DOD rethinks wartime acquisition

Plans for new contingency contracting office reflect a shift toward better oversight

GAO report on Iraq contracting

Pentagon officials are planning to create a new office to manage the military’s acquisition of goods and services during war and post-conflict operations.

The contingency acquisition support office would be tightly integrated into combat operations planning at the combatant commands so officials can better anticipate war-related purchases, according to documents and sources.

The Defense Department is spending billions in Iraq and Afghanistan on logistics support services for U.S. troops and the rebuilding of civilian infrastructure. The Government Accountability Office said in a December 2006 report that DOD is not receiving “reasonable assurance that contractors are meeting contract requirements efficiently and effectively at each location where work is being performed.”

The office would consist of a garrison component in the United States focusing on the planning pieces, and acquisition experts from a deployable joint acquisition command would go to combat zones to oversee the execution of contracts, said military sources who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because top DOD leaders have not yet signed off on the proposal.

Plans for the office were part of a last-minute package for Kenneth Krieg, former undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, according to one Pentagon official. But Krieg, who announced his resignation in June, left DOD July 20, before acting on the proposal. His designated successor, John Young, is expected to review the matter soon, sources said
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As envisioned, DOD would organize the office under the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., according to military sources and DOD briefing slides obtained by Federal Computer Week. A two-star general would serve as its director.

The stateside contingency acquisition support group would coordinate with combatant commands and other government agencies to anticipate future conflicts. The group also would examine the indigenous industrial base in potential crisis regions worldwide to get an idea of what DOD could quickly buy from local companies.

In combat areas, members of the joint acquisition command would be responsible for quickly awarding and managing contracts.

According to sources, contingency acquisition support planners want to incorporate lessons learned from the Pentagon’s Task Force to Improve Business and Stability Operations in Iraq, led by Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of Defense for business transformation. Brinkley’s staff has been helping revitalize Iraq’s economy and reduce unemployment. Task force officials have reactivated several formerly state-run factories and offered employment to local residents. DOD leaders have said they believe increasing the number of jobs will keep Iraqis from taking up arms against U.S. forces.

Pentagon officials said the influence of Brinkley’s work on the support office could lead to a dramatic shift in contingency contracting toward giving indigenous companies preference over U.S. businesses whenever possible.
Rand weighs in on proposed acquisition officeA Rand Corp. report published in 2006 recommended locating a new acquisition office for stability operations at the Defense Logistics Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va. Rand researchers said DLA was the best choice for handling contingency acquisition duties because of its global presence and contracting experience. The report advised against locating the office at a combatant command, which the Defense Department has proposed doing.

“Joint Forces Command comes the closest, since it does plan and provide forces for global operations, but it does not have the global presence and international infrastructure” that would be required for a contingency acquisition support office, according to Rand’s report.
— Sebastian Sprenger

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