Academic Year 2011-12
TODAY’S CRISIS IN CONTRACTING
By Debra Abbruzzese
Contracting has long been an integral part of the overall acquisition process. Today, there is a critical shortage of contracting GS-1102s within the Department of Defense (DoD), in particular within the Army Contracting Command (ACC), which is responsible for the majority of contracting for the Department of the Army. There are many factors for this shortage. However, the result is the same: There is a lack of a qualified GS-1102 workforce with the skills, capabilities, and training necessary to handle the complexities of today’s ACC contracting workload.
This shortage in qualified, experienced GS-1102s in contracting is serious and has an impact on the other functions within the acquisition process. This crisis’ causes have been discussed throughout acquisition literature. While there may be many causes for this crisis and many possible solutions that may help, no one solution could resolve this crisis in its entirety. This study examines this one issue in the crisis in contracting—the lack of qualified GS-1102 personnel.
My primary research question was focused on the following: Can a portion of the work typically done during a normal day by a GS-1102 be done by a GS-1105 (Purchasing) or GS-1106 (Procurement Technician)? A secondary, supporting question is: Will the transfer of work from a GS-1102 to a GS-1105 or a GS-1106 help ease the contracting crisis?
I surveyed the ACC’s GS-1102, GS-1101, GS-1105, and GS-1106 population to include all the centers within the ACC, the Mission Installation Contracting Command (MICC), and the Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC). This population included all grade levels from GS-05s through GS-14s. The survey included questions designed to determine the type of work done in a typical day.
This study looked at the typical daily tasks for an 1102 within the ACC. It examined the feasibility of using other series, GS-1105 (Purchasing) and GS-1106 (Procurement Technician), as possible alternatives to the shortage of GS-1102s within the ACC. It considered whether GS-1105s and GS-1106s can be used, and the possible effect on organizational structure. More..
TEST AND EVALUATION
By Ira J. (Jim) Hines II
Our current fiscal environment requires serious consideration of new test and evaluation strategies that provide an accurate assessment of program risks. With this is in mind, is it truly possible to transition from the conventional test and evaluation process to a risk-based model?
Risk, by definition, is a measure of future uncertainties in achieving program performance goals and objectives within defined cost, schedule, and performance constraints. Risk can be associated with all aspects of a program, such as technology maturity, supplier capability, design maturation, and demonstrated performance against planned performance. Traditionally, this assessment of risk and the development of mitigation strategies have most often resided exclusively within the program manager’s domain.
The purpose of this Strategic Research Paper is to determine the viability of a risk-based approach to test and evaluation. Research is based on a limited population of the total materiel acquisition community and represents an Alpha test of the stated issue. If proved viable with follow-on research, the risk-based approach would provide senior decision-makers within the Department of the Army with an independent perspective of risks based on test data, synthetic modeling data, and other relevant analysis. The target population for this research effort will be the Army Test and Evaluation Command and Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, both located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. The methods that will be used to support this research effort will be a quantitative analysis based on a 20-question survey. More..
BETTER BUYING POWER:AN ARMY PROGRAM MANAGER’S PERSPECTIVE
By Patrick J. Layden
On May 8, 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates gave a speech at the Eisenhower Library, stating that we must abandon inefficient practices accumulated in a period of budget growth and learn to manage defense dollars in a manner that is “respectful of the American taxpayer at a time of economic and fiscal distress” (Gates, 2010). Dr. Ashton Carter, serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, followed up Mr. Gates’ speech with a memorandum and guidance on Better Buying Power (BBP): Mandate for Restoring Affordability and Productivity in Defense Spending. The BBP places requirements on the acquisition milestones of Department of Defense programs in order to obtain Acquisition Decision Memorandum approval. Dr. Carter released the BBP mandate on June 28, 2010, and the guidance in the form of a roadmap, on September 14, 2010. The roadmap outlines five focus areas from Dr. Carter’s efficiencies initiative that are expected to reduce the cost of Department of Defense acquisition programs.
The value and success of the BBP effort depends on the inherent cost-savings potential of the initiatives and how effectively they are implemented on acquisition programs. This research paper is focused on contributing to the success of BBP by providing feedback that can be used to improve both the initiatives and their implementation. The study investigates the Army program managers’ perspective on BBP, by collecting information regarding their familiarity with the BBP effort, and their perception regarding the following: its impact on their programs; the potential for cost savings; and the value of additional BBP initiatives guidance, training, and tools. More..
ACQUISITION PROGRAM RISK MANAGEMENT: DOES THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE RISK MANAGEMENT PRACTICES GUIDE PROVIDE AN EFFECTIVE RISK TOOL FOR PROGRAM MANAGERS IN TODAY’S ACQUISITION ENVIRONMENT?
By Robert C. Lyons
Acquisition program risk management is a required work activity throughout an acquisition programs life cycle. A program manager (PM), in today’s acquisition environment, must continually assess program risk to manage program uncertainty. Risk management assists PMs in defining if they can meet cost (can the product or service be delivered with available funding resources), schedule (can the product or service be delivered in time), and performance requirements (whether the product or service will be able to meet mission-essential requirements). Tools for effective program risk management are widely available in the United States commercial sector. The Department of Defense (DoD) has developed and published a Risk Management Guide for DoD Acquisition (hereafter referred to as the Guide). The Guide provides a tool for PMs to assess risk and present findings to senior-level leaders in the DoD acquisition community.
The purpose of this research is to address the following questions:
• Does the Guide provide an effective tool in managing program risk in today’s acquisition environment?
• Can the Guide be improved?
The Strategy Research Project consists of the review of the Guide and risk management documentation and articles from multiple Internet sources. The Guide is presented and reviewed to provide the reader of this report with a general understanding of DoD risk management practices. Risk management documentation and articles provide an understanding of the effectiveness and usefulness of risk management practices.
This study also includes a survey to understand risk management practices currently in use by the DoD acquisition community. The survey is aligned to gather data on knowledge and relevance of the Guide, respondent demographics, and other risk management tools now used by the acquisition community.
DoD acquisition career field employees are the target population for this study. The study is cross-sectional and aimed at collecting and analyzing data one time for this population. The results and conclusions of this study are: The study identified the Guide provides a basic tool for risk management, and the Guide is accepted by government acquisition personnel. The Guide does not provide an effective tool for managing the wide variety of projects ongoing in the DoD acquisition environment. Many recommended improvements to the Guide were identified through this research. More..
LIFE CYCLE SUSTAINMENT OF COMMERCIAL OFF-THE-SHELF (COTS) SUPPORT EQUIPMENT
By Thomas E. Mikolinis Sr.
In supporting the warfighter, equipment for current and future missions has been procured through commercial sources to support construction, material handling, firefighting, and many other tasks. The equipment is categorized as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) or a nondevelopmental item (NDI) with commercial market-proven components. This equipment is procured through programs of record, rapid initiatives (RI), operational needs statements (ONS) and Rapid Equipping the Force (REF) 10-liner documentation, or local leases/purchases to support a unit’s assigned mission.
In many procurements, the item/system is modified, such as finishing it with chemical agent resistant coating (CARC), modifying the electrical system to accept a 24-volt North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) slave receptacle and infrared or black-out drive capabilities, providing a ballistic crew or operators compartment, adding weapons or military equipment racks, lift and tie-down points, fuel system modification to support jet propellant (JP)-8 fuel, and other minor mission-related enhancements.
This research product addresses the need for COTS/NDI systems to have a complete System Support Package (SSP) that includes organic maintenance support throughout the systems’ life cycles. Organic maintenance support is the ability of the operating unit to upkeep and repair the system using internal support and resources.
Using the data collected from two recently fielded Army engineer systems, this study attempted to answer the question “Is organic maintenance support required for full life cycle sustainment of COTS/NDI systems?”
The research is centered on collecting data from operators, maintainers, and leaders from the field who have experience with either the Backhoe Loader (BHL) or High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE). Survey solicitations were sent to 242 Army engineer unit identification codes (UICs—UICs identify detachments, platoons, or companies) who received one or more of the 433 BHL or 269 HMEE systems issued. Both systems were fielded using contractor logistical support while the organic maintenance support plan could be designed and developed. Data collected address how these two systems were maintained in contrast to other systems in the unit and if there were any significant issues while executing unit missions in the area of logistical support.
This research paper does not address COTS/NDI equipment used in communications, automation support, chemical or biological detection, or software acquisition. More..
KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER LOSS IN A BASE REALIGNMENT AND CLOSURE (BRAC) ENVIRONMENT: A POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE ACQUISITION PARADIGM SHIFT
By Stanley M. Niemiec
Decisions made by elected and political, appointee government leaders, military, and Department of the Army civilian managers and supervisors—whether policy or constituent driven—can affect operations of acquisition organizations significantly. Established standards and procedures of such organizations can be altered, with significant impacts on daily and long-term administrative processes and routines. It is challenging to mitigate these impacts when they include “known unknowns” (where general impact has been identified but its magnitude has not).* It is even more challenging when impacts occur that are utterly unanticipated (and originate from unknown unknowns)* and are felt universally and instantaneously at every level of the acquisition process. Regardless of intent, these decisions can be a potent force for a positive or negative paradigm shift within an acquisition organization. Over the past 30-plus years, management verdicts and legal mandates—including downsizing, reductions in force, and Base Realignment and Closure decisions—have dramatically altered the Army community and, more specifically, the Army Acquisition Workforce’s ability and capacity to support the warfighter customer.
This study researched the impact of the decision to relocate a large Army Acquisition Workforce from one state to another, and focused on the knowledge transfer from the original New Jersey-based workforce circa 2005 to the current Maryland-based workforce post-2011. Both professional and personal life-changing transitional impacts were considered. The study is based on a single acquisition domain (Army Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), but its implications may be applied by leaders universally to other acquisition organizations considering or being considered for major relocations. Specifically, the study researched the knowledge transfer process that occurred in the Base Realignment and Closure 2005-2011 relocation of the Army Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance workforce, the resultant demographic changes imposed on it through loss of significant numbers of experienced personnel and the infusion of new talent, ranging from young graduates fresh out of college with no professional experience through former military personnel with no electronics training and/or acquisition background. The study also touched on the impact of generational mindset shifts due to the loss of a large percentage of more mature/seasoned workers and the equivalent gain presented by a much younger workforce. It included differences in expectations, social dynamics, and work ethic—and how these factors appear to impact the organization’s ability to support its customer. It also addressed interactions with Army Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance’s sister organizations and the Army community. More..
ARMY CONTRACT SPECIALISTS’ LACK OF DESIRE TO BECOME CONTRACTING OFFICERS
By Undra Robinson
The purpose of this research is to explore if and why acquisition personnel serving as contract specialists express antipathy toward becoming warranted contracting officers. If the research finds that antipathy exists, the researcher desires to gain an understanding of what it will take to motivate current and future Army contract specialists to become contracting officers and thus possibly future leaders in the Army’s Acquisition Workforce.
It is a well-known perception that there is a shortage of contracting officers in the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps (Senators Collins, McCaskill and Bennett introduced two bills to bolster the Federal Acquisition Workforce, see Anderson, 2009; the Army needs more contracting staff, said Brigadier General Lee Price, see Walker, 2011). This perception has had an injurious impact on numerous Commands and agencies, in terms of providing timely goods and services. These shortages are in part due to the aging workforce where numerous contracting personnel are retiring and the reduction in numbers of contracting personnel in the 1990s from the drawdown of the cold war. Also affecting this is competition with our industry partners for personnel with identical skill sets to provide support to the Services.
The results of this research will show a variety of data, since there are currently four generational groups of contract specialists in the workforce. More..
IMPROVING U.S. ARMY ANALYSIS OF ALTERNATIVES TO BETTER ADDRESS THE WEAPON SYSTEMS ACQUISITION REFORM ACT OF 2009
By Thomas J. Stadterman
The U.S. Congress passed Public Law 111-23 (Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act (WSARA) of 2009), which significantly changed the way the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) procures weapon systems. The WSARA of 2009 increases the role of the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) in the Services’ Analyses of Alternatives (AoAs) through the creation of the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE). Before Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) Milestone (MS) Decisions, AoAs are performed to determine if an acquisition program is warranted to start or to continue to the next acquisition phase. The U.S. Army has performed several AoAs for Acquisition Category (ACAT) I programs since the passing of the WSARA of 2009. These AoAs have had varying degrees of success in meeting the expectations of OSD CAPE.
This report outlines the research to identify potential ways to improve U.S. Army AoAs to better meet the requirements of the WSARA of 2009 and the expectations of OSD CAPE. Key senior-level Department of the Army and OSD CAPE personnel associated with recently conducted ACAT I AoAs were interviewed, and their responses are presented in this report. Recommendations are provided on key aspects of U.S. Army AoAs to include the following: the major issues associated with AoAs under the WSARA of 2009, the relationship between OSD CAPE and the Army, the timing of conducting AoAs and other analyses, and the role of alternatives in AoAs. Special consideration was given to addressing the role of foreign nondevelopmental items in AoAs and the tradeoffs among cost, schedule, and performance. More..