When reality strikes in contract administration for Army helicopters, DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft – Stratford fills in the gaps with real-time information and critical multifunctional expertise.
by Maj. Rob Massey and Staff Sgt. Daniel Martin
In every contracting course and every contracting office, you hear a familiar sentiment: “The perfect contract is just a modification away.” Yet even after incorporating that modification, circumstances and events inevitably will require input and intervention from the organization charged to administer the contract.
Enter the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), an organization responsible for providing contract management support to some of the most complicated contracts across DOD. A case study is the Army’s contract for the UH/HH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter. Within DCMA, the contract management office (CMO) at DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft – Stratford ensures that the Army receives a high-quality product that conforms to the contract. DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft essentially is the last line of defense between the warfighter and an inferior helicopter.
Complicated aviation contracts, like the one for the Black Hawk—with the latest model entering its 15th year of production—often require expertise that is rare in the acquisition community. DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft, in Stratford, Connecticut, is able to manage the nuances of aviation-centric contracts by employing some of the best-trained and most experienced military test pilots and aviation ground support personnel available in DOD.
One of DCMA’s 46 contract management offices, the one in Stratford has existed in various capacities since the 1960s to provide support for defense contracts awarded to Sikorsky, the manufacturer of a half-dozen rotary-wing platforms including the Black Hawk. Originally Sikorsky Aircraft, the company has been an element of Lockheed Martin Corp. since November 2015. DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft provides contract oversight and flight operations support to multiple contracts that together combine to produce over 2,500 flying hours annually—more than any other office within DCMA.
MANY PLAYERS, ONE TEAM
Multiply the complexities of contracting by the complexities of a military helicopter, and you get an idea of the diversity of skills that DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft requires to operate successfully.
Within DCMA, government ground representatives (GGRs) are responsible for developing and implementing surveillance plans to support the contract. These comprehensive plans allow GGRs, along with quality assurance personnel, to balance resources with contract risk to ensure that the government routinely inspects the most important tasks performed by the contractor. These experts bring an aviation background to the contract administration process, not only ensuring a high-quality, conforming helicopter but also allowing them to manage the contractor’s flight operations, which is critical to ensuring a safe work environment for both government and contractor personnel. The GGR’s role in contract administration is important to reducing risk to mission, troops and funds.
The functions delegated to DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft under Part 42 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation enable the Army and the contractor to continue production in those instances that the contract could not or did not foresee. On the Army’s most recent Black Hawk production contract, DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft supports critical post-award contracting functions. Some of the more important are ensuring contractual compliance with quality and safety requirements; engineering surveillance; reviewing requests for deviation; and maintaining surveillance of flight operations at the contractor’s facilities.
To adequately support these and many other efforts, DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft leverages the collective experience of quality assurance personnel, technical engineers, industrial specialists and program integrators. The fruits of these specialists’ efforts are evident almost daily in large and small ways.
Across every tactical operating center and command post in the Army, you will hear the words, “Who else needs to know?” A smooth flow of communication is one of the primary responsibilities of program integrators at DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft – Stratford. Program integrators lead integrated project teams that bring all stakeholders and functional areas to the table to address contract challenges in a timely manner.
Program integrators have direct access to the contractor’s facility, including work as government acceptance pilots. Furthermore, the relationship between DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft and its supported contractor translates to close cooperation that not only helps build the team but also allows potential discrepancies in the production and test flight processes to surface quickly, preventing problems from developing and quality from slipping. The program integrators thus can provide rapid feedback to the Army customer.
Last year, during a routine weekly integrated product team meeting, the prime contractor brought to DCMA’s attention that it was no longer able to access required Army publications to support the contract effort because of changes in the Army’s forms and publication distribution process. This issue affected the contractor’s employees worldwide, including pilots and maintainers, who needed access to technical publications, forms and records. The program support team at DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft stepped in immediately to resolve the issue, working with all parties involved to establish procedures that would enable the contractor to request updated publications and forms in an organized and efficient manner through appointed government sponsors.
CONNECTIONS ARE KEY
In addition to the support DCMA provides to each individual contract delegated to it, the organization also can leverage a vast network of CMOs to support contract administration with skilled oversight. By tapping into this network of CMOs, DCMA can work across major contract efforts to solve problems.
DCMA units work closely with the procuring contracting officer of the organization that delegated the contract’s administration. In the case of the Black Hawk contract, that organization is ACC – Redstone of the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC). However, several other contracts awarded by DOD organizations also influence and sometimes complicate production of the Black Hawk. This is where relationships among CMOs can be especially useful, in fact critical to managing contract risk.
Recently, for example, Sikorsky had to return an aircraft engine to the subcontractor for additional servicing and testing before installation. Upon completion, the engine was to be rushed back to Sikorsky’s production facility. When errors in the shipping paperwork delayed the return shipment, program integrators from DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft intervened and worked with a sister office that oversees the subcontractor to fix the errors, ensuring timely delivery and preventing any production delays.
There’s no such thing as autopilot when it comes to complex contract administration, including the post-award phase. Post-award contracting requires daily and sometimes aggressive efforts on the part of the CMO. Nonconformances in the production process, even those that may seem insignificant at the time, can manifest themselves as major costs and safety consequences later.
As an example, recently Sikorsky discovered that a grounding cable connected to the helicopters’ windshield wipers had been installed incorrectly. While the discrepancy posed no flight safety risk, DCMA and the contractor agreed to rework the discrepancy to prevent the potential early deterioration of the component. This decision ultimately will help the Army save on replacement costs.
While contract administration represents its own phase in the contracting process, DCMA is also equipped to support other contract phases, with CMOs providing the contracting officer with valuable feedback on a contractor’s performance based on their observations from walking the production line and interacting with the contractor’s functional leadership on a daily basis. Furthermore, having navigated the challenges of a contract action firsthand, the CMO is well-equipped to provide input to a follow-on contract and prevent repeat performance issues.
When Gen. Mark A. Milley assumed duties as the Army’s 39th chief of staff in August 2015, readiness was at the top of his priority list. Ensuring equipment readiness is no small undertaking, and for the Black Hawk, it extends well beyond the program managers in the Utility Helicopters Project Office of the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Aviation.
Contract administration is anything but routine. The support that DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft – Stratford provides allows the project office to fulfill its charter: to provide warfighters with the best equipment to meet their operational needs while actively managing all life cycle aspects of the program.
MAJ. ROB MASSEY is the program integrator with DCMA Sikorsky Aircraft for the Army’s UH-60M Black Hawk Program. He holds an MBA from the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School and a B.S. in pre-law from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is Level II certified in contracting and a member of the Army Acquisition Corps.
STAFF SGT. DANIEL MARTIN is the government ground representative for the Army Program Team. He has 14 years of experience in aviation maintenance and operations. He holds certifications in aircraft weight and balance, quality assurance, occupational safety and health, and hazardous materials transportation.
This article is scheduled to be published in the April – June 2017 issue of Army AL&T Magazine.
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