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I'm a current 1102 with a Level 1 DAWIA Cert, serving in an Administrative function with DCMA. I have 1 year of experience as an 1102; however, I also spent two years as a procurement technician in an operational contracting capacity where I purchased commodities and services below the simplified acquisition threshold. I am set to interview with the Department of Energy soon for a vacant position that performs both pre and post award contracting. The vacancy indicates the Contract Specialist will be "responsible for procurement of services with difficult and complex requirements." In addition to that, it says the Contract Specialist will use a variety of contract types, such as, but not limited to, fixed price incentive, cost plus fixed or incentive fee, and BOAs. According to the job posting, the Contract Specialist is also responsible for "detailed cost/price analyses."

The reason why I'm reiterating what was stated in the job posting is because I recently interviewed for a position at an Air Force R&D location, which performed mainly cost reimbursement type contracts due to the nature of the mission. I don't know exactly why I was not selected, and it could have been due to a variety of factors, but I suspect part of it is due to my inexperience with cost reimbursement type contracts. In order to acquire more of the type of experience I believe agencies I am interested in are looking for, I have been submitting my resume to places that I feel would broaden my experience and offer a new and challenging environment, like the DOE vacancy I wrote about above.

While this appears to be a great career opportunity, I have heard negative things about civilian agencies by DOD employees. While I believe most of it is hearsay, I also heard it from a DAWIA professor, but I have heard nothing concerning the Department of Energy. If you factor in the work being conducted in DOE's Research Labs, like those in New Mexico for example, the DOE could indirectly be considered to work in a Defense capacity, especially considering the nature of some of the work being performed, which could be utilized by the military at some point, as well as perhaps, serving to protect the nation from natural disasters, or anticipated and unanticipated events. Regardless, I am concerned there is a stigma associated with civilian agencies, and that the FAC-C may not be equivalent to a DAWIA cert.

This is important because I believe it's possible, even likely, that at some point during my career, the Government will contract and I may be forced to find another job. Considering Defense is one of the main core functions of the Federal Government, I imagine, depending on available vacancies, and demand to fill those vacancies, there may be positions available in the DOD when there are none in other agencies. In addition to this, there may be an opportunity to apply for a vacancy that is too good to pass up or close to a relative that may need assistance.

To summarize, assuming I am fortunate enough to be selected for this available vacancy, which would be an amazing opportunity that I would be very grateful to have, if in the future for whatever reason, I desire to get back into the DOD, will I have a difficult road ahead?

Chances are, this won't be an issue at all because I'll probably find a way to screw up the interview or will lack something the agency is looking for relative to the other candidates, but I appreciate any forthcoming responses to my question, as it will help me to navigate my career.

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Having worked for both DoD agencies and civilian agencies, one thing I can tell you that runs throughout is that 1102s like to complain about their current and/or previous employers. If all the complaints I have heard were true, then it would be pretty miserable working anywhere in the job series. All places have their pluses and minuses, so I really wouldn't worry too much about anecdotal complaints about any instant agency.

In terms of the job announcement, often times language is canned and the announcement may not truly reflect the position.

In terms of DAWIA/FAC-C, a DAWIA certification should be honored by a civilian agency. However, the reverse will not necessarily be the case, as DAWIA has more specific requirements than FAC-C.

In general, it sounds like you have some self-confidence issues to work on. If you walk into an interview thinking that you will "probably find a way to screw up," then you have already sabotaged your chances as a good interviewer will be able to pick up on your lack self-perceived inability to do the job.

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Well, I'll share some of my thoughts:

  • People do move between DOD and the civilian agencies. I do not believe that one is necessarily better than the other. I've seen strong (and weak) 1102s on both sides. In my opinion, the most valued asset you can possess is broad experience. You can acquire that at both DOD and non-DOD activities. If there are any barriers to entry or re-entry (into DOD), I think that would revolve around the DAWIA requirements (i.e. some jobs require DAWIA to even apply). But I can tell you that I've interviewed for DOD jobs without a DAWIA certification and it didn't appear to be an issue.
  • I've heard some great things about DOE. If you're utilizing FP and CR contract types, working in FAR Part 15, doing source selections, et cetera, you are building both your resume and experience needed to be competitive for both non-DOD and DOD jobs. If the job is interesting, you believe in the mission of the organization, and it will build your skills as an 1102, then go for it.
  • I'll echo what Civ_1102 said about your confidence. Work on it. When I'm interviewing an 1102 for a job, I want to hear confidence (but not arrogance) in his or her voice. If they don't believe in their capabilities to learn and do the job they're interviewing for, I won't believe in them either. I don't expect them to know everything, but I do expect them to know what they're capable of.

Good luck with the job!

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Guest Vern Edwards

I have worked for the Air Force in systems acquisition and in two civilian agencies, one of them.within DOE. I would prefer not to work for a civilian agency again.

The main difference is organizational discipline, which in my experience is too often lacking in civilian agencies. I think that leadership is stronger in DOD and that DOD contracting personnel are generally better trained, and I have found that military personnel make better managers than civilians. They respect know-how and a can-do spirit and tend to award go-getters. Furthermore, I think that DOD does more interesting acquisitions. (Although NASA does some real gems.)

Having said these things, I admit that organizations within DOD differ, and some are better than others. You have to choose carefully.

The things I've said are broad generalizations that reflect my experience. I'm not declaring them to be THE truth. They're just my truth.

The keys to success are loyalty, mastery of pertinmemt concepts, facts, and procedures, skill at reasoning and communication, and an indomitable will to get the job done well.

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I spent 20 years with DoD (and it seemed like we were in a state of war most of the time): Army, Navy, Army Corps, both stateside and OCONUS (Germany, Spain). I deployed to Kuwait and to Bosnia.

Where else can you get those travel opportunities, besides the Peace Corps? I received all training through Level III with DoD (DAWIA).

Fabulous and stressful---and I would not change one moment.

Then, I transferred to a civilian agency (we're number 1!!) where my DAWIA Level III was accepted and converted into FAC-C III.

My observations about the transfer: I love the civilian agency for which I serve (we're number 1!!!) and would not change my decision to leave DoD.

However, the depth and variety of contracting experience and opportunities I received with DoD is priceless. I don't think my civilian agency 1102 colleagues could even fathom.

The world is changing quickly. I started out in construction and we were doing a lot of MILCON. Those days are waning.

If I was just starting out right as an 1102 in 2014, I would learn all I could about IT, software contracting, data rights, intellectual property, research and development....

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The difference between the working climate of DoD agencies and Non-DoD agencies is palpable. I prefer working for DoD. Of course, I am retired Army so the regimental, can-do, teamwork, mission focused support provided for the DoD is in my blood. DoD has afforded me oportunities to do commercial and non-commercial acquisitions. DoD contracting is made of: (just to name a few) Construction & A&E, supplies, professional/non-professional/personal/non-personal services, RDT&E, Environmental, and on and on. Non-DoD agencies are focused on their specific missions and do not affort the depth of experience gaining procurements. Since you are currently in DCMA, are you only working post-award administration? Your experience as a procurement technician under $150K provides you with a basic understanding of contracting policies and procedures. If you want to build more large contract acquisition experience, I advocate you remain within the DoD.

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I pretty much agree with all that's been said above. I'll also add that many civilian agencies give COs much wider latitude to work and make decisions independently than does DoD (this also is a braod generalization). Civilian agencies are more mission focused and COs are expected to be mission supportive.

I must say though that my civilian experience at one agencywas incredible and would have had to switch to multiple DoD places to even come close - did aircraft and marine acquisition, construction, R&D, major IT, and even a huge project for an overseas government. As the CO I had pretty much free reins in crafting and carrying out the acquisition strategy.

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Vern,

I realize you have much greater contact than me with the workforce so I won't dispute your opinion on this. But what I meant is DoD contracting employees typically are many organizational positions removed from the actual mission so they don't see their immediate impact as much.

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The main difference is organizational discipline, which in my experience is too often lacking in civilian agencies. I think that leadership is stronger in DOD and that DOD contracting personnel are generally better trained....

I took a snippet of what Vern said in posts above and completely agree. Although on the dark-side as a contractor employee, I've had experiences between DOJ, DOE, HHS, and DOD.

I'm currently working in a DOE environment for the last four years. With the civilian agency mindset, we're always thinking on our toes and with very creative solutions. When HQ or headshop says no, you will find ways to execute the mission. Because there is a certain lack of discipline or even in-line fighting and revolving door shuffling, one solution never fits the bill for all parties involved. The mission also is never really clearly defined and changes daily with what we find in the ground and tanks! I'm always told this is an opportunity and, perhaps, I would get bored in a structured setting!

From the DOD world, I really miss the structure and professional respect. I also miss being "schooled" by my Contracting Officer with good debates, and them giving good arguments on why I'm wrong, with actual citations and cases. I'm not sure all my DOE CO's get the level of training and understanding they need for complex programs. Please say that you'll brush up on FAR Part 15 Contracting and not get stuck in a Part 17.6 mindset right away.

Take a peek and see how many of these folks are "acting" on the org chart for a sense of how often structure/priorities/shakeups happen. Call me naive, but I've never seen this many departures and "have to fill the hole fire drills" so rapidly in a DOD world:

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I worked in DOD for about 22 years (R&D/Commercial/Simplified/IT) before moving to a civilian agency. I left DoD when it became clear that the grade structure where I was at did not provide for much more advancement (limited number of higher grades) and the attitude towards employees became "less appreciative" along with reduced opportunities for training and leadership development. I had heard that the grades in civilian agencies were higher and that I could get more pay for the same level of work I was performing.

After I got to my new job and started reviewing the work being performed, I was pretty much aghast at the lack of training/knowledge the specialists had for their grade level as well as the rather weak role the contracts office had in the agency. In DoD the "requiring officials/end-users" were somewhat held accountable for preparing their share of the acquisition documentation; at the civlian agency, the "requiring officials/end-users" were rather taken aback when asked for documentation and would state "but we never had to do this before". In general, the workforce was way less acquisition savvy. In fact, it was so "out-there" I started looking to switch agencies rather than deal with this new bizzarro world I found myself in.

However, the civilian agency was very appreciative towards their workforce and there were more opportunities for training and advancement. There was also the feeling that the agency cared about the welfare of their employees. Lastly, the agency has been very open (well, sort of) to implementing improvements to the agency-wide acquisition environment and allowing the staff to be a part of that process.

I am very thankful to the DoD for the acquisition training and oversight I experienced and wouldn't change a thing about it. I am also very happy with the agency I went to and am grateful for the opportunities and challenges it has presented to me.

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After I got to my new job and started reviewing the work being performed, I was pretty much aghast at the lack of training/knowledge the specialists had for their grade level as well as the rather weak role the contracts office had in the agency. In DoD the "requiring officials/end-users" were somewhat held accountable for preparing their share of the acquisition documentation; at the civlian agency, the "requiring officials/end-users" were rather taken aback when asked for documentation and would state "but we never had to do this before". In general, the workforce was way less acquisition savvy. In fact, it was so "out-there" I started looking to switch agencies rather than deal with this new bizzarro world I found myself in.

This aligns with my experience.

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I did my first 8 years in DOD and have done the last 4 in civilian agencies. I've found the civilian agencies less bureaucratic but they contain less contracting expertise. The DOD was the opposite. Of course, everyone's mileage will vary. There are good pockets and bad pockets in every agency. (Try to make your agency one of those good pockets!)

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  • 3 weeks later...

I work for a civilian agency and I'm pretty happy with it. I think we get quite a bit of flexibility in my agency and are allowed a bit more of a leash (from what I've heard, at least). You may want to consider the feedback in one of the "Best Places to Work" surveys they do for federal agencies every year.

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I agree that the DoD folks are better trained and better managed. The two things that surprised me when I moved from DoD to civilian was a) much closer interactions with the program offices - I practically lived with them, as opposed to DoD, where they were usually many levels and organizations distant from contracts; and B ) contract administration. Where I worked in NAVSEA, our office did awards, and then the file was shipped off to the ACO and we never saw it again. But civilian agencies do cradle-to-grade contract admin, and I was quickly drowning in admin mods, invoices, oversight and all the little day-to-day contract activities that are usually hidden from the PCO in DoD.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I agree that the DoD folks are better trained and better managed. The two things that surprised me when I moved from DoD to civilian was a) much closer interactions with the program offices - I practically lived with them, as opposed to DoD, where they were usually many levels and organizations distant from contracts; and B ) contract administration. Where I worked in NAVSEA, our office did awards, and then the file was shipped off to the ACO and we never saw it again. But civilian agencies do cradle-to-grade contract admin, and I was quickly drowning in admin mods, invoices, oversight and all the little day-to-day contract activities that are usually hidden from the PCO in DoD.

A Management Concepts classmate mentioned the same exact thing with regard to the cradle-to-grave admin work. He had moved from the DoD to a smaller civilian agency and was blindsided the amount of administrative mods, de-obs, invoicing, and other nuances involved. He came from a large-scale program to the "minor leagues" and it was totally new. I'm at ba civilian agency and the cradle-to-grave type of work seems normal to me. I spend half my day dealing directly with program offices and other customers. I can't imagine not having direct contact with the requiring customer office.

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Guest Vern Edwards

You can have that kind of contact with the program office in DOD. It depends on where you work. DOD is vast and offers many different working arrangements. You can work at the Washington Headquarters Service, where you support people in different facilities in the DC area. Or you can work at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, where you are co-located with the program office. For most of my time with DOD and DOE, I was co-located with the program office. The PMs office was around the corner from mine. The only time I wasn't co-located was when I worked at a headquarters in DC, where there was no program office.

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Bagheera - Here are my observations and 2 cents. Take them for what they are worth.

I have never worked for DOD, but I worked with people who have. My immediate supervisor who was DOD trained and came from DCMA worked very much like the way that PoisonIvy described. She would never tell me what to do, but I would form a position, she would say "consider x, y, z and come back to me." I would read the regulations, gao decisions, or internal policy, consider whether it was applicable, return to her summarizing what was said and arguing that it didn't apply (if that was the case) of showing how it changed my position (if that was the case).

I say this because it was engaging, fun, and professional. I have not found many people like her in the civilian agencies, so I look at her as being an exception rather than a rule.

With 2 years in, and as a CO, you are going to have more opportunities in the future than you realize. The primary reason (I think) why people move from DOD to Civilian is because of the pay grades and advancement. You will hit a ceiling eventually...when you do then look around. I would suggest staying in DOD until you reach the GS 12-13 pay grade then look around. Others mention that there if reciprocity between DAWIA and FAC-C but not for FAC-C to DAWIA. Keep working towards your DAWIA III so that if/when you jump between agencies you have greater opportunities. If you leave DOD after 1 year it will be more difficult to return because DAWIA I can be had by anyone. DAWIA III CO's on the other hand don't grow on trees.

You have a lot to consider, but the grass is seldom greener on the other side. I advocate for moving once you have hit the point where there is little upward mobility, and then move on. Your colleagues (or an internal mentor) may be able to help identify when that happens. When I was hired by the government the person who hired me told me my first day "congratulations...don't stay too long." Most would find that to be weird, but his point was in the position he hired me for would hinder rather than help me if I stuck around too long. A good mentor/supervisor will know when they have to lose you for your own benefit. Moving around within an agency (if don't right and smart) looks better than moving around between agencies.

Make sense?

J

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Guest Vern Edwards

I became GS-1102-05 trainee in 1974. By 1984 I was a GS-1102-15. I was promoted as quickly as the law then allowed, about once a year. I did it by getting into a good training program, doing a good job, and moving around.

As a general rule, I advocate changing jobs about once every two years or so. If you pay attention, then in two years you'll learned as much about a particular job as you're going to (which is not the same as learning about a particular kind of task or a profession).

Be ambitious, but not too blatantly so. You'll need the respect of your peers.

Once you become a leader, manager, supervisor -- whatever they're called these days, I advocate taking over offices where your predecessor has failed or done poorly. That's because it's much harder to follow someone who has done a great job. Take over an office that's a mess and make it better. If you succeed, you're a hero and a genius. If you fail, people will say that no one could have fixed that office.

Learn your business. Learn everything you can. Never, ever, stop learning. Read constantly. Read everything. This is especially important in the first years of your career, so you can outshine your peers. Train yourself to think, write, and present well. Every meeting, memo, and presentation is an opportunity to impress someone or make someone think you're an idiot. But remember: You can't know everything in the world. Whatever happens, you'll die a fool about something or other. (Apologies to Solzhenitsyn.)

Think critically. Know the truth, be honest, but don't be too frank about it until you've reached a high level. Much of what "leaders" say, especially political appointees, is often just bull. You will work for know-nothings, incompetents, and idiots from time to time, but there is no need to let them (or others) know what you think about them while you're still coming up. Remember, too, that everyone is an idiot at one time or another.

Learn to look good by making your boss look good, but don't brag about it. Let the boss have the credit. A good boss will appreciate it and, if not, the smart people will know what you've done and respect you for it.

Cultivate business-like relationships with people who can promote you or influence others to promote you. Serve them well and be loyal. But don't kiss a**. People respect loyalty, but not a**kissing. You'll need the respect of your peers.

The best people to work for are the smart, tough, demanding ones. The ones who won't coddle you. Getting your a** kicked occasionally for screwing up never hurt anybody. If tough, direct criticism hurts your feelings, toughen up. Never complain about an a** kicking. Remember that sympathy is not the same as respect.

And don't explain a screwup unless you're asked to. If you're asked to, don't explain in a way that tries to provide an excuse.

Seek criticism. Be suspicious when somebody says you did a good job. Did they really mean it? What was good about it? Do they know a good job when they see one? Nobody is perfect, so what could have been better?

Learn to laugh at yourself for goodness sake, and to forgive yourself.

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I became GS-102-05 trainee in 1974. By 1984 I was a GS-1102-15. I was promoted as quickly as the law then allowed, about once a year. I did it by getting into a good training program, doing a good job, and moving around.

As a general rule, I advocate changing jobs about once every two years or so. If you pay attention, then in two years you'll learned as much about a particular job as you're going to (which is not the same as learning about a particular kind of task or a profession).

Be ambitious, but not too blatantly so. You'll need the respect of your peers.

Once you become a leader, manager, supervisor -- whatever they're called these days, I advocate taking over offices where your predecessor has failed or done poorly. That's because it's much harder to follow someone who has done a great job. Take over an office that's a mess and make it better. IIf you succeed, you're a hero and a genius. f you fail, people will say that no one could have fixed that office.

Learn your business. Learn everything you can. Never, ever, stop learning. Read constantly. Read everything. This is especially important in the first years of your career, so you can outshine your peers. Train yourself to think, write, and present well. Every meeting, memo, and presentation is an opportunity to impress someone or make someone think you're an idiot. But remember: You can't know everything in the world. Whatever happens, you'll die a fool about something or other. (Apologies to Solzhenitsyn.)

Think critically. Know the truth, be honest, but don't be too frank about it until you've reached a high level. Much of what "leaders" say, especially political appointees, is often just bull. You will work for know-nothings, incompetents, and idiots from time to time, but there is no need to let them (or others) know what you think about them while you're still coming up. Remember, too, that everyone is an idiot at one time or another.

Learn to look good by making your boss look good, but don't brag about it. Let the boss have the credit. A good boss will appreciate it and, if not, the smart people will know what you've done and respect you for it.

Cultivate business-like relationships with people who can promote you or influence others to promote you. Serve them well and be loyal. But don't kiss a**. People respect loyalty, but not a**kissing. You'll need the respect of your peers.

The best people to work for are the smart, tough, demanding ones. The ones who won't coddle you. Getting your a** kicked occasionally for screwing up never hurt anybody. If tough, direct criticism hurts your feelings, toughen up. Never complain about an a** kicking. Remember that sympathy is not the same as respect.

And don't explain a screwup unless you're asked to. If you're asked to, don't explain in a way that tries to provide an excuse.

Seek criticism. Be suspicious when somebody says you did a good job. Did they really mean it? What was good about it? Do they know a good job when they see one. Nobody is perfect, so what could have been better?

Learn to laugh at yourself for goodness sake, and to forgive yourself.

This is incredible. I think I'll print this out and hang it over my desk at home.

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Kudos to martyfnemec and to the others who shared their experiences. Thank you. I am inspired. It's good to know people still have good values and care.

I started in the private sector working on military programs as a Contract Administrator with a supportive team to going to the government (for the stability and pension) and not getting much support except for finding those few folks who were willing to spend the time to teach me. Lucky for them, I am a blue personality and an initiator for improvement in the workplace. I am now a team lead and resource for my leadership with aspiring goals to move up further.

To the initiator of this posting, everyone who replied is pretty much right on. Everyone will experience different situations and issues with their agency. Each office has its own creative flow and challenges. I worked in both DOD and Civilian agencies and have no preference.

I have 5 years in the private industry for contracting, 3 years in the civilian agency, and 2 in the DOD agency. I got my feet wet in the civilian agency as I was sick of watching my pay dwindle for every extra hour I was forced to work over the weekends in the private side with no satisfaction. I was loyal to them, but they werent to me. I joined the local civilian agency and got to take care of my fellow veterans -- finally I could see the people who are benefiting from my work. However, I wanted to utilize my international business MBA degree, so I jumped ship to the DOD in South Korea. The DOD did not work out for me, though my branch was supportive, as the leadership I was under was not supportive of growing me into a leader, so I am currently CONUS on the civilian side.

I learned from the beginning that the only person who will look after you is you. The agencies/companies will survive without you. It's what you make of it, not necessarily what is given to you. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I have been bit by the travel bug and foresee myself back in another DOD agency for the benefits of living anywhere but home in the near future. Your situation may be different depending on if you have family or kids to be concerned for, but I have no one to worry about, so I am free to pack my bags and jump.

My two cents comes from one of my mentors from the private industry: figure out what you want in your work environment and set out to find it, but remember, the grass is NEVER greener on the other side, just different. That came true when I worked overseas. I could tell you stories. If you see an opportunity for a positive change, pursue it wholeheartedly as your best character comes out when you work hard for it and the satisfaction is that much sweeter. The other advice he gave me was to never burn bridges since contracting is a universal career field across every industry. I still keep in touch with all my past agencies and companies. Some of the folks are lifelong friends.

I was taught the rule of 2/3. If at least two of the three characteristics of your work are fulfilled (work, salary and people), then it is not that bad. If you are happy with two of the three, then the place is stable. However, if only one or none is fulfilled, something needs to change. I am looking for a place that will satisfy all three. Hence, I continue to move. Loyalty works well when your leadership is also loyal to you, but in today's age, especially in the government, I see too many people in management who are not willing to support their staff and make a decision that will benefit them in the long run. There are too many "present" thinkers and years later that decision comes back with a vengence for others to clean up. I am still searching for that opportunity to grow, improve the workplace, and be able to grow those around me.

Last words, no matter where you work or who you work with/for, as long as you learn something, then it was worth the change. I can't say it was worth the time spent, but any change has the opportunity to turn into a positive change.

Good Luck! :D

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