Department of Redundancy

In light of concern (panic) over contracting irregularities (count ‘em — more than 70 fraud investigations) and program cost overruns (the rage across DoD), the Army has announced the creation of a “new” contracting command. It will be headed by a two-star, harbor about 1,400 people, and be located within the Army’s Materiel Command.

That’s the right answer if you’re testifying before Congress and lawmakers are a little concerned about your management of taxpayer dollars. Pandering aside, what about the old “new” contracting entity?

In 2002, the Army established the U.S. Army Contracting Agency under the Army assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology to consolidate and reorganize, which seems to be the purpose again. The current agency is civilian-led, and there are Army contracting commands — the U.S. Army Contracting Command Korea and the same for Europe. The agency’s mission: “To lead the Army in efficient and effective contracting with a professional team committed to continuous innovation and process improvement.” Sounds good to us.

According to THE Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Claude Bolton (think Charlton Heston as Moses), “the success of our war fighters is linked directly to the success of the contracting work force.” So the implication is that the Army Contracting Agency is a total failure or it does not do the type of contracting the Army needs? We’re confused.

We strolled over to the contracting agency’s Web site and were greeted by the nice civilian director, “We are an Agency created in 2002, and we continue to transform to meet the evolving needs of a transforming Army at war.” Apparently not. It seems no one has told the nice man what’s in the works. Maybe he has lost his job and doesn’t know yet! Another secret we must keep.

Senior officials seem to think the “problem” (fraud) stems from a lack of training. We think this new command could better train crooks who are going to take the system for all they can regardless. The challenge may lie in the hiring for these positions, not the number hired or the training to the degree believed. Like MRAP and body armor, this new and improved way of doing business is NOT and may be just the same, “Look at us Congress. We are correcting perceived deficiencies. Please fund us,” schtick. Pathetic. But maybe it is a small price to pay to keep good relations with lawmakers. If there is a problem, however, one wants to define that challenge, a “new” contracting command is probably not the solution.
Someone really needs to let the Army Contracting Agency in on this.

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