By Ens. Ashley L. Schoonmaker, United States Navy Reserve, Defense Contract Management Agency East
In these unprecedented times, adaptation is key. Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) Boston began the year with a plan to host a face-to-face tabletop operational contracting support (OCS) exercise to integrate its active duty and Reserve force, build deployment skills, and stay always ready for wartime operations. In the face of COVID-19, the command made it happen.
The virtualization of our society in response to the threat of COVID-19 has impacted industry, education, families, and the military. Across two days, 28 active duty and Reserve DCMA military – officers and enlisted from the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, Massachusetts National Guard, and Joint Staff, with contracting, engineering, and program management backgrounds conducted a unique and successful virtual table top exercise for OCS. Participants worked through a fictional war gaming exercise to plan and build the type of deliverables they will be coaching others to create while deployed.
“It is critical that we lean in and utilize all available tools at our disposal in these times. We must continue developing our deployment skillset regardless of the environment we are working in. It takes a bit more creativity and planning on the part of leadership, but we can do this," said Navy Reserve DCMA East Commanding Officer Cmdr. Justin Doster, who led the exercise.
Within the context of a fictional Joint task force mobilization to support an ally under attack from a neighboring country, the members of this exercise worked through issues such as establishing an OCS Integration Cell (OCSIC) in a foreign country, identifying and prioritizing logistics requirements and building an OCS estimate. Once requirements were identified, participants built additional contracting deliverables such as performance work statements, quality assurance plans, independent government estimates, and other typical contracting deliverables. Providing OCS is DCMA’s number one resource priority, so it is critical that deployable resources continuously train and develop these critical deployment skills. “It’s not a matter of IF we will deploy, but WHEN. Since acquisition officers tend to be sent individually to augment Joint units, we each need to practice and bring our A-game to the fight. We’re agile logisticians who expand a commander’s options for getting the things they need. And if we don’t do our job well, the mission suffers,” expressed DCMA Boston Commanding Officer Capt. Frederick M. Dini.
The exercise contained multiple periods of lecture on acquisition topics such as: OCS policy and publications, OCSICs, Joint Requirement Review Boards, and all the deliverables produced in theater in support of the OCS process. Participants then broke into smaller groups within the DoD Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) Microsoft Teams environment to discuss the scenario and prepare various OCS deliverables assigned to their team. Exercise observers and leaders were able to move from virtual breakout room to breakout room to lend advice and experience in real world situations. As the larger group reconvened, the members were able to discuss the strategies their teams developed and receive feedback real time from group leaders.
Overcoming the unfamiliarity of a virtual environment, the exercise, led by Doster, was an educational success. “This was one of the best organized exercises I’ve ever attended. It was well thought out, executed on time, and everyone participated. Even having to modify this to a telecom table top, I feel like nothing was lost. I was honestly blown away by how interesting and purposeful the exercise was,” noted Air Force Capt. Rachel Redfearn. DCMA Boston is working hard to drive active and Reserve integration, as well as provide meaningful training to further develop strategically critical deployment skills. COVID-19 has made that task more challenging, but by no means impossible. It just takes a little creativity and effort.