A generation of highly prescriptive guidance has contributed to exasperation and a lack of ownership in the DoD contracting arena. Process trumps proactive initiative. Rules replace effective tools. Reporting and approvals replace results.
What’s needed? An injection of business-school training and leadership reforms that focus on quantitative skill sets to analyze and negotiate proposals, then administer and execute contracts to empower our warfighters to fly, fight, sail, and win on land, in our seas, in the air, in space, and increasingly, in cyberspace. In essence, building mission-focused government acquisition leadership.
It’s no longer about shaping yourself into a contracting technician with a strict compliance focus. It’s about defining yourself as a true business leader instead of an advisor. Someone who can innovate on-call yet remain faithful to the FAR and your agency’s specific parameters.
This blog seeks to demonstrate how biz school approaches—already deployed by some agencies— create exceptional efficiencies while garnering massive mission-focused results.
What are the new skills you need to succeed?
Business acumen. First things first: You must become an expert in contracting and pricing and go beyond daily proposal acumen. Know how to turn dollars into mission-critical equipment and services for the warfighter—that will empower them to win. This may require you to become exposed to informal or formal military training. It’s a valuable time investment. Never undervalue the importance of your expertise on military outcomes. Your newly learned business solutions can tilt the balance of speed and capability in America’s favor.
Critical thinking. It’s imperative to absorb the critical skills of sorting balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. Knowledge of how private venture capital works and private equity and institutional investor functions—such as how to read 10-Ks and 8-Ks—is also becoming table stakes. If you align contractual incentives to mission priorities and agency financial performance, you're ahead of the game.
Problem solving. Government agencies’ resourcing, acquisition, and contracting systems are still optimal for the Cold War world. With all our complexity and barriers to entry, it’s much easier for a small, entrepreneurial company that’s innovative and quick but doesn’t have a significant cost structure, to do business with China than it is for them to do business with the DoD today. If you can solve for new modernization and readiness solutions— yet still retain compliance —you’ll more readily be able to partner with industry to protect U.S. intellectual property. Simply, you’ll want to solve for innovative tools that enable high-speed, low-drag contracting.
How can you get the training you need?
Ask your agency for ancillary studies. Several DoD agencies now partner with college business arms and business schools to offer mission-focused business leadership training to their contract management specialists. Specifically, the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina now offer specially-funded courses in business and leadership to Air Force contract management specialists.
Become a Copper Cap Intern. This program is designed to hyper-prepare college graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree for a career as a Contract Specialist.
Copper Cap (COP) interns experience both personal and professional growth during this three-year program. You’re assigned to work with Contracting Specialists and Officers to receive formal on-the-job training in all aspects of contract management. Upon completion, an agency will offer you a full-time contracting position. If you apply to the COP program, you must have a minimum of a four-year degree, 24 semester hours of business courses, and a GPA of 2.95 or higher.
Copper-cap training includes:
- Market Research
- Requirements Definition
- Suppliers & Vendors
- Solicitation Preparation
- Response Evaluations
- Price Justification
- Negotiation & Award
- Contract Administration
- Performance Monitoring
How the Air Force is leading the way
Over the past decade, the Air Force has begun to take the high ground in effectiveness, efficiency, and experimentation regarding creating business-focused leaders. Here are some of the programs they have in place that your agency could emulate:
Contingency Contracting. Streamlining contracting processes for rapid response during emergencies and contingency situations.
Contracting Board of Directors. Establishing a board to drive effective decision-making and strategic contracting efforts quickly.
Operational Contracting Civilian Billets Upgrade: Elevating the grade of operational contracting civilian positions to attract and retain top talent.
Worldwide Contracting Training Summit. For the first time in 10 years, bringing together contract management specialists to enhance skills and knowledge
Operation Clean Sweep. Reducing the volume of supplemental regulations by paring down 700+ pages of documentation to less than 300, freeing up more time for your contract team’s more focused decision-making.
Streamlining oversight. Removing layers of approval and granting more authority to Senior Contracting Officials.
Pitch Day. An avenue for rapid contract-idea evaluation and streamlined payment processes, where anyone from any level of an agency can present their most innovative ideas on proposal and contract management expedition.
Single-Page Contract. The wonderfully outrageous idea of limiting a proposal to a single page.
The DoD contracting arena is at a crossroads, and the path ahead demands bold, visionary leaders who can leverage business-school training and embrace innovation. The Air Force's successes stand as a testament to the potential of the rest of the defense community.
Embracing a business school approach is not just a choice; it’s necessary for the future of our national security and the empowerment of our warfighters.
Stay mission-focused during proposals with ProPricer
ProPricer Government Edition can eliminate the cost-modeling process and facilitate faster, more constructive communications between agencies and contractors during proposal evaluation and negotiations. Request a pre-demo call today >