Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs Office
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas — The chief of the contracts division for the Mission and Installation Contracting Command at Fort Knox, Ky., is a winner of the 2012 Secretary of the Army Award for Excellence in Contracting for her efforts to increase contract opportunities for people with significant disabilities.
Deborah Ault was recognized for her support of the AbilityOne Program, which offers several products and a wide range of services to the federal government. She worked closely with National Industries for the Severely Handicapped, or NISH, managers to identify contract requirements to be added to the procurement list increasing employment opportunities not only for the blind and severely handicapped, but also for wounded veterans.
“I feel honored and am very pleased to have been selected for this award,” Ault said. “Support of the AbilityOne Program is the easiest part of my job and, in my opinion, one of the most important.”
Ault, who has more than 30 years of acquisition and leadership experience, is responsible for reviewing incoming contract requirements to identify those that may be suitable for the procurement list. The federal procurement list identifies supplies and services that are required to be purchased from AbilityOne and its participating nonprofit agencies.
“This is a win win,” she said. “The AbilityOne mission is to provide employment opportunities for people who want to work, are very capable of working, but have difficulty finding or competing for jobs on their own.”
She was instrumental in the award of two contracts — one to the NISH and one to a NISH nonprofit agency — following a market research and education process between both the requiring activity and NISH managers to add contracted services to the procurement list.
“The misperception is that work can’t be accomplished, or accomplished well, by people with disabilities. I believe many people assume that individuals with disabilities have limited skills,” Ault said. “Additionally, many people seem to be uncomfortable around individuals with disabilities. Disabilities can be physical or cognitive, and there are not many jobs that these folks can’t do as well as people without disabilities. It is part of my job to help educate our customers and to make them feel more comfortable with this program.”
A contract for facilities maintenance services was awarded to the NISH that was combined with the Fort Knox custodial services requirement valued at approximately $121 million for the base and four one-year option periods. Award of this contract led the NISH to identify the installation as its center of excellence for total facilities management and begin the standup of a training program at Fort Knox for its nonprofit partners at no cost to the government. The aim of the center of excellence is to expand business opportunities for the NISH and its participating nonprofit agencies across the Department of Defense.
Additionally, she played a critical role in the award of a contract for Human Resources Command call center services to be awarded to a NISH non-profit agency valued at $17 million for the base and four one-year option periods.
Ault said both of the contracts provide great potential for employment of people with significant disabilities. The facilities maintenance services contract includes the employment of about 200 people, and the call center services contract employs another 65-70 people.
The work by Ault also indirectly benefits this nation’s wounded warriors. The NISH works closely with Fort Knox veterans support groups, including the Warrior Transition Unit, to identify potential employees for these and other Ability One contracts at Fort Knox. To date more than 15 service-disabled veterans have been hired and more are being identified, said Ault.
“A very small percentage of government contracts are in the AbilityOne program. I consider it part of my mission to increase that number,” she said.
As contracts division chief for MICC-Fort Knox, Ault is responsible for managing the work of her team, which includes 23 civilian employees and 10 contingency contracting Soldiers. She works closely with division team leaders to allocate workload assignments ensuring an opportunity to learn a variety of contracting processes. In support of the MICC’s integration efforts, she helps ensure military members assigned at Fort Knox receive the technical, hands-on training necessary to prepare for their contracting roles during deployment. She is also responsible for providing guidance and advice to co-workers, team members, customers and contractors.
The MICC is responsible for providing contracting support for the warfighter across Army commands, installations and activities located throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico. In fiscal 2012, the command executed more than 58,000 contract actions worth more than $6.3 billion across the Army, including more than $2.6 billion to small businesses. The command also managed more than 1.2 million Government Purchase Card Program transactions valued at an additional $1.3 billion.