Army contracting leverages defense industry to support warfighters
"The Army has depended on contractors for many years," said Maj. Gen. Theodore Harrison, director, operations, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. "Our defense industry, in and of itself, has really been a potent weapon."
Harrison spoke in December at an Association of the U.S. Army Hot Topic forum on Army contracting.
He described contracting as "the mechanism we use to leverage the defense industry to support our warfighters," and stressed the importance of communication between all stakeholders involved in the process: contracting officers, the requiring activity, industry representatives, and policy makers.
Contracting officers function as key business advisers and decision makers, Harrison said, and must balance acquisition strategy, contractor pricing, and procurement policy.
The requiring activity is "the most important part of the whole process," he said, because they control and develop the requirement. But, "The requiring activity needs to be involved in the whole process," from development to contract acceptance.
"Communication between industry and the contract officer is also critical," he said.
"First and foremost, industry needs to understand the government’s requirement" and how a proposal will be evaluated.
The contracting officer needs to understand how industry perceives risk, and how best to incentivize performance.
Harrison said the current U.S. procurement policy framework is "a cumbersome process and needs to be revamped, but there are reasons why it is in place." It promotes competition, encourages innovation, and enables small business participation, he said.
However, Congress tends to constantly put new regulations in place without removing any old ones, unnecessarily complicating the process.
Harrison said the first Army aircraft contract was two pages long, while the current Apache helicopter contract "would fill three file cabinets."
In concluding the one-day forum, Harrison said, "Although AUSA supports America’s Army in a myriad of ways, one of its key focus areas has been to provide an informational forum for Army leaders and key stakeholders, and I’m grateful that AUSA has again provided this opportunity."