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News | Dec. 16, 2020

DCMA Wichita cases its colors

By DCMA Twin Cities

In late October, Defense Contract Management Agency Wichita, one of the agency’s longest-serving offices was realigned, and its leadership and administrative functions were absorbed by a senior office. The organizational change underscores DCMA’s continual pursuit of efficiency and cost savings, but it also shines a light on the agency’s storied history of providing contract administration services across the nation.

“The Wichita office embodied the values and history of DCMA,” said Air Force Col. Michael Mahar, commander of DCMA Twin Cities, the Bloomington office that oversees Wichita operations. “It provided exceptional contract administration services to our full military, not just the Air Force, and other defense and federal organizations. For more than 70 years, the people there have given the same remarkable dedication and attention to both small contracts and major programs.”

DCMA Wichita traced its roots to the early 1940s, when the expansion of the Army Air Forces led to the creation of five procurement district offices, including one in Wichita. In 1948, the newly-independent Air Force opened a plant representative office at the local Boeing Military Airplane Company. Like other AFPROs, the Wichita office provided government oversight of aircraft production.

Defense contracting changed quickly in the 1960s, largely due to Project 60, a series of initiatives that brought uniformity and efficiency to the acquisition process. As a result, a Defense Contract Administration Services office was established in Wichita. Like the AFPRO at Boeing, the Wichita DCAS office provided contract oversight, but rather than focusing on one contractor, it covered a geographic area. The two government offices operated in parallel until the 1990s, when they were merged and put under control of the newly-formed Defense Contract Management Command, which in 2000, became the independent Defense Contract Management Agency that exists today.

In its over20 years as a combined office, DCMA Wichita reported to larger offices at DCMA Boeing St. Louis and DCMA Twin Cities, who in turn report to the agency’s Chicago-based Central Regional Command.

Cal Bailey, deputy director of the Central Region, said the Wichita office has supported many significant programs over the years. “The most recognizable program at Wichita was Air Force One, but there have been many other critical aircraft built there, including the B-52 bomber and KC-135 aerial refueler,” said Bailey. “Geographically, the office covered small and large contracts all over Kansas and beyond, from aviation related equipment to batteries for NASA. Its work has been essential, and I join (Army) Col. Paul Mazure (commander of Central Command) in congratulating and thanking those who have made the office a success for decades.”

Mahar said the work Wichita performs will continue to be conducted largely by the existing team, but the realignment means the leadership and administrative functions will move to the Twin Cities’ office.

“I am both excited and sad about this organizational change,” said Mahar. “No one wants to realign an office, especially one with such history, but our responsibility is to the warfighter and taxpayer, so efficiency and cost savings are paramount.”

Mahar said the positive results of the shift are easy to see, but the losses are harder to quantify.

“There’s so much history there,” he said. “Thousands of people have worked at that location over the years, and their efforts live on with the aircraft and equipment still in daily use in our national defense. They should be proud of their accomplishments, just as I’m proud and thankful for their dedication and professionalism.”

Bailey agreed. “It serves as a reminder that when we case the colors of an organization, we also case — but never forget — the proud history of the great people who served during our nation's most challenging periods.”

Editor’s note: Throughout 2020, DCMA has been celebrating its 20th anniversary. You can read more about AFPROS, Project 60 and the long history of defense contract administration here.