Relationship building at core of acquisition success

A Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC) contracting officer took advantage of a recent temporary duty visit to conduct a source selection evaluation board at the Presidio of Monterey, California, to foster new customer relationships benefitting the command’s MICC 2025 transformation efforts.

Amber VanHoozer said that in addition to completing a successful evaluation board for the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center’s curriculum development, she wanted to seize the opportunity to meet customers she is supporting from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, as part of the realignment of workload.

ArmyA source selection evaluation board is an element of a contract’s pre-award peer review. The review includes an assessment of the pre-solicitation, solicitation and contract award documents to validate sound business practices. VanHoozer and representatives from MICC-supported activities on POM discussed various contract actions in detail including which acquisition documents required updates, outstanding documents needed by MICC-Fort Sill to process requirements, and revision of milestone dates associated with various requirements.

“The visit was very productive. Not only did I have an opportunity to meet and work with my contracting counterparts at the POM, but also I met many of the customers I will be working with in the future,” VanHoozer said. “We conducted an effective source selection evaluation board and worked through many issues on upcoming procurements. I do not believe the value of such a visit can be overstated.”

While at POM, she also met with the director of the logistics readiness center as well as the food service team to discuss upcoming procurements, establish milestones and review performance work statements. The visit with the food service team included a tour of the new dining facility under construction that is projected to open in mid-2016.

“Personally touring the facilities gives me a better understanding of the magnitude of work that will be included in this procurement,” she said.

Additional stops included visits with the installation’s resource management staff and staff judge advocate office to review upcoming solicitations. Self-described as a “hands-on” contracting officer, VanHoozer said she enjoys getting to know and helping to educate customers on contract requirements.

“I feel it is extremely important to get out from behind the desk and visit the areas where contract work is being performed,” she said. “This gives contracting a new meaning, it actually brings a contract to life for the contracting officer and contract specialist working the requirements.”

She said the response from customers has been equally constructive and allows for the reciprocal benefit of better understanding the mission of supported activities.

“This trip provided a valuable opportunity to meet our customers face to face and foster the important working relationships that support future success. Although the contracting process follows a number of standardized steps, understanding the functions and missions supported by each contract adds to the complexity of the task,” the Lawton, Oklahoma, native said.

Kay McKinzie, director of MICC-Fort Sill, agrees that face-to-face interaction enhances those working relationships, adding that virtual communications tools can still create a physical distance that separates people and impacts the relationships.

“Whether the customer is asking for help from us or we are asking for support from the customer, familiarity with one another enhances the exchange,” the director said.

Following her TDY, VanHoozer accepted a position as division chief at MICC-Fort Sill that will encompass support of a variety of contracts for customers she just previously met at the Presidio of Monterey.

McKinzie said the MICC 2025 plan has already been implemented in terms of the contracting office’s support of POM contracting actions greater than $150,000. She added that to ensure the success of MICC 2025, VanHoozer and the rest of the contracting team at Fort Sill are focusing on establishing working relationships that are benefitting both MICC-Fort Sill and the customer.

“Developing working relationships with the customers we support is critical to the success of our mission. Most customers really look for support locally and are not happy when an off-site office assumes that support,” McKinzie said. “That unhappiness is the direct result of the lack of relationships they typically experience when the support is off-site. Whether it be in your hometown or office, the more personal relationships result in quicker support and a willingness to ‘help a friend.'”

VanHoozer, a 2001 graduation from Cameron University with a Bachelor of Business Administration, began her civil service career in 1998. She has served as a contracting officer for more than six years and is Level III certified in contracting, which is compliant with the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act to execute contracts on behalf of the government. Prior to joining the MICC, she served in a variety of positions with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in which she developed an understanding of the payment process as it relates to acquisitions.


Temporary ‘bridge contracts’ risk overpayments

Temporary extensions of contracts without competitive bids, a common practice at many large agencies, may waste money and misallocate staff time if the government doesn’t come up with a precise definition for the process, a watchdog found.

GAO-GovernmentAccountabilityOffice-SealSo-called “bridge contracts” are not defined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the Government Accountability Office noted in a report released October 15, 2015. It characterized such awards as the extension of an existing sole-source contract to an incumbent contractor to ensure there is no gap in services.

In a review of 73 such contracts at the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Justice, auditors found “limited or no insight into their use of bridge contracts, as bridge contracts were not defined or addressed in department-level guidance.” The exceptions GAO found are two DOD components, the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency, which “have instituted definitions, policies, and procedures to manage and track their use.”

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President vetoes Defense authorization bill

President Obama exercised his veto power Thursday (Oct. 22, 2015) for just the fifth time in his presidency, rejecting a defense authorization bill because of the way it would sidestep budget limitations for the military and because it would restrict the transfer of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.

The White House said that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would tap an overseas contingency operations account designed for emergencies and war costs and use it as a “slush fund” to avoid budget restrictions. Those restrictions — known as sequestration — would impose offsetting across-the-board cuts if spending passed certain levels.

“The president believes that the men and women who serve in our armed forces deserve adequate and responsible funding, not through a gimmick or not through a slush fund but one that would — could withstand scrutiny,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

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Boeing pays $18 million to settle allegations of improperly charging labor costs

The Boeing Company has paid the United States $18 million to settle allegations that the company submitted false claims for labor charges on maintenance contracts with the U.S. Air Force for the C-17 Globemaster aircraft, the Justice Department has announced. 

Justice Dept. sealThe government alleged that Boeing improperly charged labor costs under contracts with the Air Force for the maintenance and repair of C-17 Globemaster aircraft at Boeing’s Long Beach Depot Center in Long Beach, California.  The C-17 Globemaster aircraft, which is both manufactured and maintained by Boeing, is one of the military’s major systems for transporting troops and cargo throughout the world.  The government alleged that the company knowingly charged the United States for time its mechanics spent on extended breaks and lunch hours, and not on maintenance and repair work properly chargeable to the contracts.

“Defense contractors are required to obey the rules when billing for work performed on government contracts,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates that the Justice Department will ensure that government contractors meet their obligations and charge the government appropriately.”

Air Force SealThe allegations resolved by the settlement announced on October 14, 2015 were originally brought by former Boeing employee James Thomas Webb under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.  The Act permits private individuals to sue on behalf of the government those who falsely claim federal funds, and to share in the recovery.  Mr. Webb’s share of the settlement has not yet been determined.

The case was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency.

The False Claims Act lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Webb v. The Boeing Company, CV13-000694 (C.D. Cal.).  The claims resolved by this civil settlement are allegations only as there has been no determination of liability.

Boeing, an aerospace and defense industry giant, is headquartered in Chicago.


New Pentagon equipment is no longer pushing the envelope

Acquisition chief Frank Kendall says the cost of the Defense Department’s major projects are falling, but the arms being purchased are less technologically advanced.

Performance of the Defense Acquisition System - 2015 ReportFor the past six years, a newly cost-conscious Pentagon has aimed to buy arms that are less complex and use more existing or commercial technology. And it’s worked. The cost of major projects is dropping, says Frank Kendall, the defense undersecretary for acquisition. And he has the data to prove it.

But the bad news, Kendall says in a new 210-page report, is that Pentagon arms buyers have become so risk-adverse that America’s cutting-edge weapons aren’t quite so cutting-edge. And that’s allowing China and Russia to catch up.

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Read Kendall’s message on the Defense Acquisition University’s website at:

Read Kendall’s full report at: