Defense Media Network

Army Contracting Command

In September 2007, the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Pete Geren, established an independent commission on Army Acquisition and Program Management in Expeditionary Operations, chaired by former Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) Dr. Jacques Gansler, to review the lessons learned in recent expeditionary operations and provide recommendations for how future military operations may achieve greater effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency. Two of the Gansler Commission’s recommendations led to the establishment of the Army Contracting Command (ACC) – (1) the Army must transform its culture with regard to contracting and (2) a single Army Contracting Command must establish contracting as a core competence. Geren approved these recommendations after the Commission’s report was published on Dec. 1, 2007.

Geren’s direction to establish ACC clearly demonstrates his commitment to improve contracting support to expeditionary operations. On Oct. 1, 2008, the Army recognized the formal establishment of ACC as a major subordinate command of the Army Materiel Command (AMC). Tasked with handling about 80 percent of the Army’s contracting work and about 20 percent of all the contracting dollars awarded by the federal government during fiscal year 2008, the first year of its existence. “That is huge, considering the overall size of the federal government and the number of agencies,” ACC Executive Director Jeff Parsons acknowledged. And the statistics for the second year are trending well also – “The fourth quarter of FY 09 is still unpredictable; overall, we’re tracking a little below last year[s] … $104 billion, but I suspect it will be close.”

The Army as a whole executes close to 25 to 30 percent of all federal contract dollars. This is a change from before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began after Sept. 11, 2001. Until that time, the Air Force and Navy were executing a lot more contract dollars than the Army. But the current conflicts are predominantly a land war, with tens of thousands of Army troops deployed. The Army provides complete support for those troops, plus installation-type support for the Navy, Air Force, and coalition forces, resulting in the Army executing a large share of contract dollars.

These results are amazing considering the command is still housed in temporary facilities, will not achieve its full authorized personnel level until the end of 2012, and took over the majority of all Army contracting responsibilities in the middle of a two-front war and a massive budget and transformation upheaval at home. And in addition to managing the contracting throughput so critical to the war effort, ACC is simultaneously reshaping the contracting culture – addressing a series of problems, including numerous complaints from commanders in the field about a lack of adequate contract support, supervision, and execution that spurred Geren to charter the Gansler Commission and the Army Contracting Task Force.

The report cited numerous structural weaknesses and organizational shortcomings in the Army’s acquisition and contracting system, and the urgent need for reform. The key cultural change that ACC’s standup signifies is the unification of Army contracting functions across the enterprise that provide weapon systems, installation support, and expeditionary capability under one worldwide organization. This allows consistent contract policy, improved oversight, and greater flexibility to leverage resources to support the Army’s mission.

In support of the focus on contracting competencies, two subordinate commands, the Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC) and the Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC) were created. The MICC provides contracting support for everything that Army posts need to run inside the United States except weapon systems and related support that are purchased at specialized contracting centers. The ECC mission is to be the primary provider of Army contracting services to forward stationed and deployed forces. They are the part of the ACC that moves forward accompanying warfighters as they deploy.

“The ECC performs the OCONUS [outside the continental United States] contracting support mission in all the different areas of operations, working very closely with the Army service component commanders across the world to provide not only day-to-day peacetime contracting needs, but also in their contingency operations and warfighting missions,” Parsons said.

“The deployable elements of ECC force train as embedded elements at ECC’s and MICC’s permanent locations during peacetime. That is where they develop the skills needed to perform good solid contracting support that is so necessary to execute the Army’s wartime mission forward. In many cases the teams also support disaster relief and humanitarian missions, which provide opportunities to experience emergency contracting situations on a more limited basis.”

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...