Monday, January 04, 2016

As the Army draws down, contracting can be a force multiplier for the Army, but communication between different stakeholders needs improvement, a panel of experts said Dec. 3 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Hot Topic forum on Army contracts.

"Like it or not, our force is getting smaller, and we’re going to have to rely more and more on contracted support," said Capt. Gary Broadwell, USN, Ret, who moderated a panel titled "Contracting as a Team Sport – Role of the Requiring Activity."

Rebecca Weirick, executive director and principal assistant for contracting, Army Contracting Command – Redstone, said the Army needs to do a better job of defining requirements.

"The better we can define and discuss our requirements, the better we’ll be," she said.

"The degree of communication and collaboration between contracting personnel and the end user is getting worse, not better," said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council.

Adding, "There is more communication than a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean better communication."

Part of the problem is that training and education for the acquisition community is not updated and current, Soloway said.

For example, "There is no course at DAU [Defense Acquisition University] that teaches students how companies in the private sector mitigate, identify and manage risk," a skill that is at the core of the business relationship, he added.

Communication is key at every level of the contracting process, said Brig Gen. Kenneth Hubbard, Director, Capability and Resource Integration, J-8, United States Cyber Command.

Contracting "is definitely a team sport, but just like any other team sport, practice makes perfect," he said.

"Communication between the requiring activity, acquisition professionals, [and other stakeholders]…there can be ten people sitting around a table, and when they leave, they each have a different idea of what was discussed," Hubbard noted.

Adding, "When you provide the guidance or requirement, ask for feedback" so everyone is on the same page.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, USA, Ret., CEO and president of Vectrus, said transparency and teamwork are particularly important in an austere budgetary environment. "A requirement that doesn’t have funding is not really a requirement," he said.

"Relationships matter, because most contracting work is done informally," said Donald Tison, assistant deputy chief of staff for programs, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs.

Tison added that integrating relationships between acquisition systems, requirements systems and resource systems "makes this a team sport."

Luc Dunn