Battlefield Rotations Could be Bad for Contract Management

September 14, 2012

As defense officials have tried to get a grasp on its mismanaged contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan through the years, one factor that has emerged is the rotation of federal and contractor personnel into and out of the war zone.

Uniformed personnel, federal civilian employees and even contractors are coming and going to the war zone frequently. The new arrivals have to get acquainted with the all-new issues they’re dealing with, which they may not have faced in the past, Moshe Schwartz, specialist in defense acquisition at the Congressional Research Service, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Sept. 12.

“Often someone who gets to theater has never engaged in a counterinsurgency, and it takes them a learning curve” to get up to speed, he said.

Contracting in wartime is fundamentally different from contracting in peacetime. In peacetime, a contracting officer considers cost, schedule and performance as the primary factors in choosing the best vendor. In the war zone, the officer has different concerns. Threats are greater and different. Contract officials have to keep closer tabs on materials, so that the government is getting all that it has paid for. They also have to think about the impact the contract’s work would have on the local population.

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