News: Navy contracting: Mission critical for Special Operations
Story by Maj. Joel Anderson
Editor's note: The lieutenant's first name was omitted for security reasons.
KABUL, Afghanistan - Proper logistical support is critical for any unit deployed to Afghanistan, but for Combined Special Operations Task Force Ten (CSOTF-10), the logistics involved in accomplishing its mission is often times more complex than for other units here.
For one U.S. Navy Reserve lieutenant, a logistician from the USNR’s Naval Cargo Handling Battalion Three, Fuels Detachment, out of NOSC, Bremerton, Wash., currently serving as the CSOTF-10 contract specialist, providing critical logistics support has proven extremely rewarding.
In the world of modern military operations, especially in the extremely austere environment of Afghanistan, thousands of miles from the nearest seaport, supplies critical for decisive operations must often be flown in or trucked in. Living conditions can be severe, degrading to health and morale.
However, when possible, contract specialists such as Lt. Doll work to procure essential logistics support, especially facilities construction and services through the use of logistics contracts.
Doll arrived at Task Force 10 (TF-10) in September and has seen a high operational tempo ever since.
“When I first got here, Task Force 10 was expanding its mission to train and mentor its seven PRCs [Provincial Response Companies],” Doll explained, “so new compounds needed to be constructed for support of our Training Units [TUs], which are basically Army Special Forces’ ODAs, often augmented by SOF [Special Operations Forces] elements from one of seven NATO partners. My first three months were spent overseeing the building of force protection and support structures such as dining facilities [DFACs], billets, latrines and medical buildings. The first and most important contract we write is force protection. Building perimeters, gates and bunkers to keep our personnel safe when they are in the confines of their living area is necessary for their physical and mental wellbeing.”
Although Doll and TF-10 are headquartered in the Kabul Base Cluster, there are TUs in seven provinces, some with multiple locations all in need of constant and consistent logistics support.
“At this point in time, due to the operational tempo of many of our Battle Space Owners [BSOs], which are Army Brigade Combat Team [BCT] elements, the main effort is being focused on retrograde of U.S. forces. As those conventional forces begin to unplug or disengage we are picking up the services they were providing, so there is now more contracting support necessary than ever from many of our remote locations,” Doll continued.
In addition to the physical camp and some of the most basic needs that come to mind, such as security and food service support, a lot more goes into supporting troops at isolated outstations.
Doll and his fellow logisticians also support TF-10 with things such as generator maintenance, black-water pumping (septic), potable water, and of course life support to include security, dining facilities (DFAC) and even internet access via satellite when available to help keep up morale.
“Most people back home hear about the number of troops over here and never consider the amount of support that is required to sustain them. Special operations forces [SOF] especially must rely on contracted support for essential logistics because they are forward deployed in austere environments here in Afghanistan away from the large base support networks that exist at Bagram, Kabul and Kandarhar. Without contracted support, our teams would not be able to sustain the long term forward positions that have helped them form good relationships with local Afghan PRCs and PCOPs. ”
In preparation to become the TF-10 Contracting Officer’s Representative, which is akin to a project manager in the civilian sector, Doll underwent more than 80 hours of classroom and online instruction.
“Writing contracts is a complex process that includes cost analysis, construction plans and drawings, statements of work and quality assurance plans. Once completed and reviewed by the legal officer and the TF commander, the complete package is sent to a review board for funding approval. Depending on the contract, the package may be sent to a JFARB [Joint Forces’ Amended Resource Board] or the JFUB [Joint Facilities Utilization Board] or the JARB [Joint Assessed Resources Board]. Once funding is acquired, the regional contracting office solicits bids from local Afghan companies and awards the contract. That is when my COR responsibilities start.”
One of the guidelines for contracting is the directive to utilize Afghan companies for all construction and services. That creates unique challenges which must be overcome. Those challenges include language barriers and cultural norms.
“I had to embrace those differences in order to get the job done.” Doll said.
Doll also provided much needed input and oversight for TF-10’s monthly and annual spending planned for the upcoming fiscal year.
All-in-all, although the contracting process is very complex, it assures that the U.S. taxpayers will get what they pay for, critical support for their Special Operations Warriors serving at the tip of the spear.