Contracting officer in Pakistan delivering supplies on demand
CHAKLALA AIR FIELD, Pakistan — Even almost self-sufficient military detachments eventually will need to rely on local businesses for some things — anything from portable toilets to fuel. When that happens, there’s only one go-to guy: a contracting officer.
Which is why the Marines and sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force, who have been here for a week, have kept Staff Sgt. Donald Jones moving at what passes for contracting-officer warp speed. He’s issued 10 contracts in the first five full days on the ground here.
“If it can’t be obtained through the supply system, we go out and get it commercially,” said Jones, sole contractor for the 14-person advance party.
Those first 10 contracts total more than $120,000 and include everything from vehicle rentals to support in Shinkiari, where the unit from 3rd Marine Logistics group — including the Bravo Surgical Company from 3rd Medical Battalion — will set up soon.
“My focus is initial life support,” said Jones, one of only about 120 contracting officers in the Marine Corps. “Things like latrines, showers, trash removal, bio-waste and hazardous material removal, since we have medical [assets].”
Jones also contracted local “jingle trucks” that transported all the detachment’s equipment from the air field to Shinkiari.
“It’s imperative to have the contracting officer here with us in the advance party,” said Navy Lt. James Quick, the detachment’s operations officer. “He affords us the opportunity to take advantage of local resources — building relations with local communities, contributing to their economy and allowing the team to successfully complete the mission.”
Before Jones can issue a contract, he must find companies and obtain bids. He said contracting officers try to obtain at least two bids for every contract, preferably three or more. He said the normal wait to award the contract when deployed is one to two days but that varies based on its dollar amount and the need for the product or service.
The hardest part of the job, he said, “is learning the local business practices everywhere you go and finding adequate competition.” He relies on the Internet to find businesses, he said; he began searching it even before the advance group left Okinawa.
To locate the support needed, Jones said he starts with general suppliers — middle men who don’t own businesses but can find almost anything — then branches out from there. Arriving with the advance party is key, he said, as that lets him find those contacts and get arrangements in place before the main body of the group arrives.
With so many contracts involved, Jones said, a key to staying organized is to keep current with the record-keeping.
“I try not to backlog. … I try to knock it out as I go, or else you could forget what orders you place,” he said. “As an additional back-up, I get everything in writing via e-mail.”
With the remaining 190-plus troops to arrive Tuesday night, Jones said, he’ll stay busy until the camp is completely up and running. At that point, he said, the initial onslaught should ease.
For now, though, life for the staff sergeant is all contracts, all the time.