Contracting -- If you got it, we bought it

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Donald Crawford and Maj. David Wilson
  • 81st Contracting Squadron
The Air Force contracting motto is, "If you got it, we bought it." But some people may wonder what contracting really is.

According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, contracting is defined as purchasing, renting, leasing or otherwise obtaining supplies or services from nonfederal sources. Contracting includes description, but not determination, of supplies and services; required selection and solicitation of sources; preparation and award of contracts, and all phases of contract administration. It does not include making grants or cooperative agreements.

What does all this mean? It means that contracting is actively involved in every purchase the government makes, from airplanes and satellites to food and water.

What do contracting people do.

At our home bases, we procure the items and services necessary for the base to operate and carry out its mission. For example, some services or items contracting personnel procure are grounds maintenance including the personnel landscaping and maintaining the public areas on base; medical items and services such as dentists, nurses and medical supplies at our medical facility; construction personnel to repair base facilities, homes, roads and gates, and even gym equipment and utility services.

Contracting personnel also help support the local community. Many contracts are awarded to minority-owned, women-owned, hubzone and other small business categories. We also award contracts to businesses that employ blind or severely handicapped people. Through government contracts, Keesler is able to aid the local community and provide jobs to its citizens.

What do we bring to the fight? Any and everything our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and coalition partners need to fight, survive and accomplish the mission.

During the initial phase of a deployment, contracting officers are sent in with initial forces to aid in providing food, water, shelter and all other items necessary to establish base operations for the rest of the forces to arrive. Often, this requires contracting officers to dress in local customary clothing, go into local markets and engage with the local populace, which can sometimes be a dangerous task. Once the initial set-up is complete and forces begin to arrive, we transition to the sustainment phase. This phase encompasses establishing local contracts to sustain the forces and provide whatever is necessary to continue operations and support the mission.

Finally, the redeployment phase occurs when we have accomplished the mission and our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and coalition partners begin to return home or deploy to an alternate location. At this time, contracting begins closing out local contracts and aiding the departing forces. We are not only one of the first in, but also one of the last out.

Contracting personnel are a critical resource to the wing and abroad with deployed forces. Contracting officers are the only government officials with the authority to spend government funds. In the Air Force, there are less than 1,800 military personnel in contracting. Before the drawdown, Air Force contracting personnel provided approximately 70 percent of the acquisition support in contingency missions across the globe. We may be quiet and we are small in number, but we are always there ensuring our fellow armed forces members have what they need to fight, survive and complete the mission at home and abroad.