News | May 4, 2016

Operational contract support planners discuss progress, way ahead

By Beth Reece

Military services operating in the same area share the need for supplies like water and construction material. Operational contract support planners from the Defense Logistics Agency, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff logistics directorate met April 26-28 in Springfield, Virginia, to share best practices for operational contract support and reinforce the need for a joint-service approach.

The demand for OCS planners who can integrate contracting support for battlefield operations and humanitarian support is growing as the Department of Defense gets smaller, said Patrick Dulin, executive director of DLA Logistics Operations’ Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office.

“The feedback we’re getting from the services is, ‘We want some of that. We want a lot of it.’ Our challenge is to figure out how we’re going to help our service components, especially as they continue to take cuts,” Dulin told an audience that included DLA planners embedded with the services and combatant commands, as well as members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Contingency contracting has been widely used to support troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also fueled the success of Operation United Assistance, quickly equipping military engineers with locally procured material needed to build Ebola treatment units. Issues and concerns have risen, however, as units deploy and redeploy, and the OCS expertise gained and lessons learned fades.

“How do we ensure that all the things a unit has learned from an OCS perspective and the progress made is transferred to the next unit coming in?” Army Brig. Gen. Paul Pardew, who leads the OCS Integration Cell in U.S. Central Command, asked the group via phone.

To help, JCASO is linking its OCS planners with units preparing to deploy. One example is the 18th Airborne Corps, which is scheduled to assume command of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq this summer.

“We’ve got folks who are going to be training the soldiers and who will be with them when they get on the ground,” said Army Col. Eric Sloughfy, JCASO’s director of operations.

DLA also has two 13-member rapid deployment teams that are mission-tailored to augment logistics capabilities of geographic commands. The teams give DLA the flexibility to support the military services and other organizations during contingencies, Sloughfy said.

The group discussed institutional training for service members and civilians as one way of expanding the operational contract community. Others called for a new military occupational specialty to address shortfalls among the services.

OCS planners at DLA are currently in the process of establishing formal guidance that will instill common operational contracting processes throughout DoD.

“We’re trying to synchronize everything before we send our assets forward. The intent is to work with the customer, and clearly identify roles, responsibilities and the anticipated time of support,” Sloughfy said.

Mike Scott, deputy director for DLA Logistics Operations, told attendees their “great work” is noticed daily by the agency’s leaders.

“We understand you’re out there doing the JCASO mission, assisting the COCOMS and trying to help them mature at the same time,” he said.

Scott encouraged the group to seek input on DLA’s OCS support through frequent assessments with service leaders. He also announced that the agency is exploring the use of technology to help planners compile data and measure progress, work that is now a manual process.

Other topics included an after-action review of Operation Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016; guidance on the strategic direction of OCS by Gary Motsek, OSD’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for program support; and OCS updates from the JCASO OCS planners embedded with the combatant commands.