By Staff Sgt. Michelle Patten
Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016 Public Affairs Cell
FORT BLISS, Texas- The language of the military includes acronyms that may seem like a soup of letters. Many acronyms are only understandable to Service members in specific career fields. For someone outside the military acquisition community operational contract support, OCS, may be such a term.
According to Joint Publication 4-10, OCS is “the process of planning for and obtaining supplies, services and construction from commercial sources in support of joint operations.”
U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicole Stevens is a contracting officer in a rapid acquisition cell, part of the Big Safari program, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and a participant in Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2016. She provided her personal definition of OCS.
“I would explain OCS to someone outside the acquisition career field as a process of how we get the materials and supplies and services that we need to conduct our mission,” Stevens said.
Since the Revolutionary War, the United States has used contracted support in operations to some degree. With the introduction of more technologically advanced equipment, high operations tempos and manning reductions across the force, the use of contractors for contingency operations has only increased.
“Since we’ve dwindled our numbers [of Service members] on the ground the use of contracted support has increased,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Fortenberry, OCSJX-16 role player. “We still have to maintain the same mission, even with fewer [military] people.”
Fortenberry is a unit training manager and unit deployment manager with the 354th Contracting Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
With the increased prevalence of contractor operations in the military, effective OCS execution is essential to mission success.
“It’s critical to the military mission because it’s that full process from identifying the need all the way through how we fund it, then how we justify that requirement, to finding the right person to provide it to us, and putting it on contract and administering that contract,” Stevens said.
OCS is the work that goes on behind the scenes to support the warfighter.
“What we’re really trying to do is support that warfighter on the ground, whether it be beans, bullets or equipment to support that warfighting effort,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. David DeMartelaere, 1st Armored Division air and missile defense chief.
The process of OCS has three functions: contract support integration, contracting support and contractor management. The process starts with contract support integration. This is the planning stage of OCS where requirements are determined.
“In contract support integration contracting will work with a functional area, who is the subject matter expert on what they need,” Fortenberry explained.
In this step, the requirements generated by the warfighters are coordinated and synchronized. Representatives from the Services, the allied nations involved and many different career fields review the requirements. From military civil affairs seeking to repair a dilapidated school to medical professionals needing lifesaving supplies, functional areas become involved in contract support integration to assist in requirements determination in order to get the supplies, services or construction they need.
“Making that contract happen doesn’t happen overnight so you have to have that planning ahead of time,” DeMartelaere said.
Next in the OCS process is contracting support. This portion is where the procurement piece occurs and contracts are written. This step is the traditional contracting activity that most often comes to mind, but even in this part of the process the contracting career field does not operate in isolation.
Fortenberry added that some of the other career fields that may be involved in contracting support include finance and legal to ensure that contracts meet all requirements in these areas.
Finally, contractor management provides the oversight, integration and support of contractors in an operational area. In this portion the contracting officer representative, COR, is responsible for monitoring contract performance. A COR can be any Service member or civilian appointed in writing and trained by a contracting officer.
“Contractor management is one of those things we have to have to execute properly to make sure there’s not fraud waste and abuse,” DeMartelaere said.
Whether the military is providing the initial response to a contingency like establishing air traffic control immediately after an earthquake or a long-term operation is in the sustainment phase, OCS is being carried out.
“The three functions are happening in all phases of military operations, though at different levels,” Fortenberry described.
While the OCS process may seem complicated at the most basic level, it is in effect to support everyone in an area of operation. OCSJX-16 allows participants to hone their OCS skills.
“I hope that they take away that every part of OCS is important,” Stevens said. “It’s not just a contracting exercise. This is an OCS exercise. It’s not just as easy as signing a contract, there are a lot of steps and processes and a lot of career fields that are involved in this. We have to work together and we have to follow the process to make sure everybody is on the same page to get what we need at the best value for the government.”
OCSJX-16 is a three-week long exercise that brings together Service members and civilians across the branches of service and other agencies that are involved in the OCS process. The exercise focuses on supporting the warfighter and uses a U.S. Southern Command scenario of defending the Panama Canal and providing humanitarian assistance.