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Army Contracting Command

Nichols is up-front about the difficulties of meeting all the demands on ECC with such a small staff. Even though the ACC concept of leveraging resources across the command has resulted in a shared, co-located staff for most of the ACC and ECC headquarters functions, standing up a new command is still a daunting task.

Jeff Parsons, Army Contracting Command executive director, listens closely during a strategic planning session. Photo courtesy of ACC.

“Do I think 107 people are enough to run a global enterprise, 24/7, with a deployable enterprise I can launch anytime? No. But I have to determine what I’m doing and providing to my seven subordinate commanders and I won’t know all that for awhile,” she said. “By fall, I should know how we’re doing with six commands. Being co-located with ACC takes some of the sizing pressure off because we leverage off each other, but I don’t think our headquarters staff is big enough. However, we’re not fully operational yet, so it is hard to know exactly where my shortfalls are.

“This is a dynamic situation and environment we’re in and I’ve told all my senior leaders I certainly expect to revisit this. There is not really an appetite to go after more people or spaces, but neither is there an expectation we have everything right today. We need to determine where our real shortfalls are and revisit with ACC on where we need to re-staff. Right now, we’re also getting some support from AMC Headquarters that we won’t have when we relocate, so we’ll also have to determine how extensive that is and revisit that in the future.”

Numbers are a major concern across ACC. By the end of FY 09, the command should total more than 5,000 personnel, with nearly 200 of those at ACC Headquarters and more than 2,600 in the field; more than 100 at ECC Headquarters and about 500 in the field; approximately 125 at MICC Headquarters and more than 1,600 in the field.

Parsons has asked the Department of the Army for more than 500 additional civilians for the MICC. Those would be distributed across some 40 U.S. installations, focused on managing service contracts at the installation level. This is needed to address weakness noted in the Gansler Commission report such as problems with contracting oversight, contract administration shortfalls, and a decline in certain contracting specialties across the federal government. The goal is to ensure that the Army gets the most value as it crafts business deals and then to validate that the contractors who are awarded the resulting contracts actually deliver as promised.

“We have established a QA [quality assurance] division that will have the primary responsibility of developing a QA workforce within the ACC – mostly within the MICC – for service contracts. And we have another request for an additional 150-plus NCOs [noncommissioned officers]; if that gets approved, they will all go to ECC, with a focus on post-award contract management,” he said, adding one of the greatest demands on ACC is dealing with contractors who provide installation level support for deployed troops.

“When we began checking into who was overseeing performance of installation service support contracts, we found no one really had the right kind of people in place to do that. Any subject matter experts we hire to deal with that in the future, will not be contracting specialists, but QA representatives, which we typically have not seen in the past in our structure. Part of their role will be identifying any deficiencies and bringing those to the attention of the contractor and the contracting officer. If I get approval for the additional NCOs I’ve requested, we will be able to field five-member teams, with one person focused on assisting the CORs in contract oversight.”

ACC’s efforts to meet all of the requirements it inherited, as well as continuing new demands, has been both broad-based and comprehensive. However, it also has been hobbled by a shortage of properly trained and experienced personnel – a shortage President Barack Obama addressed in his first defense budget, announcing the so-called insourcing of work that is risky for contractors to perform because it relates to issues such as determining government requirements, overseeing contractor performance, or determining budget requirements. In addition, a new special fund was created to help attract, train, and retain acquisition personnel. While ACC is using every available mechanism to help it obtain the highly skilled and motivated workforce the Gansler Commission envisioned, it will take years to achieve that goal. Much progress has been made, but there is a very large gap that needs to be filled.

“ACC today is continuing to implement the recommendations that came out of the Gansler commission report and the Army Contracting Task Force, which was co-led by Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson [military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for acquisition, Logistics, And Technology] and Kathryn Condon [executive deputy to AMC’s commanding general],” Parsons said. “Congress, the Obama administration, Army senior leadership, and OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] leadership continue to support all the recommendations that came out of those two reviews and ACC is continuing to actively implement and build upon them.

“There is a significant effort to in-source a number of requirements that had been performed by contractors, so we probably will see fewer contracts for acquisitions advisory and assistance services. At one time, AMC headquarters had more than 300 contractors; that probably will dwindle down to about 100, with the others replaced by Department of the Army Civilians. So the administration is looking to resource key skill-sets into DoD and the rest of government to ensure we have the in-house expertise to guide and manage our business.”

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