The Defense Contract Management Agency. (Feature Articles)

DISAM Journal, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

The Defense Contract Management Agency. (Feature Articles)


Providing the Warfighters With Contract Management and Acquisition Life-Cycle Solutions

By Brigadier General Edward M. Harrington

Defense Contract Management Agency

Although federal weapons suppliers and military program managers are well aware of the capabilities of the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), most of our men and women in uniform have never heard of it, nor realize how important it is to their lives.

The Department of Defense (DoD) established DCMA as an independent combat support agency on March 27, 2000, splitting it off from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).

The Agency's management structure comprises of a Headquarters in Northern Virginia, three districts, East, headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts; West headquartered in Carson, California; the International District co-located with the Headquarters; and 67 Contract Management Offices (CMOs) around the world. The 11,400 DCMA contract management professionals in plants throughout the United States and 400 personnel in 26 countries around the world manage 360,000 prime contracts worth $900 billion.

DCMA employees ensure that contractors and suppliers deliver weapons systems, services and supplies to the armed forces at the right place, the right time, and for the best price. Even before a contract is awarded, DCMA helps customers construct effective solicitations, select capable companies and write contracts with less risk. After the contract is awarded, DCMA monitors the contractors' performance through data tracking, analysis and on-site surveillance.

What does this mean to the warfighter? Just ask Army Private Jason Ashline, who is alive today because equipment that was inspected by DCMA quality specialists functioned as it was intended. Ashline's story, recently reported in the New York Daily News, illustrates the impact that DCMA has on the safety and security of America's front-line troops. According to the news report, Ashline was shot twice in the chest during a bitter gun battle with al Qaeda fighters in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. He survived when the rounds were stopped by his body armor. "I was pretty scared because I didn't feel any pain," Ashline said. "I thought, 'What's wrong?' I thought maybe I was dead." There was nothing wrong. The body armor worked as it was supposed to because the men and women of DCMA made sure of it.

Private Ashline's account illustrates DCMA's Combat Support Agency role of ensuring that America's armed forces get the high quality products and services they require. But to envision the full meaning of this, it is important to understand the organization's mission.

Much like a strategic business unit within a large corporation, DCMA ensures that contractors and suppliers deliver weapons systems, services and supplies to the federal customer at the right place, the right time, and for the best price. Our professionals serve as "Information Brokers" for buying agencies not just during the acquisition cycle, but throughout the entire life of the contract. We interact with our customers, including the various Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and National Aeronautics and Space Administration program management offices, to ensure that the contracts are meeting their needs and their standards.

Before a contract is awarded, DCMA provides pre-contractual advice to customers to help them construct effective solicitations, identify potential performance risks, select capable companies and write contracts that are easily administered with less risk of costly modifications. After the contract is awarded, DCMA assesses the contractor's system to ensure deliverables, costs and schedules comply with the terms and conditions of the contract. The Agency monitors the contractor's performance through data tracking, analysis and on-site surveillance, and provides program-specific assistance in direct coordination with the customer. …

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