Air Force contracting negotiates way to mission realization

by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Contracting must balance fulfilling the service’s mission with upholding statutory law, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and other Air Force policy and guidance. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)
Air Force Contracting must balance fulfilling the service’s mission with upholding statutory law, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and other Air Force policy and guidance. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

10/3/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — Much like Ferengi in the Star Trek universe, Air Force contracting specialists have strict standards and practices they must follow before awarding any contract and must be master negotiators with exacting attention to detail following what any good Ferengi would call the “Rules of Acquisition.”

“The Air Force takes its use of taxpayer money very seriously,” said Maj. Chad Sessler, the 379th Contracting Squadron commander, who is serving a one-year tour here and hails from Syracuse, N.Y. “Even though we are a smaller squadron, we are critical to the mission and have a huge impact on the sustainability of the base.”

While Air Force contractors aren’t as ruthless as the Ferengi, they do ensure each party at the negotiations table is handled fairly while ensuring integrity and fairness of the procurement system and never award a contract at the expense of honesty.

“We take what you need and turn it into something,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Laube, a 379th CONS contracting officer deployed from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and a Phoenix native. “A lot of trust is placed on our young Airmen. Each of us can obligate and/or write a contract totaling up to $1 million.”

These Airmen provide contracting support to a wide spectrum of missions, including major weapons, logistics and sustainment, installation and mission support, and contingency operations. They support national defense and humanitarian missions through global contracting operations by providing leadership, guidance, and execute contractual actions, for both goods and services in support of the warfighter both in garrison and down range.

“If a customer needs a wrench, we need to know exactly what color, size, make, model, etc., in order to work with the contracted companies to provide the customer exactly what they need to get the mission done,” Laube said.

Contracting here accomplishes their mission through means of two flights: services and construction.

The services flight procures food services contracts, cell phones, vehicle leases, laundry, mail, etc. The construction flight helps civil engineering improve facilities, secures trench contracts and supports flight operations.

Part of their job is also traveling downtown to negotiate deals with local vendors for things as simple as milk and linens.

“We are ambassadors,” said Laube. “You’re going to interact with the locals — we have built up a great professional relationship with them as we project respect.”

Air Force Contracting must balance fulfilling the service’s mission with upholding statutory law, the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and other Air Force policy and guidance.

“In our profession, the means and the ends carry equal weight,” said Master Sgt. William Simpkins, the 379th ECONS superintendent and first sergeant serving a one-year tour and hails from San Angelo, Texas. “It’s hard to think of a unit or squadron we haven’t touched.”

Simpkins said his Airmen are always looking for the highest quality goods and services at the lowest cost in the shortest amount of time. These service members are charged with committing the nation’s funds to provide for the warfighters around the globe.

“I’m extremely proud of my Airmen,” Sessler said. “They are willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. I’ve witnessed their selfless dedication to the mission, the customer and the taxpayer. We will posture the Air Force as a demanding customer to our suppliers and ensure our Air Force Contracting processes and systems are able to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Referencing his copy of the Ferengi’s “Rules of Acquisition,” Laube made his wife proud when he explained rule number three, “Never spend more for an acquisition than you have to,” noting the similarities between his work and their culture. And while Ferengi have never been lauded for their tenderness, they are, however, praised for their business, negotiating and accounting genius.

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