DOD Pursues Improvement in Operational Contractor Management
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 12, 2012 Efforts to improve management of civilian contractors performing critical mission support functions are creating a cultural shift in the way the military prepares for battle, senior Defense Department officials told the House Armed Services Committee today.
Alan F. Estevez, assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Craig C. Crenshaw, the Joint Staff’s vice director of logistics, testified along with other experts at a hearing held to examine the Defense Department’s planning and management of contractors on the battlefield.
Lessons learned in the combat theater over the last decade can optimize management and oversight of operational contract support in future operations, they said.
Estevez said that as the DOD has increasingly embraced operational contract support, he has seen a cultural shift in the way the military prepares for contingency operations.
“The lessons we have learned from recent operations are being incorporated and applied … across all echelons of the department, including the military services and the combatant commands,” he added.
Operational contract support capabilities and planning have become significant in the stand-up of joint contingencies and combatant commands, and the development and updates of policy and doctrine with an eye on increased visibility and accountability, Estevez told the House panel. Improvements in training and education in both the acquisition and nonacquisition workforce responsible for contingency contract management also are part of the program’s evolution, he added.
As an example, Estevez cited a critical lesson learned following the nuclear reactor failure that resulted from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
“[U.S.] Pacific Command established the Air Force as the lead service for contracting,” Estevez said. “This meant that all forces deploying to Japan had a clear understanding of the contracting authority and would not be competing against each other for scarce resources.”
To sustain these advances, Estevez added, DOD needs to maintain its focus, secure and solidify gains, and continue its momentum in implementing the operational contract support capability.
“To lose such capability now would be truly wasteful,” he said.
Crenshaw agreed, explaining that the Defense Department began a “deliberate effort” in 2007 to significantly improve strategic operational contract support guidance.
“I am confident that ongoing efforts will ensure that we meet the warfighter’s current and future needs while judiciously managing DOD resources and balancing risk,” Crenshaw said.
The heart of the plan, the general said, involves closer links of contracts and contractors to operational effects to more rapidly and decisively achieve the joint force commander’s intent.
“In the past decade, we have recognized that contractors leverage important support to our troops while advancing operation objectives,” he said.