WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Installation Contracting Agency is not your father’s Oldsmobile when it comes to implementing innovative techniques to improve the business of operational acquisition and contracting in peace and in war.
Officially stood up Oct. 1, 2013, AFICA has aggressively utilized state-of-the-art processes to save the Air Force money, allowing the Service to apply funding where it is needed most.
Formerly a field operating agency of the Air Staff, the agency is now aligned under the Air Force Installation Mission Support Center, the sixth center of Air Force Materiel Command. With a broad portfolio of responsibilities organized into four mission areas, AFICA provides oversight of operational contracting within eight different Air Force major commands; a portfolio valued at over $50 billion, in fact. They are a globally networked team of critical thinkers that transforms acquisition innovation into warfighting capacity.
AFICA has personnel who work at 17 different locations around the world and employs roughly 750 people. The agency also provides contractual authority and oversight for over 3,000 personnel at wing-level contracting squadrons across those eight MAJCOMs.
“We don’t do all the contracting in the Air Force, but on the operational side of the Air Force, we are making the same capability more affordable for the Service so it can take those additional dollars and buy more warfighting capability,” said Brig. Gen. Cameron Holt, AFICA commander since Aug. 2015.
The agency’s four mission areas include MAJCOM Support, Mission Execution; Enterprise Sourcing, and Expeditionary Operations.
AFICA engages and oversees three levels of enterprise sourcing – at Air Force-wide, regional and local sourcing levels. When an enterprise-wide contract is awarded, AFICA makes it immediately available to all operational contracting units across the Air Force.
“In fact, many of those contracts are mandatory for use because AFICA and its mission partners have done all the analytic work to show where the savings come from by using that one contract instead of all the different contracts that it replaced,” Holt said.
AFICA is also a Joint Task Force capability in waiting. “The primary responsibilities we have right now in that regard are the Pacific Command Area of Responsibility, the National Capital Region, and Alaska,” Holt said. If a contingency operation were to be required in one of these areas, the Air Force would be the lead for contracting. If it rose to the level of complexity that required a general officer to stand up a Joint Task Force, it would be AFICA that stands it up and the organization would be called a Joint Theater Sustainment Contracting Command.
AFICA trains for this possibility by participating each year in a joint exercise for operational contracting support. AFICA led the 2015 Operational Contracting Support Joint Exercise, or OCSJX-15, when roughly 1,000 joint, total force and coalition service members and civilians traveled from around the world to participate in the largest Operational Contract Support exercise to date at Fort Bliss, Texas. AFICA is set to lead another similar exercise in 2017.
AFICA also provides analytic tools, such as the Air Force Business Intelligence Tool or AFBIT, for use across the Air Force to identify enterprise sourcing opportunities. “In addition to AFBIT, we have deployed a Cost Savings Tracker tool that allows everyone in the Air Force to input rate, process and demand-driven savings that they’ve achieved at any level of enterprise sourcing,” Holt said.
Holt added that AFICA’s goal is to achieve $1 billion in savings over the next five fiscal years and the Cost Savings Tracker will help to measure progress toward achieving that goal.
AFICA has outlined its mission areas in its recently published “AFICA Flight Plan,” which describes the organization’s mission, vision, commander’s intent, four mission areas, and one additional focus area that AFICA is concentrating on, called the “High Performing Workplace.”
“We’re taking two pieces of the human capital side of AFICA, the first being organizational climate, to determine what it’s like to work in AFICA,” Holt said. “We’re identifying very specific trend areas in our climate assessments and then we’re putting teams and actions behind that to improve. The other piece is workforce development. We’re making it very well understood how people across the operational acquisition community can progress in their career,” Holt said.
But, AFICA’s heartbeat is innovation, said Holt. “We are taking a very complex process of contracting, and really operational acquisition overall, and thinking about that in new ways for the benefit of the Air Force.”
One way AFICA is innovating is with its Air Force-wide approach to enterprise sourcing through the federally mandated concept known as Category Management. In anticipation of this requirement to filter down from the Office of Management and Budget, AFICA is spearheading a proposal of how to implement Category Management within our Air Force.
AFICA has also reached full operational capability for what’s known as the Business Intelligence Competency Cell, or BICC. “Now, for the first time ever, we have the analytic capability to enable managing the broader operational spending of the Air Force through much the same way we do weapons systems today,” Holt said.
The Contract Information Management Standard is another AFICA-led innovation. “One of the capability gaps that Air Force contracting, and the operational requirements community at wing levels has experienced, is they’ve not had any electronic contract filing capability,” Holt explained.
Currently, AFICA can effectively analyze all of the spending Air Force-wide, after award, Holt said. However, he added, “We have absolutely no capability to see any requirements that are going on before award. CIMS allows us to see that data on all of the requirements that are being worked in the Air Force at once without even doing a data call. We will also be able to do cycle time analysis on the acquisition process across the Air Force, literally program by program to look at how we can improve the cycle time without removing quality.”
For the first time ever, CIMS will provide AFICA insight into the quality of contracting that goes on worldwide. All of the contract files in the Air Force will be visible to AFICA for data analysis through functionality within CIMS called the Contract Review Tool. “We will use that data to empower commanders to improve their own acquisition excellence and target our training that we provide,” said Holt. The functionality enabled by CIMS will then be added as Increment 3 to CON-IT, the Air Force’s future contract writing system managed by SAF/AQC.
In addition, the Tiered Enterprise Acquisition Metrics Dashboard, or TEAM, when fully operational, will capture 17 different measures automatically through CIMS Air Force-wide.
“It will result in what I like to call an overall acquisition excellence credit score. So, base by base, MAJCOM commanders will be able to see, on their desktop, just by a click, how all of their bases are doing with acquisition excellence in this credit score,” Holt said.
“When I say we’re not your father’s Oldsmobile, we’re thinking of all these different things so that the business side of the Air Force is much more credible than it is today. Where we’ll actually focus the tools and the energies and the training and best practices across the AFICA enterprise, and get that into the hands of every Airman out there to be able to innovate and actually see the results of that innovation in dollars and cents that we can apply back into the mission,” Holt said.