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News | Aug. 17, 2016

Detection to prevention: understanding customers’ expectations

By Scott Crofoot DCMA Public Affairs

Have you ever bought something based on what you read or heard, and then after you purchased it, were disappointed because it did not meet your expectations?

Almost everyone has experienced this at some point, but why does this happen? Were your expectations too high, was it because the manufacturer’s claims were misleading, or were there other reasons? With any purchase, there can be a difference between what customers believe they are getting and what they are actually getting. This is often the result of how the product is marketed or advertised, how that message is conveyed to the customer and the way the customer interprets that message.

Department of Defense acquisitions can suffer a similar fate. The contracts Defense Contract Management Agency administers are founded in the Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements. Depending on the perspective of the reader and the intended audience, the understanding and expectation of a particular regulation may be different.

Numerous FAR and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation clauses use terminology such as inspection, government contract quality assurance, acceptance, observations and defects. Depending on the audience’s perspective, those terms can mean different things.

For example, DoD buying commands often insert FAR clause 52.246-2, Inspection of Supplies – Fixed Price, into contracts which allows the government to test and inspect all supplies required in a contract. When this clause is included in a contract for solicitation, it is intended to provide information to the contractor about the contractual inspection requirements and the government’s rights regarding access to contractor facilities. The clause frequently uses the terms inspect and test, which can lead one to believe that DCMA’s primary role is to test and inspect products.

DCMA’s quality assurance responsibilities are spelled out in FAR 46.104, Contract administration office responsibilities. One of DCMA’s primary roles is to “develop and apply efficient procedures for performing government contract quality assurance actions under the contract.”

FAR 46.101 further defines government contract quality assurance as “the various functions, including inspection, performed by the government to determine whether a contractor has fulfilled the contract obligations pertaining to quality and quantity.”

Without understanding these definitions, the customer, the contractor and DCMA personnel may have different expectations about DCMA’s role in the acquisition process. Surveillance of the contractor’s processes is a more preventive approach than performing inspections to weed out defects that may have already been created. In many cases, the customer may not realize the scope and value of the surveillance DCMA provides and how agency personnel are able to mitigate the likelihood of non-conforming products from being delivered to the warfighter.

This is just an example of what can and does happen when communication between multiple parties are not well understood. Equipped with this knowledge, be prepared to start the conversation and help address customer expectations. Understanding expectations helps DCMA employees to collaborate better with customers and gives us greater insight to their needs and allows us to maximize our resources through more intuitive planning. You can be an agent for change.