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Air Force contingency contracting: The ultimate force multiplier

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and air, space and cyberspace. Several times a year, the 30th Space Wing conducts exercises to ensure we are ready to support the AF mission in a deployed environment. The first part of the exercise involves tasking military personnel and their equipment and then ensuring both are properly prepared to meet their allotted aircraft arrival and departure time. Personnel and equipment are grouped into increments and then simulate deploying to a location with a published assumption that they have already been in country for a certain number of days or weeks as well as access to existing logistics support.

Many of 30th Space Wing military members have played in these exercises and have filled real-world deployment taskers, given we have been in sustained operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade. However, not too many have been deployed to a bare base location. My question for you is this, if the scenario was that the 30th Space Wing was deploying to a bare base location with no existing logistics support, who would be the key personnel to send out first? Given the title and author of this article, the answer is, of course, a contracting officer and paying agent. Here is the main reason; any equipment, supplies, services, construction that is needed to support contingency operations that does not arrive on a USAF pallet or is not able to be accomplished by a member of the deployed team will need to be contracted.

Congress has mandated that only a "Warranted" contracting officer is authorized to contractually obligate the United States Government. Their warrant, giving them procurement authority, is earned through deliberate academic, on the job training, and for our enlisted, upgrade training. To prevent conflict of interest, the handling of money is segregated and falls under the control and responsibility of the comptroller, hence the need for a comptroller assigned paying agent to budget and pay vendors for contracted supplies, services, construction.

According to AF doctrine, the contracting officer reports to the deployed to commander. Once deployed, each of the various squadrons or functional activities identify their requirements then coordinate with the comptroller to obtain funding on an AF Form 9, Purchase Request, and then develop the technical requirements for the equipment or supplies they need contracted. If it is a service or construction then they develop a Statement of Work that describes the requirement along with measurable objectives or specifications that the contractor must meet. Once the contracting officer has the requiring activity's funded Form 9 along with the specifications and or Statement of Work, then depending on the dollar value and complexity, they navigate the myriad of required steps and rules outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulations to conduct market research, develop the acquisition strategy, issue the request from proposals, evaluate proposals and then award the contract.

The job is not done yet; for supplies and equipment purchases, the requiring activity is responsible for receiving the items and documenting via a DD250 form, Receiving Report, which reconciled with the vendor's invoice will be processed to pay the vendor. For service contracts a contracting officer representative is provided to monitor the vendor's performance in accordance with the contract Statement of Work and terms and conditions as well as complete a DD250, typically monthly, for services rendered. Although, not technically identified as a COR, the civil engineering activity provides a representative as well to monitor contractor performance and sign-off on DD250's. Once again all payments are made by the comptroller assigned paying agent.

So, in the advent you participate in a deployment exercise or are tasked to go on a bare base deployment, you now know the acquisition process and the importance of having the Contracting Officer and Paying Agent on the first plane to the location. To further reinforce this assertion here are a couple statistics. According to the Contracting Wartime Commission for Contracting, "Contractors represent more than half of the U.S. presence in the contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, at times employing more than a quarter-million people." For Vandenberg AFB, Contractors comprise an estimated 41% of the base population. There is no doubt that USAF Contracting Officers are a force multiplier, that's why our motto is "You got it...we bought it."