Reachback contracting – support to deployed Army forces from acquisition centers outside the theater – can provide a variety of advantages: fewer deployed contingency contracting officers, improved continuity of workflow, and the potential for more standardization, a panel of military and civilian officials said during the Association of the U.S. Army’s Hot Topic forum on Army contracting.
"Reachback is a very effective tool," Brig. Gen. Michael Hoskin, commanding general, U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command, said at the Dec. 3 event.
Hoskin added, "In Afghanistan and Iraq today, we have about 30,000 contractors supporting a little less than 10,000 U.S. and NATO forces," and contingency contracting officers throughout Iraq and Afghanistan each have a small reachback cell.
Last year, he said, 64 percent of U.S. deaths that happened in Afghanistan were contractors.
"The contracting workforce is part of the Total Force," Hoskin emphasized.
Lt. Gen. Wendy Masiello, director, Defense Contract Management Agency, said the U.S. "rushed into Iraq and Afghanistan relying on existing contracts," and the military needs to start thinking about what contracting support may be needed for future conflicts.
"The key is planning, and we have an opportunity now to do that better," she said.
One future goal is a single contract-writing system "for everything – secure, disconnected, weapons, spare parts" or anything else across the entire Army, said Harry Hallock, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement.
"If you have a single system that you’re used to when you enter the battlefield, you don’t have to do something different or new … train as you fight, fight as you train," Hallock said.