter and we are all learning from each other."
Under the current configuration, the Air Force members serve as contracting officers and the Soldiers as contracting specialists, but this does not mean Air Force personnel aren't learning from their Army colleagues. Dent says the Air Force ESG personnel have learned about paperless contract files, reverse auctioning, and computer hardware enterprise software and solutions from the Army. The Army team also brings a vital perspective of the Soldier on the ground in Afghanistan, and some of them have been there as the customer in their previous career fields.
"We're really busy with, on average, 150-plus requirements a week," said Air Force Capt. Terence Balcameda, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. "We turn these around really fast for the guys down range and I know they appreciate it because usually when it gets to us, they needed it yesterday."
Janet Burgett-Jackson, former ACC-RI Non-Complex Branch chief, said she is impressed by the response time.
"Many times they get the requirements ordered and on contract within three days but most of the time it's the same day," said Burgett-Jackson. "Even for the more complex stuff, they are really turning it around."
Dent said the success of the Non-Complex Branch would not be possible without the support of ACC-RI's strong leadership, solid policy and legal reviews, and responsive administrative support.
All in all, the members of the non-complex branch say the arrangement is working well for all.
"Because the team has jelled so well here, Rock Island has become the place where everyone comes to, even for unique requirements," said Burgett-Jackson. "We have the reputation that we will get it done, no matter what it takes."