New contingency contracting officers readying for possible deployment

A new group of contingency contracting officers is preparing to be among the first to deploy and provide expeditionary contracting support during the initial stages of future disaster and contingency operations.

The Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office, part of Defense Logistics Agency Logistics Operations, created the cadre of 24 contracting officers after seeking volunteers from the agency’s contracting community early this year.

“This is a group of qualified, talented contracting officers who are dedicated to deploy anywhere in the world, whenever they’re needed,” said Charmaine Camper, director of JCASO’s Expeditionary Contracting Office.

Members of the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office, part of Defense Logistics Agency Logistics Operations, pose for a photo before kicking off weeklong training for 24 new contingency contracting officers.
Members of the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office, part of Defense Logistics Agency Logistics Operations, pose for a photo before kicking off weeklong training for 24 new contingency contracting officers.

Members received initial training in July and August on three core pillars: readiness, academics, and operational and battlefield preparation. The training plan incorporated lessons learned by expeditionary contracting officers Michaella Olson and Craig Hill while they were supporting Operation United Assistance in Africa, as well as JCASO members who deployed in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Readiness instruction covered administrative details such as passports, family care plans, life insurance, vaccines and financial plans.

“Even those who had deployment experience commented that this part of the training was something they’d never received before. These aren’t things that you can learn from a book; they’re the result of several people sharing their experiences, and every experience is going to be different,” Camper said.

What to pack was another key readiness topic. Olson described her first deployment as a contracting officer. She was a civilian working for the Navy, heading to Tonga for Pacific Partnership 2013 with five overstuffed suitcases.

“After I had to lug all five of those suitcases up three or four flights of stairs and through the airport during 36 hours’ worth of travel, I never did that again,” Olson said. She recommended carrying one bag and a backpack.

Under academics, students became familiar with the Defense Contingency Contracting Handbook, which covers subjects like contingency funding, contract oversight and foreign acquisition. Other topics included emergency acquisitions, local procurement and common-user logistics.

Though it’s fairly easy to predict what customers will need during the early phases of an operation, contracting officials often have to help fine tune those requirements, Hill said. While he was in Africa, for example, engineers issued an urgent request for nails to build Ebola treatment units because they weren’t strong enough to penetrate the hard wood they were working with.

“They knew they needed different nails, but they didn’t know how many or what size, so I had to work through those details with them,” he said. “Sometimes, when you get a customer’s requirement, you realize they haven’t thought it all the way through and you have to ask questions to get it right.”

Instruction on operational and battlefield preparation highlighted the importance of knowing who the key players are and their respective roles. Understanding J-codes and their primary functions is crucial, Camper said, as well as being aware of the various units and government agencies that are contributing to the operation.

“It’s not just a matter of being good at contracting. A large part of our work involves coordinating and synchronizing with others, so you have to know who’s who, what they bring to the table and how you tie into mission,” she said.

Being aware of cultural differences is also important, Olson added, especially when dealing with local contractors whose help is vital and can dramatically impact the mission. She and Hill advised contracting officers to reach out to U.S. State Department officials as early as possible to collect basic information such as general business rules, and do’s and don’ts, which vary from country to country.

“Embassy officials can usually do electronic fund transfers in order to pay a bill. We can actually leverage that support to do a local contract and pay locally,” Hill said. “That’s a powerful tool.”

Those who deploy in support of contingency operations or disasters must change their mindset to be successful, Camper added. In their regular jobs, DLA’s contracting officers work in garrison environments with desks, phones and other necessary tools.

“When you deploy, you’re probably going to be sleeping and working in a tent. Or you could be working in a room without a desk, with just your laptop and whatever phone we give you,” Camper told the group.

Denise Vogelei, a contracting officer for DLA Troop Support who is also a member of the new contingency contracting officer cadre, said parts of the training were surprising.

“I don’t think I understood the full depth of what I was getting myself into when I volunteered. The training not only prepared me to deploy to an austere environment, but to react quickly to mission requirements and be confident enough in my contracting skills to ensure the warfighters have what they need to succeed,” she said.

The training also broadened Vogelei’s view of what it takes to support disasters and contingencies. During Operation United Assistance, she and her team in Philadelphia conducted market research and expedited contracts for gloves.

“It was very rewarding for me to go to DLA Headquarters and meet the people we were supporting downrange. Now I can see the full circle and know that what we do here at Troop Support makes a big difference on the ground,” she said.

Contingency contracting officers have played a major role in the early stages of disaster support and contingency operations for decades. DLA has established this new capability to fill a gap in expeditionary and contingency contracting support, Camper said.

“During military operations, there’s a gap in between the phases of operation where you need people right away to start standing things up. That’s where DLA contingency contracting officers add value. We can get things started using working capital funds and then turn it over to the services,” she added.

The training will be followed by additional instruction and a field training exercise later this year.


Click here for information on Georgia Tech’s course entitled Contracting Officer Representative and the Contingency Contracting Environment.

Agency’s discussions only with awardee were improper, says GAO

When a procurement agency opens discussions with one offeror, it must open discussions with all offerors within the competitive range.

GAO-GovernmentAccountabilityOffice-SealIn a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that a procuring agency conducted improper discussions when it limited discussions to only one offeror.

The GAO’s decision in International Waste Industries, B-411338 (July 7, 2015) involved a solicitation for the delivery of a solid waste incinerator to Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickham. The solicitation notified offerors that the government planned to procure the incinerator using simplified acquisition procedures.  Award was to be made to the lowest priced, technically acceptable offeror.

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Rotational training: A road to broader experience

Most contracting managers (indeed most professionals) will point to past experiences that prepared them for current and future challenges.

Common sense indicates that exposure to diverse work environments experiences, tasks, managers, strategies, or knowledge provides a deeper background and preparation for subsequent broader career complexities.

Value of Rotational TrainingRotational programs are a way to obtain broader experience, in preparation for future higher management roles down the road. Once completed, such programs can better ensure participants can fulfill their current responsibilities, having received a stronger understanding of other perspectives and functions.

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Learn about how government contracts are formed during week of August 31

What is the Government’s simplified acquisition process?    What is meant by the term sealed bid?  Did you know that the Government can enter into contracts on the basis of both competitive and noncompetitive negotiated arrangements?  How does the Government deal with required and preferred sources of supplies and services?  What must be done to ensure competition?  What are the policies for policies and procedures for pricing negotiated contracts and contract modifications?  What are the policies and procedures for filing bid protests?

Answers to these questions — including an explanation of the entire process federal agencies follow to formulate a contract — will be presented by Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy during a one-week course, beginning August 31, 2015.   The course is entitled CON 090-3: Contract Formation in the FAR.

FARThe Contract Formation course is designed for contracting professionals, but is open to anyone who is interested in gaining insights into the federal acquisition process.  Typically, both federal contracting officers and contractors take this course.  This course provides vital instruction for Government contracting personnel as well as important insights for contractors.

By attending CON 090-3, students learn how to locate, interpret, and apply the acquisition regulations applicable to federal agencies.  CON 090-3 is the third of four modules from CON 090 – Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Fundamentals.  The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech offers CON 090 in four, one-week classes.  Each module stands on its own, allowing students multiple opportunities throughout the year to complete the entire CON 090 course without the challenge of being away from work or home for an entire month.

The course consists of limited lecture, and is heavily exercise-based.  Students should be prepared to dedicate about an hour each evening for reading.

DAU logoThe Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is an approved equivalency training provider to the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) and provides continuing education training to Acquisition and Government Contracting professionals as well as to business professionals working for government contractors or pursuing opportunities in the federal contracting arena.

For more information on this course and to register, please visit:

Georgia Tech offers the entire CON 090 course series in world-class facilities on its campus in midtown Atlanta.  For groups of 10 or more, Georgia Tech also brings any of its government contracting courses to your workplace.

For details on any of our courses, please visit   To make arrangements for any of the courses to be taught at your place of work, email us at: or give us a call at 404-894-6109.

3 ways to make government a smarter shopper

It is time to rethink federal acquisition, particularly as we move into a new era of governing—one that is focused on delivering public service for the future. 

There is a groundswell of energy around making procurement a more efficient and outcomes-driven process.

American Flag 2Forward-looking agencies are not simply improving the acquisitions function, they are strategically aligning acquisitions with the organizational strategy, creating holistic business units focused on a highly engaged workforce, total cost of ownership and predictable outcomes.

Taking three major steps can help agencies fundamentally transform federal acquisition.

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