Army acquisition in Europe

By January 12, 2015September 5th, 2018Acquisition
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Preparing for Force 2025 and beyond

By Col. William J. Bailey, Commander,
409th Contracting Support Brigade, Kaiserslautern, Germany

This is an interesting time to be in the Army, and an especially interesting time for Army acquisition in Europe. We are at a critical point where we must review our current methods of doing business to ensure we are prepared to support the Army vision for Force 2025 and beyond.

Part of the reshaping of our military includes establishing strategic partnerships with industry and governmental agencies to improve coordination and efficiencies. It also puts our acquisition agencies in a place to better utilize buying power.

Col. William J. Bailey

Col. William J. Bailey, 409th Contracting Support Brigade commander.

As the Army transforms itself from a wartime posture into a ready force, the 409th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB), a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s Army Contracting Command, is taking a disciplined approach to develop operational and strategic partnerships that improve efficiencies and deliver a professional, trained and ready force.

Strategic Partnerships and Coordination
Within Europe, we operate in a joint, multinational environment. The expertise and experience of each service and partner nation creates a stronger acquisition team. The various groups have developed best practices that have proven effective in supporting their needs. However, with each group developing processes and contracts independently, there is a significant amount of redundancy.

Recognizing the opportunity to develop efficiencies by consolidating requirements and leveraging the successful work of other services, the 409th established a quarterly European Contracting Coordination Board (ECCB) that meets to discuss best practices, resources, requirements and the betterment of the U.S. acquisition community. Members from U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Air Force Contracting, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and U.S. Special Operations Command Europe are some of the agencies that attend. These meetings have been very successful and we are starting to see the fruits of our labor.

“The ECCB has been extremely successful in addressing common concerns within the contracting community,” said Peter Lichtenberger, USAREUR assistant deputy chief of staff, logistics. “As OCONUS [outside the continental United States] forces draw down and we lose staff capacity, we have to maintain our capabilities because our missions are not being reduced.”

Another coordinated effort includes engaging in a quarterly European support agency meeting. “These meetings help with the continuation of the fellowship and open communications regarding transformation and European infrastructure consolidation status,” said Bob Henderson, Strategic Initiatives Group division chief for Installation Management Command-Europe.

The 409th CSB has also worked at setting up a number of strategic engagements with various agencies, different service branches and governments. We recently signed a formal agreement with the German Bundeswehr’s procurement agency, solidifying an enduring partnership between our two organizations. This program will promote an active relationship and contribute to the mutual appreciation and understanding of USAEUR and German military requirements and purchasing procedures. This will be a collaborative partnership to understand German business practices and improve our contracting within Germany.

It is important for any command, at any level, to work with peer counterparts. But is also essential to work with outside agencies and companies that can have a positive impact on how the U.S. government is doing business. Sometimes it’s a grass roots effort; sometimes it’s getting the big players to the table. Army contracting in Europe has taken great strides to make this happen.

In the spirit of our multinational environment with our NATO partners, we have developed a relationship with the NATO Support Agency, NATO’s procurement arm. We have met with them, hosted senior leader engagements, and have had their representatives speak at the ECCB. This relationship enables us to coordinate and synchronize efforts and improve efficiencies, and potentially work together to leverage better buying power.

Defense Logistics Agency Europe and Africa

Col. Joseph Ladner, commander, Defense Logistics Agency Europe and Africa, left, with Col. William Bailey, 409th CSB commander, and Col. Mario Troncoso, director, U.S. Air Force Europe, discuss issues and trends at an ECCB meeting. (Photo by Rachel Clark, 409th CSB)

Training Development in Europe
Army contracting has been in Europe since the 1940s. For the 409th, this means we have a robust local national workforce with considerable contracting expertise. This experienced workforce is a wonderful tool for training incoming contracting personnel.

The Army acquisition field is constantly evolving, and the Soldiers in acquisition are often senior military personnel, with fewer than five years of actual contracting experience. Approximately 60 percent of the Soldiers come to the unit straight out of school with no practical contracting experience. To combat this, the 409th is actively integrating civilians, local nationals and military contracting personnel to develop a total training environment. The 409th CSB has begun to think of itself as a training facility for newly assessed contracting professionals, and has adopted a mindset of being a premier training and professional development unit. A top priority is to ensure we are sending our Soldiers and civilians to their next positions as well-rounded contracting professionals with hands-on experience.

“My main goal is to share what I’ve learned as I have progressed within contracting by sharing with Soldiers my knowledge, experience and training,” remarked Andrea Schottenhammel, a local German national who works as a contracting officer with the 409th CSB’s Regional Contracting Office, Bavaria in Grafenwoehr, Germany. “This is our future and I can give them my knowledge and help prepare them,”

Soldiers and civilians leave here with valuable acquisition experience. A typical Soldier leaving the 409th CSB has three years of direct contracting experience and has deployed to multiple countries in support of exercises and missions. They’re well-rounded contracting professionals, ready to hit the ground running at their next duty location.

409th CSB meeting

Personnel from the 409th CSB meet with the BAAINw, the German Bundeswehr’s procurement agency, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Photo by Rachel Clark, 409th CSB)

Back to Basics
As missions change and the Army resizes and reshapes the force, the brigade anticipates that workloads will increase. It is imperative that we are able to support our customers in the most efficient and effective ways possible, which highlights the important roles that partnerships and training will play in support of Force 2025 and beyond.

To ensure we are prepared for these changes, we are taking a hard look at our processes and getting back to the basics. We are reassessing the tools that we use to support our efforts, and are focusing on force readiness and training, as well as our adherence to procurement laws and regulations.

Because we obligate money on behalf of the U.S. government, standards are imperative. We are developing measurement and accountability processes to ensure we are good stewards of government resources. We are charged to find the best value for the U.S. government and we take this responsibility seriously. We will uphold the highest ethical standards and will be accountable and transparent in all of our actions and deliver full accountability of the funds we obligate.

Operational contract support is critical to all missions. We must leverage the planning the units do and synchronize our efforts with those of our partners. In this way, we will achieve both efficiencies and effectiveness. We have to develop and maintain an environment of a learning organization, continually evaluating our units, our mission and our leadership to find the best way to serve. The Army is changing and so is the environment in which we operate; therefore, we must evolve to meet the upcoming challenges, missions and posturing of our force. Focusing efforts on training and leader development combined with the coordination of strategic partnerships will create a synergy that will improve efficiencies while ensuring mission success.

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