MARCH 18, 2015, FORT BLISS, Texas – More than $30 billion was lost from contract waste and fraud during military contingencies in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to 2011, according to a congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contracting report from 2011.
The Commission concluded that the loss could have been avoided through proper oversight and management of contracted support. This has led to new Operational Contract Support doctrine.
Although the report called attention to the significance of OCS, efforts to address shortfalls have been in motion since 2008 when the Commission was established.
One such effort, Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2015 currently underway here, leads the charge in addressing shortfalls in education and training related to the Department of Defense’s continued reliance on OCS.
Operational Contract Support encompasses the planning, execution and oversight of government contracts for goods or services in support of military operations. This cradle-to-grave support can be complex, blending effects across geographical, political, economic and multi-service areas of responsibility.
At the most basic level, OCS is a commander’s business. Money has a significant impact on the battlefield and lessons learned are used to train and educate personnel who may be a part of the OCS process in the future.
U.S. Army Col. Tim Strange, OCSJX-15 Army lead, explains that not only is OCS important because it involves tax-payer money, the consequences, intended or unintended, of OCS have an impact on achieving a commander’s objectives.
“If OCS is not integrated and planned for up front and managed on the back end, we may not support the commander’s intent, and we won’t meet the end-state we desire,” he said. “Success in OCS is dependent on good communication throughout the contracting community and with the operational commands we support.”
Events sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, such as OCSJX-15, create a platform for such communication and offer a venue to build relationships at the tactical, operational and strategic level of OCS. The joint, multi-national exercise includes approximately 1,000 military and civilian members from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and participation from Canada, Great Britain, Australia, along with DOD contractors.
“There are not enough contracting assets within the DoD for any one service to support one hundred percent of the need,” Strange said. “We also do not have enough uniformed service members to support ourselves in a deployed environment for any sustained period of time. We rely on vendors for billeting, food service operations and to augment our staff in some specialty areas. We even use vendor support for security so that our uniformed military can be outside the wire executing missions.”
Today, about half of the personnel involved in operations in Afghanistan are contractors. Because these contractors work and live within a commander’s area of responsibility on the battlefield, they are directly linked to the mission.
“If we are communicating from the beginning, before there is a need, we will be successful in meeting the commander’s intent,” Strange said. “If OCS is properly integrated, we can further the commander’s objectives.”
This is the sixth year the OCS community has gathered for a joint OCS exercise like OCSJX-15 and to date, OCSJX-15 is the largest OCS exercise ever held. Every year, the event evolves to include lessons learned and open the OCS aperture to incorporate other agencies with a stake in OCS.