Brig. Gen. Camille Nichols, the ECC commanding general, has around 10 percent of the overall ACC workforce assigned to about $4 billion in annual contracts that deal with day-to-day facilities. The size of ECC can be misleading in terms of the complexity of its mission.
“We do the back office work that keeps bases running and troops moving around Europe, Japan, Southwest Asia, and so on,” Nichols said. “That covers everything from road cleaning to emergency plumbing – lots and lots of little stuff that takes a lot of time, stuff you often take for granted but still must be done.
“ECC has three main mission sets. The first is to provide day-to-day contracting support for all the overseas activities the Army has. The second is to be the force provider to the Army to have expeditionary contracting assets deployed anywhere in the world anytime. The last mission is to deploy the headquarters, should the need arise, for a very large scale contingency or expeditionary contracting mission beyond the scale of something a forward deployed brigade commander could handle.”
While ECC is not directly responsible for contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, what happens there nonetheless affects both the workload and personnel requirements for ECC, which have been on a constant growth track since its creation at the start of FY 08. This is driven, according to Nichols, by secondary effects of the buildup in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The ops tempo all around the world is pretty high, which impacts us. Because we will not reach our end strength until the end of 2012, every new team I get activated already has missions waiting for them. So we’re not really being shaped by Iraq and Afghanistan specifically, but by the total world situation,” Nichols said. “The amount of contracting in general, which has been going up every year on a scale of 10 to 20 percent, continues across all of the contracting commands as more units are moving and resetting their force.
“Eighteen months after activation, I have 53 percent of my authorized civilian and military manpower. The final location decision for my headquarters has not been made, which creates turmoil, especially with civilian employees who want to know where they will be located before taking a new job. So standing up something new – knowing we won’t stay in the AMC Headquarters building at Fort Belvoir – has slowed our ability to attract people. But, in the last six months, we’ve made a lot of progress.
“We still feel we are on track and make a difference today and every day, providing some of the oversight and interaction with tactical units going to locations around the world other than Afghanistan and Iraq. So our capabilities, in terms of supporting Army missions even without a permanent headquarters, are going strong.”
“The Army had recognized the need to create teams under contracting brigades and had plans in place for seven such brigades, four of which had been stood up when the ECC was activated. A year ago all four were moved from the Army Sustainment Command to the ECC, and two new brigades stood up this summer, one in San Antonio [Texas] and one in Hawaii, to support USARPAC [U.S. Army-Pacific],” Nichols said.
“The last of the seven brigades that have been re-evaluated will be supporting the Army component of AFRICOM [African Command]. That is scheduled to stand up in 2012, so we certainly have time for the Army to sort out support to that command and figure out its final location. Even with two new brigades now standing up, we have a little less than half our total force, so we are still growing the military side of this organization and won’t complete it all until 2012.”
One significant feature of ECC is that it has many more military contracting professionals than previously existed in the Army. About one-third of the 107-member ECC Headquarters staff is uniformed military, with the balance Department of the Army civilians. The increase in military officers and the introduction of an enlisted contracting corps is a sea change from how the Army contracting field looked on Sept. 11, 2001. The military component greatly improves the ability to forward deploy with the Warfighter.
“The concept behind the military is that the BCT [brigade combat team] has to go anywhere in the world with its enablers – and we are one of those – so as the Army force structure changes, we will as well,” said Nichols. “We are nearby as they plan their missions and strategize on the best way to get logistics and services if they decide to contract for those. Our overseas presence helps us to do that, as does our presence alongside the divisions and corps in CONUS. This means the ECC does more than just contract. They also train with the war fighting units before they deploy and help the units plan for how contractors will be used to support the war fighting effort.”