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AFSC focus: Contracting Directorate

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Air Force Sustainment Center's Contracting Directorate is responsible for billions of dollars in purchases. "We write, negotiate and administer contracts for our customers," said Bob Boyles, who is dual-hatted at Director of Contracting for Tinker AFB and for the AFSC.

By the end of March, the directorate had performed 6,900 contracting actions that obligated $1.13 billion in support of the AFSC. By April 30, the directorate had recorded $6.4 billion in contracts across the AFSC.

The Contracting Directorate supports customers that are not affiliated with the AFSC, Mr. Boyles, a member of the Senior Executive Service, pointed out. "We support anything on the Tinker patch."

To illustrate: The directorate's biggest customer at Tinker, in terms of dollars, is the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center; the AFLCMC accounts for about 78 percent of the directorate's business. The second-biggest customer, by dollars, is supply chain; it provides about 9 percent of the business. The third-biggest customers are the three air base wings -- the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker, the 75th ABW at Hill AFB, and the 78th ABW at Robins AFB. They constitute approximately 8 percent of the directorate's workload. "We do about 2 percent of our business with the three maintenance complexes," Mr. Boyles said.

The "breadth of the types of missions we support" is vast, he related. It ranges from buying grounds maintenance for installations, to buying repairs for components that support depot operations and retail supply activities around the world. "We also are responsible for all Army aviation maintenance in the Middle East area of responsibility, including Afghanistan," via the Contract Field Teams contract administered by Tinker personnel.

All three AFSC installations have contracting activities that execute locally. Additionally, each of the local Senior Executive Service members carries a dual role, to focus horizontally on one of AFSC's three mission areas (supply chain, installation support and maintenance). "I focus on running the AFSC enterprise and on enterprise installation support," Mr. Boyles said. Nancy Andrews at Hill AFB focuses on contracting support to the supply chain enterprise. Likewise, Tony Baumann at Robins AFB provides contract oversight of maintenance enterprise.

Key areas of the directorate are installation support: contracting in support of the maintenance complex, the Air Base Wing and numerous strategic and enterprise business opportunities; supply chain management; policy and pricing; and workforce development/management.

The Contracting Directorate has 700 employees across AFSC; 625 are engaged in writing, negotiating and administering contracts, and the other 75 are staff functions providing workforce development and execution of numerous day-to-day processes. Tinker has 305 of those employees; Hill, 188; and Robins, 207.

Every one of those employees has a college degree, Mr. Boyles said. The entry requirement is a bachelor's degree with at least 24 credit hours of business courses, he said.

Competition for contracting professionals can get fierce, Mr. Boyles indicated. Tinker is not the only entity with contracting officers; the Federal Aviation Administration, the Defense Logistics Agency and Space Command all have contracting officers in the Oklahoma City area, too.

To be a government contracting officer, a person has to have the proper training and certification and be familiar with myriad rules and regulations. The government acquisition process is "very cumbersome and complicated, and has many pitfalls," Mr. Boyles said. "We attempt to help our team members weave through the rules to find the best solution to meet their mission requirements."

Contracting professionals are part of the acquisition corps and require appropriate Acquisition Professional Development Program certifications required by the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act. Each of the three levels of certification (three being the highest) are achieved based on course work, experience and time. "Our training is mandated by the Defense Acquisition University," Mr. Boyles said. "They dictate the courses needed to acquire the levels of certification."

Only someone with a warrant has the authority to obligate the government to the expenditure of public funds, he said. Level 2 certification is required to obtain a warrant, but not everyone who is a Level 2 or even Level 3 is warranted, Mr. Boyles said. The number of warrants issued is "based on the needs of the organization and the mission."
Because contracting is "codifying an agreement between the contractor and our customers," the Contracting Directorate engages "daily and heavily" with ABW contract lawyers to "define the responsibilities of both parties."

Sequestration is having an effect on the Contracting Directorate, Mr. Boyles said.

September typically is the directorate's biggest month "because we're obligating end-of-the-fiscal-year dollars." This year we are performing that task with fewer dollars. At the same time, we are rescoping or canceling some existing contracts or pushing workload into the next fiscal year."

Work in the directorate is anything but boring, Mr. Boyles said. "It's always different. One day it might be a contract for floorboards for the KC-135 tanker, and the next day it's buying a service for use in Iraq or Afghanistan. We get a perspective across a wide variety of organization missions."