REPORT FROM AFGHANISTAN
FROM THE DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE ARMY FOR PROCUREMENT
Operational Contract Support Summit highlights the unique responsibilities of contracting in contingency operations
At first glance, it may appear that my office in the D Ring of the Pentagon is far removed from the sacrifices our Soldiersand Civilians face every day in hostile environments around the globe, but I can assure you that the acquisition and procurement communities are activelyengaged in supporting our personnel and equipment against enemies who seek to harm us. In addition to our combat role, the Army must be prudent stewards of billions of American taxpayer dollars sourcing thousands of projects in expeditionary operations.
As the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement and DoD's Executive Agent Focal Point for Contracting in Afghanistan, I oversee more than $8 billion annually in Army procurements supporting U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A). It is my mission to ensure that the Army supports USFOR-A with responsive, timely, and effective procurements executed by a professional and capable acquisition workforce.
In January, Ms. Heidi Shyu, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASAALT), and I carried the message about the important operational contract support ASAALT provides to those on the ground in Afghanistan. We traveled to theater to participate in a first-ever Operational Contract Support (OCS) Summit titled “Operational Contract Support: Oversight and Management," and to meet with senior leaders in defense procurement
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and senior tactical commanders actively engaged in combat operations.
The two-day OCS Summit provided attendees an unprecedented opportunity to obtain insight into planning and executing operational contract support on the battlefield. Hosted by MG William E. Rapp, Deputy Commanding General for Support, USFOR-A, the summit included representatives from the Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy Office; the DoD Inspector General; the Defense Logistics Agency’s Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Army Materiel Command; and senior leaders from USFOR-A regional commands.
The summit brought to light the unique responsibilities of contracting in contingency operations, with sessions focusing on policy perspectives and how to improvethe acquisition process; defining the OCS environment in the context of counterinsurgency contracting, vendor vetting, competition, and Afghan First; and oversight and management in a contingency environment with limited resources.
From the Pentagon, ASAALT helps synchronize the weapon system procurements of multiple Army contracting centers on behalf of Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, coordinating with contracting offices, vendors, and foreign governments to ensure the delivery of vehicles and aircraft, as well as timely facility construction. In Afghanistan, more than 3,100 service members, Army civilians, and contractors from ASAALT program executive offices and program management offices support USFOR-A. The ASAALT Forward staffs in Afghanistan and Kuwait act as liaisons to many ofthe USFOR-A regional commands to support Joint Urgent Operational Needs.
In the past year, I’ve responded to questions, comments, and concerns from members of Congress during testimony about contract oversight in Afghanistan. During this summit, I relayed to attendees that Congress is very interested in the oversight of contingency contracting to ensure that all branches of the federal government are executing contracts in good faith. DoD, the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as individual services, have repeatedly been called to testify on Capitol Hill about contingency contracting.
It is important for Congress to understand that wartime contracting is not synonymous with enduring overseas contracting operations. Wartime contracting requires us to adapt processes and business systems to an environment that is dangerous, hostile, and often restrictive. This can include a lack of infrastructure, an unstable business landscape, and a failed banking system—in other words, the things we take for granted in noncontingency contracting.
In a summit breakout session, I was reminded of the immense operational pressures our commanders face during a discussion about a transportation contract in Afghanistan with a general officer, when he was pulled aside for an update on an incident involving several casualties. In our zeal for effective oversight, we must always remember that our military is foremost engaged in battle and relies on our timely and responsive procurement support.
Participating in this summit also reinforced the acquisition community’s continued responsibilities, even as U.S.
Forces draw down. Contractors will provide an important role supporting the retrograde of equipment and personnel. MG Rapp reminded us that success in Afghanistan is defined in part by a responsible retrograde, achieving, as he said, "both operational effects and good stewardship during transition and the drawdown of military forces." Ms. Shyu agreed. "Accounting for this equipment demonstrates supply discipline and helps preserve the capabilities this equipment provides in the coming era of tighter budgets," she said. When the Army footprint diminishes, it is vital that we have careful accountability for all types of property: standard issue, nonstandard, government-furnished, and contractor-acquired.
Another area of concern for Congress, as well as the acquisition community, is oversight of the small construction projects in contingency operations underthe Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP). I participated in an OCS panel and discussed the importance of synchronizing contracting requirements to ensure that commanders have the right structure to contract for the needs in their battle space.
This panel was also an opportunity to raise the importance of designing sustainability into future requirements. We can perform that action much better by leveraging available commercial supply networks and making sustainability an evaluation factor when selecting contractors. We know, for instance, that junior officers and noncommissioned officers overseeing the projects often lack the technical skills to determine whether construction is performed in accordance with the contract.
My office has partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to close this skill gap. We are working withthe USACE Transatlantic Division to recruit and deploy construction representatives (CONREPs) to assist with CERP project scopes, oversight, and technical inspection.
If the use of CONREPs helps to significantly improve CERP project oversight, then we’ll explore expanding this concept to other types of contracted support that require expertise, including security services, food services, and transportation.
I left the OCS Summit with the renewed awareness that those who procure critical goods and services for our service members and the Afghan National Security Forces are as vital to our national security and the stability of Afghanistan as every person serving in our military campaigns.
The difference for the acquisition community lies in its weapons of choice- contracts and regulations that ensure that the Army and the American public receive the best value for their investment.
KIM DENVER, a member of the Senior Executive Service, was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement in June 2011. Denver holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio and an M.B.A. from the University of Central Florida. He is Level III certified in program management and in contracting and acquisition. Denver is a recipient of the Meritorious Civilian Service Award and the Army Engineer Association Bronze de Fleury Medal, among other awards and honors. He is a member of the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps; Beta Gamma Sigma, the international honor society serving business programs; and Phi Kappa Phi.