News | Feb. 23, 2021

Challenge accepted

By DCMA Strategic Planning & Analysis

Late last year, Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, Defense Contract Management Agency director, issued a challenge to his team: work with your customers, find a contract and tailor DCMA’s administration of the contract for maximum efficiency.

This Director’s Challenge is a continuation of the agency’s decades-long quest for efficiency in defense acquisition. In recent years, DCMA has focused on personnel and risk management processes that place agency resources directly on the highest priority needs of Defense Department customers. The challenge takes it a step further, with agency field offices and customers working together at the single-contract level.

Bassett said his challenge is about flexibility, agility and, ultimately, value to customers. “My goal here is that when we’re done, this agency is focused on the delivery of the capabilities that matter most to the Department of Defense.”

Matthew Lupone, executive director of DCMA’s Technical Directorate, said the challenge gives field offices an opportunity to directly impact agency policies.

"This is truly an exciting time to be in the agency,” said Lupone. “The Director's Challenge is an exceptional opportunity that puts the field units ‘front and center’ as authoritative elements in redefining our value to the program offices and our stakeholders. Towards that end, I am looking forward to join them in assisting, in whatever they need, to help transform our agency into a value-based organization."

The concept of these bespoke administration pilots is simple, but the scope of DCMA’s workload and rigid federal acquisition guidelines can make any initiative daunting. This one, said Bassett, is worth it.

“I know from experience leading large organizations that sometimes it’s hard for a big team like ours to think its way into acting differently,” said Bassett, whose career has included program execution and acquisition for major Army ground and network systems. “But with these pilot efforts, I’m hoping that we can start with action, and that we’ll be able to act our way into thinking differently about the work we do.”

The agency has about 50 primary field offices that manage more than 250,000 contracts at any given time, performed at more than 13,000 contractor facilities. The customers for DCMA’s work include a wide range of Defense Department and other federal organizations, from the Navy to NASA. The agency makes sure all contract terms are met by both the government and commercial suppliers, and that the process adheres to a variety of regulations, primarily the Federal Acquisition Regulation, known as the FAR, and its defense supplement, the D-FAR.

This often prohibits flexibility, but Bassett hopes that by pursuing single-contract pilots, identified and initiated at the agency’s field contract management offices, the agency can develop a framework that enables, or even encourages, smart tailoring in conjunction with customers.

Several pilots are already underway, with more in development. Though tailoring may be atypical in the tight-tolerance world of acquisition, it’s being executed in a finely-monitored way to mitigate risks. Customers are actively involved, and deviations from existing policy are approved in advance.

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