Navy Contracting–The Language of Fleet Business

By Lt. Stephen Hall, SC, USN, Supply Officer, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit EIGHT

I began serving as the Supply Officer at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit EIGHT (EODMU 8) in October of 2017, and in my first few months I have quickly realized how my previous assignment as a Contracting Officer at the Department of the Navy, Assistant for Administration (DON/AA), prepared me to serve in this capacity. When deciding on that first shore duty opportunity, it’s critical for junior officers to reach out to their peers and leaders to better understand the flavor of the Supply Corps’ core competencies. Doing so will provide insight as to how that future assignment will not only impact future opportunities, but also contribute to one’s level of knowledge – knowledge, that can increase one’s effectiveness at that career-critical second operational tour.

Marines assigned to Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) and members of EODMU 8 platoon 851 conduct their Final Training Exercise (FTX) as part of a Close Contact Mission Scenario at a mock-up African-style village in Rota, Spain. –photo by Lt. j. g. Seth Wartak

 

I distinctly remember the unofficial junior officer rumor mill favored Operational Logistics (OPLOG), Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Business Financial Management (BFM), yet dismissed Contracting as unexciting. For me, gaining experience as a warranted contracting officer was exciting because it taught me how to speak the language that both the Navy and industry understand – the language of business transactions. Specifically, because of my contracting experience, I can intelligently speak with contracting personnel about any Performance Work Statement, Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan (QASP), Management and Oversight Procedures for the Acquisition of Services (MOPAS), or Justification & Approval (J&A) that has originated or will originate from my command. I am confidently able to explain the status of the command’s requirements within the arduous contracting process to enable my leadership to gain full situational awareness. These abilities may sound like basic requirements of any competent department head, but the depth of understanding that comes with first-hand contracting experience cannot be replaced by studied knowledge or forwarded emails.

In this job, and in the expeditionary Navy at large, contracting skills come into play every day. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians (EOD techs) and Navy Divers (NDs) here in Rota, Spain, require the same training as those who are stateside, yet the training is often unavailable due to a lack of facilities or services, and travelling stateside is expensive and time consuming. Contracted services are often the solution. In just four months’ time, as the N41 Department Head at EODMU 8, I have had the opportunity to write Performance Work Statements for Helicopter Underwater Egress Training, Human Performance Initiative Services (Athletic Training/Physical Therapy), Skydiving Services, and Close Contact Mission Scenario Training. As each of these contracts is awarded, I will be become the Contracting Officer’s Representative or Technical Point of Contact – another area of contracting I gained significant familiarly with while at DON/AA. As the Supply Officer, command leadership relies on me to know how best to acquire these services. Without my prior contracting experience at DON/AA in Washington D.C., the learning curve would have been very steep, inhibiting my ability to effectively convey EODMU 8’s requirements to the contracting offices that serve my command.

Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Albert Richard (left) and 2nd Class Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Matthew Jordan (right) of EODMU 8, Crisis Response Force Platoon 851, conduct their Final Training Exercise (FTX) as part of a Close Contact Mission Scenario at a mock-up African-style village in Rota, Spain. –photo by Lt. j. g. Seth Wartak

 

My story isn’t unique, but is just one example of how gaining acquisition skills as early as possible in one’s career is extraordinarily beneficial. I believe that contracting is the foundation for every other Supply Corps core competency. Understanding the connection between industry and government is absolutely critical, and each other core competency finds its roots in contracting. The ability to move people and material throughout a theater (operational logistics) requires an in-depth contract support network, whether for port services, line haul, or fuel. Contracting is essentially a prerequisite to SCM – officers must be able to effectively explain the needs of the fleet in the proper business language.

When shopping around for your first (or second) shore duty, consider taking a dive into the language of business, the foundation upon which supply chain management relies. I believe the knowledge and experience one can gain from selecting a contracting billet early will provide him or her with an immediate return on investment, and will lay a solid foundation from which to build knowledge through other Supply Corps core competencies.

Spring 2018