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By Stephen Hickok
DCMA Public Affairs
Gail Gila Langford serves as a local national contract administrator with Defense Contract Management Agency Europe Israel, supporting contracts in Israel, U.K. and Europe.
Retiring in August after 30 years with the agency, Langford reflected on her role within the national defense team.
As a local-national team member, what is unique about your role with the agency?
As a DCMA Israel local national, I provide continuity to DCMA operations and historical background information for the agency as U.S. personnel rotate through overseas positions throughout DCMA Europe. Local nationals are hired for DCMA by the U.S. Embassy Branch Office Tel Aviv under the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services, or ICAAS, agreement, which is a challenge in itself as we have to follow the policies set by both the embassy and DCMA.
Our office is unique as we have many local nationals, or LNs, who have immigrated to Israel from various parts of the diaspora (the dispersion of Jewish people beyond Israel). I myself emigrated from Mumbai, India, in 1977.
As a multi-cultural office, we have been a link for deployed U.S. team members by being able to share our Israeli and international local cultures, customs and traditions — not to mention the array of international cuisine we share and the longstanding friendships we have built.
As LNs, we speak the local language and can easily work with Israeli contractors while we support our U.S. coworkers. We regularly provide presentations and guidance to defense contractors and host nation partners in English and Hebrew. This has improved our contract administration and international contractor understanding of U.S. laws and regulations and DCMA policies and processes.
In light of our successes and given our location and the complications of war and political issues, including evacuations of government personnel at times throughout my career, our office has had to think outside the box.
Once, I was given the opportunity to conduct market research and negotiate in Hebrew with local transporter service providers during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to deliver critical items via our partnering countries. Our warfighters in Afghanistan and Iraq at the time were in an urgent need of small caliber ammunition, specific troop carrier under carriage armor against IEDs, and other life-saving equipment. Our ability to use local delivery providers not only brought a cost saving of over $62 million, but, more, importantly, it saved lives.
What led you to join DCMA and become a contract administrator?
When I moved to Israel I was a professional English teacher and joined the commercial hospitality business working as a contracts sales and marketing director for hotels and restaurants. Over the years, I have gained contract management and negotiation skills. My first interaction with a U.S. government contract was when I rented an office in one of our hotels to the U.S. Air Force which eventually became a DCMA area office.
The political situation in Israel and with regular missile attacks from Iraq during the Gulf War killed tourism business. In addition, I had my first child and decided to move out of the hospitality business. As luck would have it, I managed to get an interview and was immediately hired as a contract administrator in January 1992. The rest is history.
How do you feel your work with DCMA has shaped the warfighting readiness of the U.S. and partner nations?
As LN’s, warfighter readiness is our number one priority. Israel, like the U.S., has had its fair share of wars, conflicts and terrorist attacks. With every operation and conflict comes lessons learned resulting in new developments to improve defenses and counter attacks.
Army service is mandatory for men and women in Israel at the age of 18 after graduation from high school. All of us have either served or have spouses, sons or daughters who serve in the military. My older son completed his army service and has since graduated with a doctorate of veterinary medicine. My second son signed on beyond his three year mandatory service and is currently a captain in the Israel Defense Force. This is the main reason warfighter readiness is so important to LNs, as many of our own warfighters are close to our hearts.
Among so many highlights of working with DCMA is one that was broadcast on the CBS 60 minutes program when coalition forces under fire in Afghanistan installed Israeli-built mobile assault bridges over freezing irrigation canals surrounding the city of Marjah — a Taliban stronghold. The Marines success was satisfying as our team cancelled our leave during the holiday season in order to expedite Contract Administration Services functions and deliver the product to the warfighters.
How important is it to have employees like you and your team providing acquisition insight to customers?
DCMA Europe local nationals, whether in Europe, Israel or the U.K., have firsthand knowledge of the local laws and cultures of each country and historical background information and past performance on each contractor which has served as useful acquisition insight to our customers.
In Israel, our LN acquisition insight into local tax laws has resulted in disallowance of proposed costs and high cost savings. For example, recently our understanding of Value Added Tax exemptions on exports by contractors in Israel resulted in an $83 million cost avoidance on a subcontractor proposals.
For example, we were able to save money during a recent Indian foreign military sales contract by removing unnecessary exemption taxes because there wasn’t an export involved. I had specific knowledge of the Indian tax system and was able to provide recommendations to the ACO under Indian FMS sales contract.
We have special insights into everything from car leasing policies, canceling of funds, foreign currency payments, end-use certificates, re-export licenses and more.
How has your work been affected by the pandemic?
We have faced many new challenges and work experiences with full-time telework and never realized that a year later, we would still be in the same situation.
I appreciated the support from DCMA Europe, Israeli management, our contracts team and supervisors from the embassy. It felt that although we were socially distanced, we became closer. The organization from top down cared for the health and wellness of the employee.
Our supervisors called each employee to ensure our safety, even when a family member was infected. It gave a personal touch and exceeded my expectations. Personally, I felt that I got much more accomplished working from home and felt more in control of my work, without the day-to-day stress of traffic and time constraints.
As you retire from DCMA, what is some advice or encouragement you would like to share with the rest of the workforce?
I have mainly a sense of gratitude for the 30 years I have worked here. I have made many friends and admire the tenacity of the work ethic of our agency employees.
My life at DCMA has been wonderful, and I have many to thank for that. I’m grateful for my management in Israel — 16 commanders to date — and the teams at DCMA Europe, Germany and the U.K.
My U.S. and LN colleagues are like family now, I will miss them. Last, but not least, a special thank you to my husband, Andrew, and my two sons, Kevin and Daniel, for their love and support during all the years I have worked at DCMA.
All I can say to my colleagues and friends is to “savor the present.” Take every opportunity to enjoy life and make it happen. As my mother taught me, never be afraid to ask. The worst scenario can only be “no.”
As I have arrived at this crossroad in my life, I’m reminded of the poem by Robert Frost, “The Road not Taken.” Taking inspiration from his words, I’ve adapted it to my own version:
I’m about to embark on a new venture
For whatever retirement has in store,
Some challenges less, some more.
I intend to capture each moment on this untaken path with glee
Knowing that my family will always be there for me
Love and friendship truly abound
My gift in life I have forever found.
Retirement is life on a higher plain
My journey is to go aboard to embark new terrain.
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