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New Contracting Tool Saves TCAQ an Estimated $1.5 Million in Lost Productivity

New Contracting Tool Saves TCAQ an Estimated $1.5 Million in Lost Productivity

U.S. Transportation Command acquisition professionals currently spend approximately 15 percent of their time filing, storing, transporting and maintaining binders full of contracting documents.  That’s why, in March 2016, Acquisition (TCAQ) Director Gail Jorgenson organized a team of 14 contracting and program management professionals to find a paperless system to automate the contract filing process and save time.

The team’s objectives included streamlining processes for TCAQ to receive, review, share and maintain documents, and providing the ability to store official and legal certified electronic files of record.  To kick off the initiative, the team gathered for a week-long planning conference to scope the project and outline a schedule.

At the conference, the team defined its goals and requirements, mapped the entire acquisition lifecycle process, identified potential systems and developed courses of action for leadership.  When considering capabilities of the contract management tool, they categorized their functional requirements into “Must Have,” “Really Want” and “Nice to Have” evaluation categories in order to more objectively assess the potential technology applications. 

During process mapping, the team uncovered three key obstacles, said Contracting Officer David Hoag.

“First was determining how to get proposals from vendors and commercial contractors to us safely and securely,” Hoag said.  Currently, proposals are received on paper and delivered either in person or sent by mail, so the team had to consider how to build the process electronically with certain security and functionality parameters.  “Those parameters were easy to overcome with AMRDEC SAFE,” Hoag added.

AMRDEC SAFE is the U.S. Army Aviation and Mission Research Development and Engineering Center Safe Access File Exchange.  It is a secure, controlled access ID card (CAC)-enabled web application that can be used to share files up to 2GB in size.

Next, the contract filing tool needed to have the capability to quickly review source selection documents.  Currently, documents are reviewed manually, consuming excess time.  Electronic filing systems offer the opportunity to streamline the document review process.  Specifically, these systems provide solutions that track the review and approval cycle of each document being reviewed.

Finally, the new tool needed to provide an audit trail to track actions throughout the acquisition lifecycle.  Both on paper and in an electronic filing system, all decisions must be documented to provide an audit trail.  Federal Acquisition Regulation rules dictate historical contract files must be kept for six years, and paper copies can take large amounts of physical space.  In addition, paper copies take time for contracting personnel to find the material.  In a web-based tool, historical decisions are archived and can be searched through a simple search engine.

While trying to streamline the process, the team also needed to consider security requirements.  To meet those requirements, they partnered with the USTRANSCOM Command, Control, Communications and Cyber Systems directorate (TCJ6) to find a CAC-enabled, web-based system that would overcome the three key obstacles in a single tool. 

Together they explored several established federal systems; internal resources, including SharePoint and the command’s shared drive; commercial-off-the-shelf and government-off-the-shelf products; and the possibility of developing its own tool.

In the end, the team decided to adopt the U.S. Army’s Paperless Contract Files (PCF).  “We lucked out,” Hoag said.  “The Army system is a web application that doesn’t need a government computer -- contracting professionals can access the application from their own systems.  It’s also secure and tested.  The military has used it since 2012.”

“Beyond automating the contracting file, the application provides a user-friendly document workflow as well as an interface for data reporting and management tools using metrics and dashboards,” said USTRANSCOM Commander Gen. Darren W. McDew.

PCF is a secure, web-based application that can be accessed using Army Knowledge Online’s CAC single sign-on process.  It provides a user friendly document workflow and review interface that tracks changes to documents and offers version control.  And, it fulfills all of the functional requirements the team outlined, from “Must Haves,” to “Really Wants” and “Nice to Haves.”

The AQ cross-functional estimates the PCF will allow the command to save about $1.5 million in lost productivity.  The tool was the least costly solution the team considered, leveraging an annual fee of $600 per user each year, or $108,000 annually for all users.  The fee includes application maintenance and upgrades, training for all personnel, and 24/7 help desk support.  The team plans to have PCF fully operational by Oct. 1, 2016.

“This feat could not have been accomplished without great teamwork across USTRANSCOM by personnel from TCJ6, TCJA (Staff Judge Advocate office) and TCJ8 (Program Analysis and Financial Management directorate),” added McDew.  “Congratulations to this team for moving their organization forward to a paperless environment.”

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