Responding to unique contracting challenges, DOD has made a major strategic change in contingency contracting administration services to support U.S. forces in Africa—from the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army and Joseph Kony to the Ebola outbreak—that makes it easier to get needed services and supplies to the customer, much more rapidly.
By Maj. Justin L. De Armond
Africa is an extremely challenging environment that requires contracting officials know their craft and be able to understand and adapt to each customer’s requirements. This is especially true for those in the noncommissioned officer (NCO) 51C acquisition military occupational specialty. The 51C’s roles and responsibilities encompass contract administration, employing different contracting actions to support customers’ requirements and providing sound business advice within the construct of federal regulations to support customer needs. These NCOs must be knowledgeable in contracting and adaptable enough to adjust their skills to meet the demands of each unique situation.
A key geographical term for central Africa that describes the difficulty of doing business there is “pole of inaccessibility.” Put simply, Africa is a very large continent with many countries, many with porous borders, and everything in central Africa is very hard to reach quickly. For example, it is faster to fly in a special holiday meal than transport it over land.
So it came as a welcome change when, in the midst of the effort to remove Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army from the battlefield in central Africa, DOD undertook a major strategic shift in contingency contracting administration services (CCAS). The requirement to support special operations forces (SOF) in that effort—Operation Observant Compass (OOC), which began in October 2011 and continues today—created a unique contracting challenge for the civilian-led Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA).
In a first for the U.S. Army, CCAS support and responsibilities transitioned from the DCMA to the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) and U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC) with its first activity coming under the 414th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB) headquartered in Vicenza, Italy. This change supports the existing regional alignment of CSBs with combatant commands.
“ACC’s assumption of the CCAS mission will allow the Army to provide full-spectrum contracting support for an expeditionary Army, including the award and on-site contract administration of complex services, allowing the Army to more effectively project global power very quickly in support of combatant commanders,” said MG Theodore C. Harrison, commanding general of ACC until August 2015.
CCAS ROLES, RESPONSIBILITIES
CCAS is essentially the management, oversight and execution of a contract in a contingency environment. It serves a vital role in ensuring that the U.S. government receives the required services while at the same time warfighters are fully supported to achieve their mission objectives. Traditionally, CCAS missions consist of civilian personnel who manage awarded contracts. Previously, two DCMA civilians filled the support roles for OOC, which transitioned to two 51Cs in June 2014. The typical positions based on each mission include administrative contracting officer, quality assurance representative, property manager, management analyst, information technology personnel, operations officer and others as deemed necessary.
The Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) uses CCAS, in conjunction with its own personnel, to manage the service contract supporting OOC. LOGCAP, using CCAS, helps customers develop requirements for OOC with a team of subject-matter experts. The significance of the strategic shift in CCAS support lies in the existing regional alignment of contracting and operational forces, as well as the military contracting force assuming greater responsibilities in the ECC that fit its capabilities and skills.
Before the change, the DCMA civilian personnel supporting the mission had no ties to the region or connection to the combatant commands and often came from different offices; military contracting personnel, however, have an inherent relationship with the combatant commands as the result of regional alignment, and often come from the same unit.
In a noncontingency environment such as OOC, providing contracting support with an underdeveloped infrastructure is a challenge. However, to meet the needs of the SOF teams, LOGCAP is using the contract structure from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for base life-support services. The contract includes a laundry list of available services that can be executed by the contractor; these services, such as pest management and water production, can be turned on or off as needed.
One of the main challenges is continuing to meet emerging customer requirements as the mission matures in its effort to remove the Lord’s Resistance Army—continuously on the move through central Africa’s porous borders—from the battlefield. As such, the LOGCAP effort can adjust rapidly to ensure that there’s no degradation in the services provided. However, advance planning is necessary to prevent a gap in support. The capability to turn on a service required to support a particular need is vitally important to continuing mission support.
The Soldiers identify a requirement, and the LOGCAP team can act quickly to meet that need. For example, the team installed a new structure at a forward operating site within weeks of notification. Emerging requirements in Africa necessitate that U.S. Army Africa prepare for operations against threats as they arise throughout the continent. The LOGCAP role for these requirements is to maintain an expeditionary posture and provide customers with solutions to enable them to execute missions and operations rapidly.
As an example, the OOC team prepared to support the initial actions for Operation United Assistance (OUA), as the LOGCAP task order covers the entire African continent. The OOC team prepared to support up to 3,000 U.S. Soldiers in response to the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.
The logistics management specialist (LMS) immediately started working on the requirements with the U.S. Army Africa planning cell to ensure quick activation of a LOGCAP solution. In less than a week, the OOC team moved a site assessment team to Liberia to start reconnaissance for base life-support service, including initial site preparation for tent cities that would house the units supporting the effort at various locations in Liberia.
Key stakeholders—which included the contractor, LOGCAP planners in U.S. Army Africa and U.S. Africa Command, the LOGCAP Project Management Office in Rock Island, IL, and the administrative contracting officers (ACOs) in Africa—had daily OUA LOGCAP synchronization meetings to ensure seamless coordination for the support effort.
KEY FORWARD CCAS ROLES
In the operational and tactical environment, there are three key positions that play a large role in CCAS. First, an ACO’s duties supporting OOC encompass the typical post-contract-award functions. However, a LOGCAP contract is different in that making changes to customer needs occurs more quickly and seamlessly than making a change to a traditional contract. A LOGCAP contract uses change management “to reduce the administrative burden by clearly establishing what will constitute a change or modification requiring an equitable adjustment,” (from the April 13, 2012, LOGCAP Change Management Guide). The ACO can turn services on and off based on the listing within the task order. Larger requirements, such as runway repairs, can be executed in weeks rather than the several months needed to execute the same requirement using normal contracting actions.
The LOGCAP process to make contract changes allows for a faster “flash to bang,” effectively allowing customers to adjust quickly to requirements as necessary. For one change management method, the customer initiates a letter of justification for a service; then a project planning request is sent to the contractor, who in turn submits a project planning estimate. A technical evaluation is completed and, if funding is available and the contractor’s estimate is acceptable, the ACO issues an undefinitized change order and the contractor can begin work on the requirement.
A challenge is coordinating with all stakeholders to ensure that mission needs are met in a timely manner. Integrating with the Special Operations Command Forward – Central Africa and Joint Special Operations Air Detachment staffs, to provide business guidance and recommendations became key to the overall success of the mission.
Secondly, the role of the quality assurance representative (QAR) is to ensure that the services provided meet the government’s needs. Monthly inspections take place where services are occurring, which means traveling to the forward operating sites. A site has upward of 20 services that are inspected each month. For instance, the QAR will inspect the vehicle maintenance, water production, fuel management and production services. The QAR coordinates with the contractor site manager to ensure access to the services being inspected. Additional QAR duties may involve managing field ordering officers and conducting traditional contract specialist and contracting officer duties.
The LMS is the primary requirements developer and planner supporting LOGCAP on the ground in Africa. This is a vital role; the LMS works work directly with the customers to develop a clear and concise requirement based on need. In addition, the LMS helps customers with their justification documentation to commanders and with actions under the change management processes, which include the letter of technical direction and undefinitized change order.
The LMS also plays an important role in planning with Special Operations Command Africa and U.S. Army Africa for emerging requirements. The LMS uses years of LOGCAP experience to provide recommendations and guidance for the Africa operations. Thanks in part to the regional alignment of the CSBs and combatant commands for OOC and OUA, planning and execution happen in a more seamless and face-to-face fashion.
STRATEGIC SHIFT, REGIONAL ALIGNMENT
This strategic shift from DCMA to the Army marks the first time that the Army is taking the lead for CCAS responsibilities. Previous LOGCAP CCAS positions were filled under DCMA. The importance of the shift is that it reinforces the existing regional alignment of CSBs and combatant commands. Having two military organizations working closely together aids in developing and supporting operational requirements by virtually putting the two entities that speak the same language in the same room to conduct business.
BG Michael D. Hoskin, ECC’s commanding general, reiterated the importance of the alignment, saying, “Regionally aligning the CSBs with their COCOMs [combatant commands] and providing a CCAS capability will enhance contracting efficiency and effectiveness.” He added, “Regional alignment will inherently create relationship-building and provide either command with further insights in each other’s role in supporting Soldiers.”
With additional workload requirements now under the purview of ACC, a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, how to support the various operations, missions and exercises worldwide for the military contracting force will require greater attention to detail.
There will be challenges to the ACC/ECC and the 51C workforce as they assume the CCAS mission from DCMA. The transition will require training for ACOs, QARs and property administrators, and understanding the roles and responsibilities of CCAS. ACC HQ will conduct property management and QAR training using the Defense Collaboration Services tool, which is a Web-based system (like a video teleconference system at your desk) that allows virtual training and meetings to occur with teams in the field. A strong reachback relationship with DCMA and its subject-matter experts will also assist in the changeover. Executing ACO and QAR duties under the Army’s lead for LOGCAP operations and contingencies is a new responsibility for the military’s 51Cs; previously 51Cs conducted CCAS duties in an individual augmentee role.
The CCAS mission and supporting contract vehicles such as LOGCAP will become an important part of 51C capabilities, but with greater experience and knowledge 51Cs will better support their regionally aligned customers. A continual challenge with regard to the Army Operating Concept “Winning in a Complex World” is the continuation of customer education. An additional challenge is helping customers to properly define and address their requirements in support of operational objectives, especially in an environment such as Africa.
Additionally, developing a strong contractor base to support African requirements will be essential to meeting customer requirements. Hoskin pointed out that “initially there will be challenges and hurdles to overcome in transitioning the CCAS role to a military-led effort. However, the great things about our military contracting force are their capability to use disciplined initiative, take their contracting experiences and translate those skills into supporting CCAS missions.” The benefits far outweigh the challenges, and the existing regional alignment of CSBs to combatant commands will posture the Army for success.
For more information, contact the author at email@example.com or 314-483-5571, or go to www.africom.mil. Maj. JUSTIN L. DE ARMOND currently serves as the battalion operations officer for the 903rd Contingency Contracting Battalion, 409th CSB, Kaiserslautern, Germany. He has an M.A. in management and leadership from Webster University, an MBA from Gonzaga University and a B.S. in chemistry from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is Level III certified in contracting and an Army Acquisition Corps member.
This article was originally published in the October – December 2015 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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