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Air National Guard Contractor issues highlighted at NGB-OPARC Conference

NORMAN, Okla. -- Air National Guard Contracting Officers have the responsibility of spreading taxpayers dollars across the numerous projects and supply orders on their base and in deployed locations.

They are responsible for ensuring these funds are spent appropriately, while also making sure personnel on their bases have the tools they need to complete their mission both state-side and abroad.

Two ANG contracting officers who know these struggles first-hand, Senior Master Sgt. Micah Kruse, contracting superintendent at the 136th Airlift Wing, and Tech Sgt. Philip Rott, contract specialist at the 107th Airlift Wing attended the National Guard Bureau Office of the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting training conference at the National Center for Employee Development Conference Center and Hotel in Norman, Oklahoma June 22-26, 2015. They joined fellow contracting officers across the Army and Air National Guard to learn changes in contracting procedures and programs, but also how the lack of manpower across the contracting officer field is being addressed.

"Everyone has an idea of what they need to buy or need to have," said Rott. "It's up to us to determine the proper means to go out and do that."

Rott is one of two full-time contracting personnel at the 107 AW. Their responsibilities include cradle to the grave handling of all supply needs, fulfillment of service contracts, execution and administration of all construction projects as well as managing the base's Government Purchase Card program. The two also serve as one another's alternate on all inspection, quality assurance and training duties.

The 107 AW is currently reviewing proposals for the repurposing of their Operations building. They are converting from the C-130 H Hercules to the MQ9 Reaper and its current facilities require rework to support that mission. A suitable, but cost effective building is the goal, said Rott.

"Deciding on a contract is more than just 'Here's money, so let's go buy it,'" said Rott. "For this project, the building needs to meet specifications provided by an architectural & engineering firm. The proposals we've received are being reviewed to determine technical acceptability in a variety of areas. In addition, contractors must have a proven past of handling such large-scale projects."

Balancing projects can be trickier in a deployed location. Kruse, who has deployed four times since entering contracting in 1999, most recently went to Kabul, Afghanistan as the Deputy Branch Chief for Construction in 2013. Kruse was managing construction projects for U.S. coalition forces, the Afghanistan National Army and the Afghanistan National Police. Projects ranged from dormitories and office buildings for coalition forces to training facilities for the ANA and ANP.

"The various projects we worked outside the wire were very high-risk at times due to the location, and we were responsible for doing our own movements throughout the Capital Region," said Kruse. "So, you will be in your office writing a contract and the next minute you are strapping on your battle rattle and running a convoy across Kabul. So, your situation can drastically change very quickly."

The change in projects also alters what supplies contracting officers need to buy, said Kruse.

"One day, you could be buying Porta-Johns," said Kruse, "the next day you are buying essential items to support your special operators."

Both Rott and Kruse enjoyed meeting colleagues in the field at the NGB-OPARC conference; putting faces to names they are familiar with and discussing issues they routinely encounter. Another positive result from the conference was meeting Chief Master Sgt. Chris Amburn, ANG contracting functional area manager at the NGB.

Amburn came into his current position directly from the contracting officer field, and he discussed the ANGs current inability to retain contracting officers due to better opportunities with the government or civilian companies. His first-hand knowledge of current issues is encouraging for Kruse when he thinks about the future of the career field.

"He's already done some amazing things for the career field that were very difficult for us to achieve in the past," said Kruse. "He's trying to restructure and update our position descriptions for our technician employees to be more commensurate with other agencies inside the Federal Government so we can retain our people. So, everyone in our career field should be excited for the future."