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News | Aug. 22, 2018

DCMA, DCAA Chicago build on shared vision

By Thomas Perry DCMA Public Affairs

Much like a soldier and a sailor, Defense Contract Management Agency and Defense Contract Audit Agency share a common overarching mission, but asking a soldier to captain a ship or a sailor to drive a tank would more than likely end poorly — think keel on land and submerged tracks.

While each military branch trains to meet a unique strategic mission, the ultimate goal of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines is to protect national security, defend freedom and win battles.

DCMA and DCAA team members often find themselves in the same situation. Both serve separate Defense Department roles but share elements of support.

With the idea of sharpening that support, local representatives from both agencies held a joint summit in early 2018. A wide-array of acquisition professionals, including top local leaders, attended the event.

After 28 years as a DCAA Chicago auditor and five more in her current role as a DCMA Chicago supervisory Contracts price and cost analyst, Gloria Velasco qualifies as a subject matter expert on interaction between the two agencies.

“Topics were selected by identifying processes where both DCMA and DCAA ‘touch’ the product or process but don’t overlap enough to understand how each agency performs their mission and why,” said Velasco. “The format, when possible, was a presenter from each agency giving their side of the process. An example would be accounting system audits — DCAA presented how they conduct their audits, what constitutes a finding, and how to understand the report generated by the audit team. DCMA then presented what we do with the audit report once it is received — which could include anything from disposition of a (contract audit follow-up) or approval/disapproval of a business system, to input of results in the (contract business analysis repository).”

Army Col. Paul Mazure, the DCMA Chicago commander, said the summit’s goals were to “minimize any duplication of efforts, share lessons learned dealing with specific contractors, and coordinate to achieve faster execution of audit and contract maintenance functions.”

While presenting a DCAA overview brief, Michael Mandolfo, the DCAA Chicago Branch office manager, said “if we work together with one vision … we can achieve some exceptional results.”

Velasco said both agencies’ leadership championed the summit throughout the planning process. This attitude reflects the history of cooperation between the two groups.

“DCMA Chicago and DCAA Chicago have enjoyed a favorable collaborative relationship for many years,” said Velasco. “The genesis of the summit didn’t occur until early 2015 however.”

That year, a DCMA administrative contracting officer and the DCAA cost team discussed the possibility of DCAA providing training to contracting team members on the incurred cost submission. The training came to fruition and went well. Soon other training sessions with different acquisition subjects were exchanged between local agency members.

During one of these sessions in April 2017, “an idea was born where the two agencies jointly participate and present multi-day training, providing each other with presentations sharing how we both fit into the procurement process. As they say, the rest is history,” said Velasco.

The seeds of cooperation that grew from those early training sessions led to the “One Vision” concept, which served as the summit’s theme: “We combine our knowledge and experiences to better serve the procurement process, getting the most value for every taxpayer’s dollar spent and most importantly, supporting the warfighter.”

After the event, Mazure congratulated all involved. “I am proud of my team’s effort along with the time, effort and energy both DCMA and DCAA Chicago put into this joint summit. It was a pleasure to speak with everyone about DCMA’s organizational structure and role in acquisition and to talk about issues on the horizon.”

Both agencies’ near future will include a function and mission review, which was commissioned by the recently signed John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. A report is expected no later than March 1, 2020.

By that time, Chicago’s contract management and audit personnel plan to meet many more times. In what Velasco called a “natural offset of a developing relationship,” an additional high-level meeting was held among the two groups in June.

“The level of communication and teaming has already increased for the good of both organizations,” said Velasco. “We had a workload coordination meeting to share risk assessments of local contractors and help prioritize the DCAA FY 2019 audit schedule. This was a true ‘working meeting’ between functional specialists assigned to specific contractors.”

With next year’s summit already locked in, Mazure expects the Chicago-based synergy to improve both organizations ability to support the warfighter.

“Collaboration is powerful,” the colonel said. “DCMA is being challenged to find ways to assist with faster acquisition and provision of materiel to the warfighter, with the ultimate goal of continuing to provide our warfighters with a technological and logistical advantage on a timely basis.”

The march toward that advantage is supported by both large and small contractors. The current DoD Strategic Framework lists streamlining acquisition and support to accelerate modernization as a line of effort. DCMA and DCAA are two agencies contractors are likely to interact with during a contract’s lifecycle. A communication improvement among the pair can enhance the acceleration effort. This is especially true with first-time defense contractors, who often find it a challenge to navigate federal regulations and requirements.

The Small Business Innovation Research Program serves as the Small Business Administration’s tool to encourage “domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development that has the potential for commercialization.” Its website offers online efense acquisition tutorials to inform and educate potential applicants.

“The roles of DCMA and DCAA with Department of Defense awards,” is one of these tutorials: It is important to understand the roles of two organizations that play a pivotal contracting function for the Defense Department — these are DCMA and DCAA. DCMA’s mission is to assure that contractor supplies and services are delivered on time, at projected cost, and meet all performance requirements … By contrast, DCAA has the primary responsibility for monitoring and auditing the accounting systems of contractors in doing their work for the Department of Defense.

“So what is the relationship between the DCMA, the DCAA, and the contractor?” the course asks readers. “If you win a DoD (Small Business Innovation Research) or (Small Business Technology Transfer) award and become a Defense contractor you will deal with both DCMA and the DCAA, whether you realize it or not. Your contracting officer, or CO, normally comes from the DCMA organization. These are the people who are authorized to make a commitment on behalf of the government. By contrast, when a DCAA auditor comes to your company to review your financial system, he or she can make a recommendation back to the DCMA, but the DCAA cannot bind you to a commitment to the government.”

The course goes on to explain other contracting requirements, responsibilities and expectations. Among the many, many pages of course material is accounting system audits — a process that both DCMA and DCAA “touch.”

Defense acquisition oversight is a complex mission requiring equal parts the study of large numbers and the examination of small details. A formula to success often requires many Defense elements. Management and audit are vital components within the formula.

“We look forward to improving our collaborative efforts and have already started to plan the 2019 summit,” said Velasco. “Personnel will continue to exercise the power of One Team, One Voice, through coordination, cooperation and communication; through leveraging knowledge and functional expertise; and through teaming to deliver global acquisition insight that matters on a timely basis.”