COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command-Installation Readiness Center
TITLE: Contract specialist
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 6
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 19
ACQUISITION CERTIFICATIONS: Level II in contracting–services and construction
EDUCATION: B.A. in history, University of Texas at San Antonio
James M. Davis
by Teresa Mikulsky Purcell
When it came time for James Davis to transition from the Army into civilian life, he realized that acquisition wasn’t just a waypoint in his career—it was a destination.
Davis served 19 years in the Army, starting out as a field medic in Germany and then becoming an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist so he would be eligible for promotions. While serving as an ENT tech, he was selected for the Green to Gold program, which provides active-duty enlisted Soldiers an option to earn a degree and receive a commission as an Army officer in two years. After obtaining his B.A., Davis was commissioned as a medical service officer to command Army Reserve medical logistics companies, which required traveling and managing teams in Afghanistan, Africa, Albania, Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo and Qatar.
When he decided to leave active duty, Davis joined the Army Reserve. While interviewing for civilian jobs, the Army activated him as a project officer to stand up two new Reserve area support medical companies in New Mexico because of his unique experience. He juggled the responsibilities of his job with Reserve training, a stint in Qatar and a young family for three years … until his life was turned upside down. While working out one day, Davis broke his leg, and during treatment, doctors discovered he had a serious underlying medical condition. For Davis, the diagnosis meant his active duty career was over, and he transferred to the Warrior Transition Battalion to make the shift to civilian life.
Enter the Army Acquisition Workforce.
During a 16-month internship, Davis tried his hand at contracting. When he made the transition from Soldier to civilian, he joined the Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC) at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston (JBSA-FSH), Texas, as a contract specialist for the energy and environmental division. There, he focused on contracts for environmental remediation projects at numerous Army depots across the United States. He also supported cooperative agreements with civilian organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited®, to create buffer zones between military facilities and civilian property. He transferred to the MICC-FSH Installation Support Division to work on more complex and varied requirements, but still, Davis had a desire to take his services to the next level. He wanted to gain experience in the formal source selection process, which competitively negotiates contracts valued at $10 million or more.
Davis got his wish. He transferred to the command’s Installation Readiness Center (IRC) Full Food Service Division and landed an assignment worth $222 million. “It was the largest food services contract the center had in two years,” he said. The division serves all 50 states and procures a wide range of food services, including dining facility attendants, cook support, cashiers, bussers, cleanup, facility management and more. The contract, which he worked to adjust to $109 million, was for dining services and facilities at Fort Lee, Virginia. After that, he supported similar food services contracts for Fort Carson, Colorado, and Fort Devens, Massachusetts.
“We opened a new dining facility at Fort Devens for the first time in 20 years,” Davis said. “Previously, they had local restaurants provide catering and even used rations to feed people. As a 19-year Army veteran, I know how important it is to have meals that are good for you and taste good. I like being part of the team that provides contracting to support the force with the best dining facility food services possible.”
The best part about the assignment for Davis was exposure to the source selection process. “I had zero experience doing source selections,” he said. “It was intimidating because I was told they are a big deal with opportunities for contractors to protest.” He got through this critical phase of the pre-award procurement process, ending up with a contract that represented the best value. “It was good to get the first one out of the way,” he added. “Now, I am not intimidated, and I am more comfortable awarding contracts.”
The process is extensive, starting with a requirements package from the installation that describes the number of dining facilities needed, statistics on food consumption and the volume of people the facilities support. “We build a solicitation that details the requirements and location, outlines instructions for vendors to submit proposals, and describes how they will be evaluated,” Davis said. After vendors submit proposals, he involves small business, legal and technical specialty teams to evaluate them, drawing down the contenders to the lowest price, technically acceptable proposals. Then he prepares and presents his rationale during the source selection process to determine the winner, conducts negotiations and builds the contract. “So far, the source selection authority has not disagreed with any of my recommendations,” Davis said.
The request to award timeframe for these indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity food services contracts is 15 to 18 months, but Davis and his colleagues are hoping to get that down to 12 months. He is part of the IRC’s effort to streamline the major contracting process by shifting to a category management model. Category management is the practice of buying common goods and services as an organized enterprise to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of acquisition activities. The aim is to standardize contract requirements for food services and build templates that the contracting team can tailor to individual installation needs. “We have done this type of contracting for years and can show customers what works and doesn’t work, getting to a better product more quickly,” he said.
Recently, Davis received a promotion within the IRC to be a contracting team lead for base operations, where he will serve as a contracting officer and lead a team of five people. He is studying to obtain a warrant so he can obligate government funds up to $50 million, and the challenge suits him just fine. It is helping him establish a life-long career in the San Antonio area, which was his goal when he transitioned out of the Army so he could remain close to family.
“The best advice I ever received was from my first trainer during my internship at MICC-FSH,” Davis said. “He told me that acquisition is a really good job because there are 20 different organizations that have the contracting career series in the San Antonio area alone. He also said that it’s a great career field, and I won’t ever have to worry about having a job.” Davis agrees. “There is good career progression in acquisition, and I love it that I can support Soldiers and civilians,” he said.
“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.