By Gary Trimble, Supervisory Contract Specialist, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Sigonella
Late one evening, a contracting officer (KO) received an urgent call from a husbanding contracting officer representative (COR). A ship transiting the area of operation had a crew member who sustained a life threatening injury and needed immediate medical attention. Over the next half hour, the COR and KO worked with the husbanding service provider (HSP) and the host nation to secure a location to pick up the crew member, arrange the transportation from the ship to the shore, and have the necessary emergency medical personnel standing by after arrival. The plans included logistical considerations, resource availability, price negotiations related to an existing husbanding task order, and authorization to proceed with the changes. The requirement was executed within a few hours and the Sailor was delivered to a local hospital.
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USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) pulled into Klaipėda, Lithuania as part of Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 18. Lt. Josh Coffman and COR John Dubois were on-scene to coordinate the last tactical mile of logistics for BALTOPS warships. The contracting, log chain, and reachback services for this port visit came at a distance of approximately 1300 miles, about the same distance as a Sailor graduating from Great Lakes would travel to Naval Air Station Key West. –photo by Lt. Josh Coffman
While this type of emergency situation is rare, a COR and KO providing support after normal business hours for visiting ships across the NAVSUP Enterprise of Fleet Logistics Centers (FLCs) has become the norm.
Prior to 2015, supply officers (SUPPOs) on ships had the authority to work directly with the HSP to make changes to requirements regardless of the time of day or the circumstance. In 2015, however, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy directed NAVSUP to remove contracting authority; specifically, the role of ordering officer and the authority to financially obligate the U.S. government to the HSPs for port visit services and supplies, and transferred all authority for HSP procurements above the micro-purchase threshold to the FLCs. This change in responsibility, as well as the implementation of a multiple award contract (MAC) strategy, has increased the demand for 24/7 365-day FLC support–specifically contracting.
In response to these changes, NAVSUP FLC Sigonella developed and implemented a duty KO program in which all civilian and active duty military personnel assigned to the HSP team participate on a rotating duty schedule throughout the year. The program provides the necessary KO coverage outside of normal business hours to ensure ships are not limited or negatively impacted due to changes in mission requirements or operational needs. Duty KOs provide authorization for a range of services and supplies from increases or decreases to vehicle quantities, volumetric services, forklifts and cranes, to changes in schedules, emergent port visits and emergency services for crew members. The duty KO concept and recent accomplishments have proven to be a mission enabler and invaluable asset to the NAVSUP FLC Sigonella and NAVSUP HSP program, and contributed to the ongoing success and evolution of making the MAC process work.
A majority of the personnel who participate as duty KOs have no prior experience working in a high tempo and time sensitive operational environment. This is their first exposure to having a direct impact on current Navy operations. The demands of the responsibilities are not for everyone as the multi-priority environment can be a stressful experience. The duty KO approaches each assignment with limited knowledge of the extent of changes required for many of the ship’s needs. One weekend may involve a few phone calls for minor issues, while other weekends may consist of increased days of service, emergent port visits, and schedule changes.
Each request for change requires coordination and communication with the HSP, including requesting quotes, establishing and negotiating fair and reasonable prices, and authorizing modifications to task orders. The after business hour calls require quick turnaround and therefore place a certain amount of unconventional responsibility on the duty KO to provide the authorization while adhering to all regulations. The KOs spend a majority of the day following a duty assignment finalizing documentation for the various authorizations.
While the contract approval authority comes from the duty KO, the change in contracting authority, as well as the MAC, created challenges for the 6th Fleet COR group. As ships were no longer able to manage their own requirements, the CORs were mandated to vet and approve any requirements and changes outside the standard logistics requirements (LOGREQs) messages. Any requirements changes from the ship flow to the duty COR for vetting and approval prior to coming to the KO. As a result, the CORs had to establish their own duty process to ensure 24/7 support.
Since the implementation of the MAC, the CORs have been able to work quickly and ensure the link between the ship, the HSP, and the KO is completed and requirements approved any time of day. They are and continue to be an instrumental piece of the process to ensure port visit success and continued improvement of the MAC and HSP program.
The Navy HSP program has evolved through myriad changes over the last several years. The ultimate goal of the program is to ensure ships and Sailors receive the necessary logistics support to complete their ongoing missions. A duty KO and COR are only two of many people involved in meeting mission needs and ensuring program success, but their contribution and impact is some of the most significant that directly affects Sailors and ships on a regular basis. While the majority of support personnel leave for home each evening or weekend, these duty KOs and CORs stand ready and available 24/7 to provide contracting support for any HSP situation that may arise in their AOR. These dedicated professionals are truly an integral mission enabler supporting the tip of the spear!