Faces of the Force: Barbara Nelson

POSITION: Contracting Officer
UNIT: Southern Regional Contracting Office, Brooke Army Medical Center
TOTAL YEARS OF SERVICE: 16 years, Army; 10 years, Air Force
EDUCATION: B.B.A in finance, University of Texas at San Antonio; M.A. in procurement and acquisition management, Webster University. National Contract Management Association Certified Federal Contracts Manager. Level III certified in contracting and Level I certified in logistics


 

Ensuring the Army gets its money’s worth

By Susan Follett

Barbara Nelson likes to get a good deal. Over the course of her 26-year career, she’s brought that focus to bear on behalf of servicemen and -women, making sure that the government gets what it pays for and that wounded Soldiers get the care that they need.

Nelson is a contracting officer for the Southern Regional Contracting Office at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), part of the Health Care Acquisition Activity and the U.S. Army Medical Command. “I really enjoy trying my best to get the best value for the taxpayer. I know that may sound like the company line, but I relish the challenge of awarding contracts to the company who our team believes is best for the Army and provides us with the best value for those who need medical attention,” she said.

She and her team execute contracts for medical services, supplies and equipment at BAMC, which includes the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC) and the Army Burn Center.

Her career started in the Air Force in the late 1980s. “I lived in San Antonio at the time and Kelly Air Force Base was one of the city’s biggest employers. My parents both worked at Kelly [as Air Force civilians], so it was a logical place for me to look for work.”

She started in logistics. “It was an interesting job and I worked with great people but something was missing for me. I enjoyed negotiating with sales people and getting the lowest price possible, so I met with the director of contracting at Kelly and asked about a cross-training opportunity.” She worked in contracting at Kelly until the base was closed by the Base Realignment and Closure [Act] process, and then was hired through priority placement for an Army contracting position.

“That was 16 years ago, and I’m still here,” she said. “I really enjoy this type of work and the folks I work with at the Southern Regional Contracting Office are all great.”

FOTF: What are some of the milestones you’ve achieved?

NELSON: I’ve been involved in awarding contracts in excess of $100 million annually as a contracting officer and contract specialist, including a highly visible radiological services contract valued at $10 million for cancer patients at SAMMC through which more than 400 patients continued to receive life-supporting radiation treatment on time and within budget. I’ve also awarded a contract for emergency medicine physicians for the expanded Level I Trauma/Burn Center at SAMMC, which significantly contributed to the expanding trauma mission. Another of the many requirements I’m managing is the SAMMC pharmacists contract, valued at $15 million. The Pharmacy Department at SAMMC and surrounding clinics fills approximately 2.8 million inpatient orders and outpatient prescriptions annually and the 22 pharmacists on my contract are critical to staffing and operating these pharmacies.

FOTF: What’s one thing outsiders don’t know about your job?

NELSON: Most outsiders may not realize all of the policies, guidelines and regulations that are involved with the government procurement process or the complexity involved with awarding different types of contracts. They also don’t realize the responsibility involved with being a warranted Contracting Officer—it may surprise people that as a contracting officer, I have the authority to enter the government into binding contracts and that I’m responsible for obligating more than $100 million in federal funds per year. I hold a $6.5 million contracting officer warrant and an unlimited warrant for delivery and task orders. But with this responsibility comes an obligation to spend the taxpayer’s money wisely, and we take that obligation seriously.

FOTF: What do you enjoy most about your work?

NELSON: It is especially rewarding to see the patients here receiving top-notch care in a state-of- the art trauma center and to know that my team had a hand in facilitating that. We often see the wounded warriors in the cafeteria through various stages of their treatment, and it’s great to see their rehab progress. It’s also a reminder that what we do affects them.

FOTF: What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army Acquisition Corps?
NELSON: My greatest satisfaction comes from knowing I have an important role in supporting the men and women who have defended this great nation and our freedom. From current soldiers to my father, who is 94-years-young and a veteran of WWII, I am honored to be a team member in the Army Medical Command and the Army Acquisition Corps.

  • “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.

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