The Air Force Installation Contracting Agency, known as AFICA, closed out 2017 on a high note by reporting more than $1 billion in verified budgetary savings and cost avoidance as documented in the agency’s Cost Savings Tracker and by welcoming a new executive director – Renee M. Richardson, a member of the Senior Executive Service.
Nearly two years ago, AFICA published the AFICA Flight Plan, a document that provides the strategic framework to help shape the future of the organization. In it, the agency set a goal to directly align with the Air Force Materiel Command Strategic Plan and to drive cost effectiveness into the capabilities the agency provides by reducing costs by $1 billion over the next five years.
Just two years later, AFICA’s Cost Savings Tracker has captured nearly $1 billion in budgetary savings and cost avoidance reported by the Air Force Operational Contracting Community and validated by Air Force contracting and financial management officials.
“The idea is to go from just budget execution to what we call strategic cost management, where we’re actually trying to control costs and not just spending money as fast as you can,” said Roger Westermeyer, director of Enterprise Sourcing Support at AFICA.
This mindset requires a change in business practices among contracting professionals who are forced to work under less than optimal budgetary conditions that make it difficult to forecast.
“Lately we haven’t been receiving distribution until February or March, and we’re required to have 80 percent of the money spent by the end of July,” Westermeyer said. “This creates some wasteful behaviors. So that’s the culture we’re trying to change – to go from just spending your money to spending it wisely.”
Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, often refers to AFMC as the “cost-conscience” of the Air Force, and Westermeyer explained that much of the innovation that supports this idea comes from the field.
“We’re not in a for-profit model like industry is. We like to provide more capability for the dollars that we do have. Innovation comes from the field; it doesn’t come from the headquarters, so Brig. Gen. Holt [AFICA commander] challenged the field to find ways to do things smarter to save money and improve mission effectiveness.
“This is not about AFICA and the Cost Savings Tracker; it’s about the hard work that those in the field are doing using analytics and brain cells to do things better and smarter. This provides value to that wing commander out there because now if he or she saves some money, they can move money to another project that didn’t get funded,” Westermeyer said.
Good ideas and best practices are shared during monthly enterprise sourcing “Cross-Talk” conference calls in which contracting personnel from around the world call in and share success stories.
“Last month, we heard from a team that did some work on utilities contracts, consolidating their gas and electric requirements into one contract. They took a different approach and got us a better deal,” Westermeyer said.
Another initiative contracting professionals across the Air Force are undertaking is to partner with local communities for shared services.
“For example, up in Alaska they partnered with the state to get their roads striped on different bases and they got a really good deal. This works really well where we have bases close together where they can partner on one contract instead of three for a better deal, and still support the local community.
“We’re trying to get our Airmen in the field to think like business people. Gen. Holt likes to use the term ‘business leaders’ – to really understand how markets operate, how industry operates and be able to shape the best deal for the Air Force,” said Westermeyer.
This mindset also aligns with how AFICA continues to help the Air Force prepare for the implementation of Category Management.
According to the Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy website at https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/ss/index.html, Category Management is an approach the federal government is applying to buy smarter and more like a single enterprise. Category Management enables the government to eliminate redundancies, increase efficiency and deliver more value and savings from the government's acquisition programs.
It involves identifying core areas of spend, collectively developing heightened levels of expertise, leveraging shared best practices and providing acquisition, supply and demand management solutions.
Earlier in 2017, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Commander Maj. Gen. Brad Spacy appointed the first two category managers for the Air Force; for categories 3.0., Security and Protection and 4.0., Facilities and Construction.
Later in June 2017, Richard Lombardi, SAF/MG, was then appointed as the Air Force’s category management accountable official, primarily responsible for the overall implementation of Category Management within the Air Force.
Since his appointment, two more category managers have been appointed – Category 1.0, Information Technology and 2.0, Professional Services. AFICA provides business analytics support, consultation, training and other tools in support of Category Management.
AFICA welcomes new executive director
Michigan native Renee Richardson, a 1988 Air Force Academy graduate, and member of the Senior Executive Service was appointed executive director of AFICA in November after retiring from an active-duty career as a colonel. She most recently served as the chief of staff for the Defense Contract Management Agency, Fort Lee, Virginia.
In the mid-1990s, she worked with Lockheed Martin in Orlando for a year through the Education with Industry program as a student.
“It was interesting to see how they negotiated with their subcontractors because they’re not constrained by the rules that we are. It was really eye-opening and very helpful coming back into the Air Force as a contracting officer having that experience behind me,” Richardson said.
Richardson said her experiences have provided her a breadth of experience dealing with different kinds of contracting and leadership challenges.
“They’ve also given me an opportunity to deepen my knowledge in a lot of areas including the Federal Acquisition Regulation. The more you understand the FAR, the more you can work within the rules and get things done,” Richardson said.
She commended the entire AFICA organization worldwide on the progress made in the short period of time since AFICA stood up.
“It’s amazing how the virtual team has worked together to save this amount of money in such a short period of time,” Richardson said. “Our team stretches from here to Japan and Korea all the way to Europe, getting stuff done for our Air Force, enabling that billion dollar savings.”
Richardson said her primary job is to support Holt and his vision for AFICA and as quickly as possible, help move the organization in a manner in which it can accelerate dollar savings and lessons learned.
“I’m super excited to see the Enterprise Sourcing Squadrons mature into being enablers for Category Management,” Richardson said.
“We had been tactically buying across the Air Force and when you tactically buy, you bid each other up. Category Management will enable us to be more efficient and effective for requirement owners, contracting folks, and from the folks who oversee performance management,” she said.
Richardson added that supporting the Ability One Program, which is one of the nation’s largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities, as well as working with small businesses and fostering the high performing workplace at AFICA, will be among her top priorities.
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