When I decided to pursue the path of becoming a commissioned officer, I was intrigued by the business aspects of the Supply Corps.
Upon completion of the Basic Qualification Course, I had the pleasure of selecting a forward deployed vessel based in Guam and Saipan. Through my frequent dealings with the local FISC, I discovered that it was consistently understaffed in contracting, and had difficulty finding qualified individuals to hire. My interest in the contracting field grew during my follow-on tour with the Seabees. While deployed to Afghanistan, I served as the command Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR). During this time, I submitted a package to the Navy Acquisition Contracting Officer (NACO) Internship board, with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Headquarters as my first choice.
The NAVSEA contracting indoctrination began with two weeks of “boot camp,” where training began at the conception of a new idea by the customer (Fleet), and flows through the appropriation of funds by Congress, complex negotiations with contractors, contract award, contract administration, and finally, contract close out.
Once graduated, I began the first of two, one-year rotational assignments assigned to a Procuring Contracting Officer (PCO) team as a Contract Specialist, assisting with numerous tasks. My current daily routine consists of correcting contract deficiency reports (fixing admin discrepancies) and generating contract modifications to fund research and development efforts. Recently, I was assigned as the lead contract specialist for a Sole Source (non-competitive) contract award. I will issue the contract synopsis (summary of requirement), develop and issue a request for proposal (RFP) to industry, ensure that all statutory requirements for contract award have been met, conduct cost and price analysis of contractors’ proposals to determine a fair and reasonable price, and will generate and issue the contract, with PCO approval, of course.
The day-to-day contracting work is supplemented by formal academic requirements. A NACO is required to complete Defense Acquisition University (DAU) courses, computer based and in-residence, to obtain a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level II certification within a two-year period.
Contracting occurs in a dynamic environment that requires a wealth of knowledge. Given the robust and highly technical nature of contracting and rapidly changing priorities, Supply Corps officers are optimally suited to excel in this environment. While specializing in contracting may seem contrary to the Supply Corps’ traditional broad-based approach to logistics support, there are phenomenal billet opportunities in this field that every CHOP should look into when planning their career path.
Working at NAVSEA Headquarters has allowed me to witness the impact of a major Systems Command can have on individual Sailors. My team and I in SEA 026 Undersea Systems Contract Division are responsible for the procurement of the Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (CREW) that is attached to vehicles that travel in contingency environments. I personally witnessed this system save numerous lives when I was deployed to Afghanistan. Currently, we have issued an RFP for force protection body armor and helmets for maritime security, which will hopefully save the lives of many sailors that protect our nation. Each contractor proposal received will be sent to Navy research labs for vigorous testing to make sure that each and every specification is met to ensure the safety of all Sailors.
To date, I have funded more than $7 million of goods and services, always keeping in mind my responsibility to be a good steward of the taxpayer’s money. When I return to the fleet, I’ll have a new appreciation for the systems that make up a warship because I’ll know the time and effort invested in each system to ensure that it meets the fleet’s requirements and that the best value to the taxpayer was taken into consideration.
By Lt. j.g. Justin Bennett, SC, USN
NACO Intern, Naval Sea Systems Command