Commentary by Lt. Col. Ruth Spencer
50th Contracting Squadron
Did you know that 65 percent of personnel on Schriever AFB are contractors? I’ll bet if you look around in your organization you’ll see contractors providing support in many areas such as communication, security, civil engineering, operations and maintenance of mission systems, force support and logistics. We get our office supplies, furniture, computers, and vehicles from contractors. Our buildings, roads and mission systems were built by contractors. Obviously, the acquisition of services and supplies is crucial to mission accomplishment.
What do you do when you need to purchase mission-essential supplies or services for your unit? You turn to the local contracting office. Although the contracting office is most familiar with the acquisition process, we rely heavily on you, the customer, for your technical expertise. Additionally, if you understand the acquisition process from beginning to end the results are exponentially more successful.
The acquisition planning phase is the first and most important step toward obtaining the right services and supplies for your mission. First of all, you need to know your requirements and accurately write a performance-based statement of work, often called a performance work statement, so that a contractor can perform the work required.
Sometimes we receive a PWS that calls for the luxury model when our need and budget is for the basic model, which slows the process down. The proposals from the contractor will come back much more extensive and expensive than we need. The PWS has to be reworked and the whole process begins again.
Another part of the acquisition process is conducting meaningful market research. Contracting officers and specialists can perform basic market research for needed supplies or services; however, only technical experts can best determine if your requirement can be filled by current technology. This market research serves as the foundation of acquisition strategy and the overall conduct of the acquisition.
Closely tied to a well written requirements document is funding. If you know your requirement, you can put together a comprehensive government cost estimate. The cost estimate can serve two purposes. One, you base your request for funding on the amount reflected on the cost estimate. The biggest mistake occurs when the cost estimate is too low. If it is too low, you may not be able to obtain more funds to award a contract. Also, when we evaluate the contractor’s proposals we rely on the cost estimate for evaluation purposes.
Your active participation is key in the proposal evaluation stage. The contracting officer needs technical evaluations that discuss contractor approach, the use of labor tools and materials and the necessity of proposed travel, to name a few crucial points. The rationale for award decisions cannot be based on only a Form 9 for a requirement and a technical evaluation that says, “looks good to me.”
And of course, in today’s financial environment, each purchase has the possibility for a protest. Your active and knowledgeable technical support with well documented market research, government cost estimate, technical evaluations and consistent follow-through is critical in reflecting sound selection to all interested contractors. Contracting has to document all research, facts, and conclusions with a contract file that demonstrates and tells the story of all steps of the acquisition process and your expertise and participation determines how successful the end product or service is toward accomplishing the mission.
50 CONS provides customer training on a regular basis. Please keep an eye out for offerings in the Sentinel or the weekly base bulletin. We teamed with 50th Comptrollers Squadron, 50th Civil Engineer Squadron and the 50th Security Forces Squadron to provide a dynamic cross-functional electronic, processed based guide. You can also find the information through the Air Force Portal on Air Force Knowledge Now, titled ‘50th CONS Customers’ Acquisition CoP.’