With the changing coalition mission in Afghanistan, contingency contracting has also changed markedly, requiring a broader array of skills and training for a wider range of responsibilities.
by Mr. Gordon Jones and Maj. Miriam Harris
At the height of the surge in 2010, with approximately 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Bagram Regional Contracting Center (RCC) and the Kandahar RCC had more than 50 personnel assigned at each location, with multiple smaller RCCs all over Afghanistan providing similar contingency contracting support. The RCCs were made up of seasoned contracting professionals, military and civilian, from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The workload was nonstop, with as many as 300 to 400 open purchase requests at a time.
The requirements were typical of a large-scale operational effort: bottled water, HESCO barriers, T-walls, concertina wire (C-wire) and small construction projects, including setting up relocatable buildings. The efforts of these contingency contracting professionals were absolutely crucial to provide basic necessities to sustain coalition forces and to protect U.S. forces and our coalition partners from suicide bombers and rocket attacks, which were a daily occurrence in 2010.
Fast forward to 2016: The mission in Afghanistan has changed dramatically over the last five years to a train, advise and assist role in support of the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A) mission and the U.S. Forces – Afghanistan mission. The roles of those deployed to carry out contingency contracting in an RCC also have changed considerably; Soldiers expecting to come to their first contingency contracting assignment to buy bottled water and C-wire will find they are required to work in a much broader role.
A JOINT ENDEAVOR
This expanded role is supported by well-trained contracting battalions ready to deploy when called upon. The 925th Contracting Battalion, stationed at Fort Drum, New York, deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, in October 2015 to take responsibility for RCC-Capital, one of three RCCs under the Expeditionary Contracting Command – Afghanistan (ECC-A). RCC-Capital’s location and mission focus is the Afghan capital area, with its primary effort being support for CSTC-A.
CSTC-A is a joint service endeavor in partnership with the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) to provide support to the Afghan national defense and security forces (ANDSF). “CSTC-A is charged with developing ministerial capability and capacity in the areas of budget development and execution, payment of salaries, acquisition planning and procurement. CSTC-A must continue to guide and develop budgeting, acquisition planning, procurement, financial management and contract management expertise within both the GIRoA Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior,” said COL Charles Worshim III, director of CSTC-A’s Contracting Enabler Cell in Kabul. “These key skills are essential to the independent operation of the Afghan security institutions [which include ANDSF as well as the Afghan Border Police, the Afghan Criminal Investigation Department and the Afghan Public Protection Force] and ultimate transition to an enduring Department of State-led presence in Afghanistan,” he said.
While the command’s goal is to transition procurement actions to GIRoA, presently CSTC-A partners execute a large percentage of requirements to equip, train and sustain ANDSF to enhance the security of Afghanistan. One of CSTC-A’s tenets is to assist Afghans in developing their own procurement system. If the Afghans cannot execute a requirement, CSTC-A pulls the requirement to the U.S. side, where the RCC executes a contract to accomplish what’s needed.
Additionally, CSTC-A’s charter includes training, advising and assisting Afghanistan’s National Procurement Agency in refining procurement law, regulations and processes to facilitate the government’s efforts in building an autonomous procurement system. “It is imperative that we succeed in developing those requisite skills and experience to enable the ministries to operate successfully within Afghanistan while independently providing for the national security needs of Afghanistan,” said Worshim.
FULFILLING AFGHAN REQUIREMENTS
CSTC-A is unique in that it uses the Afghan Security Forces Fund, an appropriation authorized by Congress. As Worshim said, “CSTC-A is the sole DOD organization responsible for safeguarding appropriated Afghan Security Forces Fund resources that directly support the Afghan National Army and Police.” Upholding procurement integrity is paramount at a time when DOD programs are under scrutiny to protect against fraud, waste and abuse.
Three primary processes fulfill requirements in support of the ANDSF. The first method available to requirement owners is to submit a memorandum of request through the Security Assistance Office – Afghanistan to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency for a foreign military sales-type procurement process for large acquisitions such as aviation packages. The second is to use a military interdepartmental purchase request for goods, services and construction projects executed through U.S. agencies. The third existing procurement method for requirement owners is submission of a purchase request and commitment to RCC-Capital.
RCC-Capital’s support of CSTC-A is the right solution for requirement owners, as it provides a local resource for cradle-to-grave acquisition in Afghanistan. RCC-Capital stands ready to execute contracts through award to U.S.-based and local vendors for services, supplies and minor construction projects. “Providing solid business advice early in the acquisition process is the most valuable resource we provide commanders. Providing this advice requires daily interaction, and there is really nothing better than face-to-face interaction,” said Lt. Col. Wyeth Anderson, commander of the 925th Contracting Battalion.
Upon arrival in theater, the battalion immediately postured itself to accept requirements and streamline the processes necessary to provide high-quality, responsive contracting support for requirement owners, transforming RCC-Capital into a customer-focused organization. “Having the right people here is the most important factor, and Expeditionary Contracting Command – Afghanistan has done a great job resourcing RCC-Capital with smart and qualified military and civilian personnel,” said Anderson.
Building a rapport with customers, including CSTC-A requirement owners, is a component of RCC-Capital’s model to make it the “go to” organization for finding the right contracting solution in the capital region. An emphasis on contracting practices in accordance with regulations and policy underscores the organization’s reputation for being straight shooters who work with customers to develop an acquisition strategy that will meet mission requirements. “Safeguarding these resources [appropriations] will maximize the U.S.’s ability to successfully accomplish the Resolute Support Mission to build a safe, stable country that addresses the needs of its people and eliminate safe havens that breed terrorism,” said Worshim.
Within the next several years, the CSTC-A team plans to transition the procurement of requirements to GIRoA for cradle-to-grave execution and management. In the interim, RCC-Capital provides the contracting solution for acquisition planning and execution within ECC-A for CSTC-A.
Another example of the expanded role of contingency contracting is the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) decision in 2012 to create a contingency contracting administration services (CCAS) cell at its headquarters with these new missions in mind. The command’s CCAS cell has developed a two-week CCAS course at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, for 51Cs and 1102s (noncommissioned officer and civilian contracting specialists, respectively) deploying to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to train and guide personnel with this mission, but it will be up to the Soldiers and civilians deployed post-2015 to make it work.
On Jan. 9, 2016, Col. Daryl P. “Rick” Harger, commander of ECC-A, accepted the transfer of authority for contract administration over six legacy contracts with performance in Afghanistan from Lt. Col. Freddy L. Adams, commander of Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) – Afghanistan. Performance of the contract administration function over these first six legacy contracts, which include the two largest contracts being performed in Afghanistan, with a combined contract value exceeding $16 billion, will be augmented over time by more than 100 additional contracts awarded by ACC.
According to Harger, “This CCAS mission will represent a departure from the CCAS mission being currently performed in Kuwait.” The Kuwait CCAS mission was formulated using a battalion manning structure, with all personnel dedicated to performing just the CCAS mission. In Afghanistan, the CCAS mission is assigned to the RCCs, with some of the personnel “dual-hatted” to execute either contract awards or contract administration as needed.
“This will allow us to utilize the synergy between the pre- and post-award functions, and to cover surges in either arena with any excess capacity from the other,” said Harger. “We’re one team, one fight; it’s a two-way street.”
Harger has affirmed that all 51C personnel should be exposed to both pre- and post-award contracting functions, as it will broaden their experience in all facets of the contracting profession and make them better contract specialists and contracting officers as they progress in their career field. This additional exposure also increases the operational readiness of the 51C members, allowing a more rapid response to a broader variety of contingency operations. “Everybody wins,” Harger noted. “The 51C builds a more comprehensive resume, and the Army builds a cadre of personnel with skill sets able to respond to a wider range of operations.”
Harger and his CCAS staff applauded the cooperation that the DCMA team members extended to them during the transition from DCMA – Afghanistan to ECC-A, and noted that they were tireless in sharing information, documentation, procedures and checklists to ensure a seamless transition. To support continued high performance, DCMA agreed to act as a force provider and supplement the civilian staffing with seasoned professionals to perform as administrative contracting officers (occupational specialty 1102), quality assurance specialists (occupational specialty 1910) and property administrators (occupational specialty 1103). These experienced DCMA force providers have ensured continuity during the potentially chaotic transition from one administration philosophy to another.
“In addition to the transition of authority from one agency to another, our CCAS team must also navigate the movement of our contracting officer’s representatives from the now-disabled Virtual Contracting Enterprise – Contracting Officer’s Representative system to the OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense]-mandated Contracting Officer’s Representative Tracking Tool, and ensure that documents and data are incorporated into the Paperless Contracting File official contract file,” Harger said. “Without motivated and dedicated personnel, this successful migration would not be possible.”
With the battlefield environment in a constant state of flux, Harger noted that the organizational and operational structure of the contract award and contract administration functions must allow for maximum flexibility, mobility and readiness to be successful. ECC leadership has formulated a structure that is both dynamic and capable of multifunctional mission execution without the need for complex staffing adjustments or realignments.
“We have [personnel with] the right skill sets that are cross-trained, motivated and capable to deliver quality services and supplies to the warfighter during situations and circumstances that would overcome most other units,” he said. Simply put, he added, “ECC has given us the right tools to put in our tool kits.” Working together, the dedicated and diverse group of military 51Cs, DA civilians and the DCMA force providers have turned the CCAS idea into reality—in Harger’s words, “Done Right—On Time.”
For more information, contact Mr. Gordon Jones at Gordon.email@example.com.
MR. GORDON JONES is lead administrative contracting officer for CCAS, ECC-A. He holds a master’s degree in administrative science, a B.S. in physics and biology and a B.A. in management from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He is Level III certified in contracting and Level II certified in property management, and is a member of the Army Acquisition Corps.
MAJ MIRIAM HARRIS is a U.S. Army reservist presently deployed as chief of the Services Division, 925th Contracting Battalion and RCC-Capital. She holds a master of public administration degree in government contracting from Troy University and a B.A. in music from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She is Level II certified in contracting. In her civilian capacity, she is a contract specialist for the Air Force Test Center at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee.
This article was originally published in the April – June 2016 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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