Thursday, August 14, 2014

Contracting team ensures JBER has necessary gear

by Senior Airman Omari Bernard
JBER Public Affairs

8/14/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The average cost of an F-22 is 54 million dollars; the average cost of the clock that hangs on the wall in an office, only $25.

But the average cost of the realization that almost everything in sight on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has been contracted ... priceless.

The 673 Contracting Squadron provides their customers business solutions to fit their needs while training and developing the skills of their personnel to provide JBER enhanced readiness every day, from Humvees to housing.

"Contracting is an integral part of the Air Force and the Department of Defense," said Gina Parks, 673 CONS director of business operations. "We are owners of the taxpayers dollars. Our job is to ensure that contracts are at a fair and reasonable price and that they are compliant with all the rules and regulations."

Contracts range from concessionaires' contracts such as swimming pool operators, to base-level contracts or systems-level contracts, which include munitions, aircraft, research, development and more.

"The mission happens with the support of contracting," said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Venning, 673 CONS superintendent. "If you use a government purchase card, thats a contracting action. Whether its a F-22, for millions of dollars, or a box of computers for a few thousand dollars, it all gets purchased through a contract action."

Contracts contain terms and conditions that outline specific requirements. If the terms are not met, actions may be taken in order for the contractor to fulfill their obligations.

The time it takes to complete a contract can be instant - with the swipe of a government purchase card - or take up to 18 months, depending on the complexity of the contract.

The contract process begins when a purchase request is sent to the Contracting Squadron.

"When we get a purchase request in, we work right beside our customers, especially if its a larger project, said Senior Airman Geoffrey Reid, 673 CONS contracting officer. "We research the laws and regulations, and get to know the project. Then we try to figure out the best way that we can buy that and try to make sure they [customers] get it in the time they need."

When Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson combined to become JBER in 2010, the 673d Air Base Wing was activated as the host wing combining installation management functions of Elmendorf Air Force Bace's 3rd Wing and U.S. Army Garrison on Fort Richardson.

"When we joint-based, we consolidated all contracting efforts to include the garrison piece of the Army mission," Parks said. "We garnered manpower and also their contracts that transferred over."

To save money, the 673 CONS combines similar contracts for both the Army and Air Force on JBER.

"We did an analysis of similar contracts, and over the past three years we have worked to consolidate contracts to save the government money," Parks said.

"Instead of having two custodial contractors, one for Elmendorf and one for Richardson, we have combined them to have one for the entire installation."

Contracting officers have the ability to obligate the government.

"An average person cannot obligate the government, without being a warranted contracting officer," Venning said. "They have to go through years of training, certifications, interviews and a board process, then we give them a piece of paper that states you are now authorized to obligate the government."

The contracting squadron is organized into flights who have flight chiefs, then team leads, contracting officers and contract specialists.

"Contract specialists do a lot of the work," Venning said. "But they are not authorized to sign the contract."

The mission of the 673 CONS is to ensure the units of JBER are well stocked by managing contracts, following marketing trends, evaluating offers, gathering supply sources and sharing their findings so they can maximize efficiency and set appropriate terms in their contracts.

"If you look out on this base, every unit is affected by contracting," Venning said. "All that money has to go somewhere, and a lot of it ends up in this squadron, to purchase goods, services, and construction that makes the mission happen."

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