Letter: Contracting officers can face conflict of interests

Regarding, "Kelman: The not-so-obvious lesson," a reader writes: This is a great article in that it confronts the issue from an informed perspective. There is absolutely no question that
contracting officers should have the latitude to be business advisers.

However, I believe there is more to this issue than is immediately apparent. First, it is not uncommon, that contracting officers (KOs) are unduly influenced by those who stand to benefit politically by recommending one course of action (COA) over another (especially in the environment in which this incident took place). Typically, this occurs because the perspective of person who is unduly influencing is without the prior experience of the KO who is better able to contemplate the end-state of the action being recommended. 

Part of this issue would go away if contracting officers were not subjected to the obvious conflict
of interest that occurs when rated by those in a position to influence.
Still, despite that such situations exist, it is the responsibility of the KO to advise, with the help of legal personnel, those who influence the consequences of such action. The reason, this does not happen as frequently as it should is because Army KOs, both military and
civilian, are not adequately trained and in very short supply.

Moreover, specific to this situation, the Program Executive Office for ammunition has continued to manage ammunition as a commodity rather than a program, as was the intent of their birth several years ago.

Training is not only a function of course work.  All KOs take the required Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act contracting course load but when it comes to rudimentary business
skills, even at the highest levels, the Army is broke. Additionally, individual competence is undermined by acquisition certification criteria which fail to adequately recognize aptitude and ability and, at the same time, enable substandard capability. 


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