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CSJas

Can a Contracting Officer work without a Contract Specialist?

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Hello,

I have only ever worked at one government agency where each CO works with a CS for every procurement. However, I have been job hunting and I noticed that one agency seems to only hire COs and there is no record of any CS positions. I'm trying to figure out why this is. 

So my question is... is it possible for a CO to work alone? As in, can COs fulfill all presolicitation and preaward requirements and sign the documents on his or her own? My assumption is that this is allowable since COs have the actual procurement authority and since the FAR does not mention Contract Specialists. However, I do know that this could be a bad idea because there should be checks and balances in place for ethical reasons. I'm newish to procurement (less than 3 years) and I thought I'd ask the pros... Can COs work on their own? Thanks!

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14 minutes ago, CSJas said:

Can COs work on their own? 

Yes and many often do, particularly in contingency environments.

14 minutes ago, CSJas said:

I do know that this could be a bad idea because there should be checks and balances in place for ethical reasons.

The "check and balance" is the certificate of appointment.  If a CO needs a CS to make sure that the CO doesn't do anything improper, something is seriously wrong.

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16 minutes ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

Yes and many often do, particularly in contingency environments.

The "check and balance" is the certificate of appointment.  If a CO needs a CS to make sure that the CO doesn't do anything improper, something is seriously wrong.

Good information. Thank you!

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I agree with the yes with some added thoughts.

Many agencies on the civilian side of the Federal sector have contract specialists that function as an independent contracting officer.  Quick examples are agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service.   Interestingly these same agencies get involved in efforts close to contingency operations known as incident response (check this out www.nifc.gov)  mostly in the wildfire arena but have been involved in hurricane rescue and recovery, shuttle accident assistance and notably 9/11.

I mention "contract specialist" first as your post notes only hiring "CO's".  Semantics I know but usually an agency hires a contract specialist (GS-1102) and subsequently the 1102 fulfills the requisite FAC-C or DAWIA requirements to achieve certification which in turn provides the opportunity for appointment of the individual as a Contracting Officer.  While policy provides that appointment of a CO is not limited to the 1102 series FAC-C certification does require experience akin to the qualification standards of the 1102 series (Ref.https://www.fai.gov/certification/contracting-fac-c#Cert) .  So to the semantics,  for me it is many contract specialists are in positions where they are appointed to function as an independent CO.   In the aforementioned agencies they even have independent CO's in the 1105 series and on occasion the 1101 series.

 

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3 hours ago, C Culham said:

I agree with the yes with some added thoughts.

Many agencies on the civilian side of the Federal sector have contract specialists that function as an independent contracting officer.  Quick examples are agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service.   Interestingly these same agencies get involved in efforts close to contingency operations known as incident response (check this out www.nifc.gov)  mostly in the wildfire arena but have been involved in hurricane rescue and recovery, shuttle accident assistance and notably 9/11.

I mention "contract specialist" first as your post notes only hiring "CO's".  Semantics I know but usually an agency hires a contract specialist (GS-1102) and subsequently the 1102 fulfills the requisite FAC-C or DAWIA requirements to achieve certification which in turn provides the opportunity for appointment of the individual as a Contracting Officer.  While policy provides that appointment of a CO is not limited to the 1102 series FAC-C certification does require experience akin to the qualification standards of the 1102 series (Ref.https://www.fai.gov/certification/contracting-fac-c#Cert) .  So to the semantics,  for me it is many contract specialists are in positions where they are appointed to function as an independent CO.   In the aforementioned agencies they even have independent CO's in the 1105 series and on occasion the 1101 series.

Following in the footsteps of giants like William Faulkner, Henry James, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. 

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1 hour ago, PepeTheFrog said:

Following in the footsteps

I could only dream to be so giant ....thank you

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My personal belief is once a contract specialist has experience and expertise to do assignments, there should have the CO authority to carry out everything.  I'm a big believer in empowerment.

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In my experience, independent COs have some oversight, providing checks and balances and addressing ethics issues. For example, depending on the dollar value of the deal at issue, PNMs would typically require some pre-award review/approval at a level higher than the person conducting the negotiation.

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I was a KO who worked without a CS staff to support my procurement work when I worked for DHS.  It worked well for my office until one KO started hiding work from the supervisory KO who monitored about 5 KOs in the organization.  That KO was fired and none of his appeals were successful.

On the other hand, I was a CS earlier in my career and I found a KO and a PM not doing their jobs ethically and I, as a CS, was completely ignored by the entire organization when I tried to do something about that.  I ended up resigning from that position, leaving the Civil Service completely, and later the chickens came home to roost in that office and some people went to jail and others were forced to retire.

 

 

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On ‎2‎/‎21‎/‎2019 at 9:21 AM, DWGerard1102 said:

I was a KO who worked without a CS staff to support my procurement work when I worked for DHS.  It worked well for my office until one KO started hiding work from the supervisory KO who monitored about 5 KOs in the organization.  That KO was fired and none of his appeals were successful.

On the other hand, I was a CS earlier in my career and I found a KO and a PM not doing their jobs ethically and I, as a CS, was completely ignored by the entire organization when I tried to do something about that.  I ended up resigning from that position, leaving the Civil Service completely, and later the chickens came home to roost in that office and some people went to jail and others were forced to retire.

 

 

Wow! Is the information about this public? I would love to read an article about this.

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1 hour ago, DWGerard1102 said:

I wasn’t able to connect :

 

“We are sorry, the page you're looking for can’t be found on the Department of Justice website.

Please try the following:

  • Use the Search to search for words or phrases.
  • Check the URL you entered for possible errors, including the use of upper and lower case letters.
  • Some files associated with previous administrations have been moved to the Archive section of the Department website.”
Updated August 21, 2018

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I think this is the same case.

https://www.justice.gov/archive/usao/ma/news/2010/October/ThrowerAllenSentencingPR.html

Excerpt:

"Thrower was found guilty by a jury after a seven day trial in July, 2010. The evidence at trial showed that Thrower, who had responsibility for preparing purchase requests and sole source justifications for the services of commercial contractors at Fort Benning, used his official position as Chief of Quality Support Division in the Human Resources Directorate to arrange for and influence the awarding of both sole source and competitive contracts to Military Service Support, LLC (MSS) for personnel-related services. Marie Cimino, Thrower’s sister, was President and Chief Executive Officer of MSS, a company formed in 2004 and located at Cimino’s single family residence in Groveland, Mass. Thrower and Cimino concealed their familial relationship from U.S. Army contracting officials and from MSS employees in Georgia."

 

Edit: the original link posted should be https://www.justice.gov/archive/usao/ma/news/2010/July/THROWERverdictPR.html

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Freyr,  Thanks, I am not sure why the link did not work but that is the correct case.  The case itself only dealt with a limited scope but the entire amount of malfeasance that I found went back much farther.  

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In some agencies all 1102s are Contract Specialists that are warranted (aka, KOs) but a check-and-balance system exists in that their work is peer-reviewed prior to release and if the acquisition is high enough ($10M as an example) a "level above" review is required.  

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Yes...I've had to be my own KSpec and KO in both contingency contracting and stateside assignments.  It's not preferred as two sets of eyes are better than one, but sometimes one has to work with what one has. 

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In my last government job, almost everyone had a warrant.  Formal reviews were eliminated too.  The only stipulation was the COs neck was on the block for their action.  So they could get all the reviews they wanted, or none if they were confident in their work. 

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Many Non-DOD agencies allow Contract Specialists to CO their own work. These agencies' contract actions tend to obligate amounts that pale in comparison to DOD. So relatively speaking the risk is low and hence there is less allocation of resources or regulatory requirements to provide oversight. That said, having worked DOD after first working non-DOD and at first resenting the DOD "bureaucracy" I get it. If I could go back to CO my own specialist work I would request informal peer reviews. That second set of eyes goes a long way. It's not a matter of competency. Rather, when you're so close to one tree you can easily miss other trees or the forest.

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