By Tonya Johnson
DCMA Public Affairs
Defense Contract Management Agency United Kingdom senior leadership recently hosted a virtual partner-nation leadership forum on quality assurance.
The digital three-hour forum was held March 10, but was previously held in-person before the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the virus, a forum was not held last year, and Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Van Gilder, DCMA United Kingdom’s commander, wanted to find a way to maintain the personal and professional relationships with host nations.
DCMA, through the Department of Defense, has a Reciprocal Defense Procurement Memoranda of Understanding to provide services to a specific group of ally countries. As part of the MOU, agency QA representatives provide support for these service contracts.
Senior QAs from the United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway participated in this year’s event and made presentations. The forum focused on how COVID has impacted QA support and what that future support may look based on lessons learned within a mostly-virtual surveillance technique.
“This forum was about fostering and improving our relationships with the partner nations by engaging with the senior leaders from those countries,” said Christopher Hall, DCMA UK’s technical director. “It allowed the representatives from those nations to share their challenges and work practices, which resulted from the COVID lockdown.”
The first forum was held in 2017. Previously, the annual event was geared toward QAs who were the physical representatives that visited various contractor facilities. Typically, more than 70 people, including DCMA employees, have attended the event in-person, but this year the decision was made to limit it to 20 senior leaders to keep discussions at a strategic level.
Van Gilder said the forum was helpful for him and his staff, as well as the host nation representatives. He said it was beneficial that Navy Capt. Brent Dessing, DCMA Europe’s commander, and Rosemary Ormsby, the deputy commander, also attended the event to learn more from the host nation partners.
During the event, the group discussed how the pandemic had affected their work and new and improved best practices. Some of the suggestions included incorporating more QA training virtually, incorporating remote audit methods and tools, and making sure everyone understood any changes to a method of assessment.
During his presentation, Van Gilder spoke about how COVID has “pioneered a lot of new ideas for contractor oversight within DCMA.”
The participants also discussed how the virtual environment has allowed organizations to save money on travel expenses and better utilize technology. Van Gilder told a success story in which a QA specialist was able to do a qualified inspection on a critical NASA product via video, requesting and gaining approval for this unprecedented support within 24 hours.
“We discussed various aspects of virtual surveillance and ways to make sure we can effectively and efficiently still support our customers during the pandemic,” he said. “I thank and appreciate the partner nations who are vital to the continued mission effectiveness.”
Other topics that were reviewed during the forum included how DCMA UK leadership and allies will reevaluate risk assignment and prioritize on-site visits going forward. As a result, QA plans will become more flexible based upon program risks. The use of virtual technology will continue as well as support from the partner nations to enhance oversight. For example, the group spoke about developing an enhanced shared data environment.
Van Gilder said the DCMA UK team will continue to be flexible as it supports its customers, which include the Defense Logistics Agency, Missile Defense Agency, Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. The contract management office has oversight on more than 3,000 prime contracts worth $4.2 billion. The QA team manages more than 90 surveillance plans.
Van Gilder, who will rotate out of his position in June, said the CMO will continue to host forums like this one, whether in-person or virtually.
“We have shown that we can adapt and adjust as necessary,” he said. “These events allow us to come together to discuss our top three to five issues, and we are able to discuss our key success stories as well. We want to maintain rapport with our partner nations and enhance the customer service we provide.”
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