DOD eyes new wartime acquisition shop

Pentagon officials are making plans for a new office in charge of managing the military’s acquisition of goods and services during war and post-conflict operations, according to documents and sources.

The contingency acquisition support office (CASO) would be tightly integrated into combat operations planning at the combatant commands so officials can better anticipate war-related purchases, according to Pentagon sources familiar with the concept.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Defense Department is spending billions of dollars on logistics support services for U.S. troops and the rebuilding of civilian infrastructure. The Government Accountability Office found 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."

Pentagon officials questioned about the acquisition support office last week agreed to speak with a reporter only 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 decision package for former Undersecretary for Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Kenneth Krieg, one Pentagon official said. But Krieg, who announced his resignation in June, left the Pentagon July 20 before acting on the proposal. His designated successor, John Young, is now expected to review the matter soon, sources say.

The office would be organized under the Norfolk, Va.-based U.S. Joint Forces Command, according to military sources and DOD briefing slides obtained by Federal Computer Week. A two-star general officer would serve as its director, the slides state.

The office would consist of a garrison component in the United States and a deployable Joint Acquisition Command whose members would accompany military forces to combat zones worldwide, officials told FCW.

The stateside CASO group would coordinate with combatant commands and other government agencies to anticipate future conflicts. The group also would examine the indigenous industrial base of potential crisis regions worldwide to get an idea for what the Pentagon can quickly buy from local companies.

In theater, it would fall to the members of Joint Acquisition Command to quickly set up and manage contracts.

According to sources, CASO planners want to incorporate lessons learned from the Pentagon’s Task Force to Improve Business and Stability Operations in Iraq, led by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Business Transformation Paul Brinkley.

Brinkley’s staff is charged with helping to revitalize the country’s economy and curb unemployment. Task force officials have reactivated a number of formerly state-run factories, offering employment to locals. DOD leaders have said they believe jobs would keep Iraqis from taking up arms against U.S. forces.

Pentagon officials say the influence of Brinkley’s work on CASO could usher in a dramatic shift in contingency contracting toward giving indigenous companies preference over U.S. businesses whenever possible.

According to Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president of the Professional Services Council, the Pentagon would be well served to establish a cadre of joint contingency acquisition professionals. But he said the organization should be located at Fort Belvoir, Va., to use the expertise of the Defense Contracting Management Agency and the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Both organizations are headquartered there. “I don’t see JFCOM as a well-known contracting activity,” Chvotkin said.

Pentagon officials said they chose JFCOM because it plays a crucial role in putting together so-called force packages of conventional combat forces for operations worldwide. CASO planners hope that process could be adjusted to include Joint Acquisition Command personnel.

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