LTG William N. Phillips
As I look at how to achieve growth and rebalancing across the acquisition workforce, it is clear to me that there are very talented, highly motivated people in our Army who would be great assets to our acquisition, logistics, and technology mission, if only they knew more about it. So I want to devote this column to an acquisition career field that is particularly rewarding and especially in need of more Soldiers: contingency contracting officer and contingency contracting NCO.
Contingency contracting officers have the vital job of providing forward contracting support to ongoing war zone and humanitarian missions worldwide. Our Army is making a concerted effort to expand its ranks of contingency contracting officers and noncommissioned officers in Military Occupational Specialty 51C, Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Contracting NCO.
These are not desk jobs—far from it. Contingency contracting is a front-line mission. Last year, the Army conducted 108 contingency contracting missions in 39 countries, providing combat support in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as humanitarian relief in Haiti and Pakistan. It’s the contingency contracting officer’s job to make those operations happen.
Contingency contracting teams consist of two officers and two enlisted personnel placed inside a civilian contracting office on an installation. You may be contracting for commodities, construction, or services. Whatever you are tasked with purchasing, you are providing essential support to our warfighters.
As is true throughout the AL&T Workforce, we’re looking for demonstrated excellence and the potential for future excellence as we grow our contingency contracting workforce. We need candidates with experience across the full range of Army activities to include logistics, combat arms, finance, and other areas.
For MOS 51C specifically, where the Army is looking to add about 100 NCOs each year, we need promotable sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class with less than 10 years of service. Those with less than 13 years’ service may receive waivers. If you’re a younger Soldier with some college who has shown leadership, take a look at the 51C website, https://asc.army.mil/career/programs/nco/nco_prereq.cfm, for information on how to put together an application packet.
Selected candidates will add to their education through acquisition and contracting courses. They gain a broad spectrum of knowledge in the materiel acquisition process—including relevant laws, regulations, policies, procedures, organizations, and Army doctrine. In addition, they learn new skills in providing contracting support to joint forces across the full spectrum of military and disaster relief operations. These highly valued skills include mastery of the PD2 software tool as well as contingency contracting techniques and procedures.
Contingency contracting training is available at the Mission Ready Airmen Course in San Antonio, TX, and at the Army Acquisition Basic Course at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.
Within a year of joining the field, you could find yourself supporting counterinsurgency and humanitarian relief efforts. Activities you are likely to support include helping local populations stand up businesses, rebuilding their economies, and establishing employment for large numbers of people. In the current conflict(s), this is how our Army intends to prevail: by helping people who would otherwise be our enemy find productive and satisfying work, rather than planting improvised explosive devices.
Taking care of our Army acquisition workforce continues to be my Number One priority. Getting cutting-edge capability into the hands of Soldiers, when and where they need it, requires a robust, well-balanced acquisition workforce. Contingency contracting is an essential part of this mission. Join us!
- LTG WILLIAM N. PHILLIPS