April 16, 2014, REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The National Guard has landed at Army Contracting Command headquarters here.
Col. Jim Helm, a full-time Army National Guard Soldier, is the first National Guard advisor for ACC.
“I’m here to find ways to expand the readiness of our contingency contracting teams,” he said, referring to the National Guard’s contracting force.
The guard is placing a greater importance on contingency contracting readiness and recognizes how critically important proper training and certification are, especially in forward locations, he said. The National Guard is committed to ensuring only fully qualified contracting people are deployed, Helm added.
“My primary mission here is to help ensure the readiness of our contracting Soldiers. We need to align the National Guard contracting enterprise to the standards that have been hard fought for by ACC.”
Part of that mission is to learn ACC’s best practices and take them back to the guard contracting community, he added.
“We have a vested interest in accessing the tools, policy and procedures propagated by ACC,” he said.
He cited use of the Virtual Contracting Enterprise – a suite of online contracting tools – as a potential area for increased emphasis and use. Currently the guard uses only two VCE tools: the Paperless Contract File and Contracting Officer’s Representative Tool.
According to Helm, traditional Guard members also face a tough challenge in meeting their education requirements for Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certifications, primarily due to their limited training time. Guard Soldiers work for the state in which they are assigned. They have 39 days a year for training, consumed mostly by unit training, civil disturbance training and state missions, said Helm, a member of the Virginia National Guard attached to the National Guard Bureau, Washington, D.C., with duty at ACC.
“If you crunch the numbers, it could take six to 10 years to get DAWIA Level I certified,” Helm continued. “We need a program for ensuring that the DAWIA requirements for on-the-job training become an integral part of the overall functioinal area skills development program, much like we do for doctors and air traffic controllers.”
He said by associating with ACC, guard Soldiers will get a renewed focus by the National Guard Bureau on their career development as contingency contracting officers. The Army National Guard has about 200 contingency contracting Soldiers.
Helm is no stranger to the rigors of the contracting profession, with 13 years of operational contracting experience. He has been in the acquisition workforce since 1994 and the Acquisition Corps since 2000. He is DAWIA Level III certified in contracting and program management and is Level II certified in facility engineering. Prior to his assignment here, he was director of contracting for the National Guard Bureau.