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I am trying to get everyone's opinion on being embedded versus being centralized in a contracting setting. You see, I currently work in a centralized acquisitions office with about 150 contracting personnel. Our office is known to have customer service issues in several areas, including response time and communication. Often times, the "customers" and 1102s never actually meet. The work is simply done via email and over the phone with little human interaction.

My agency has a few specialized 1102s embedded with various program offices, but overall, we do most of the acquisitions from one geographic location. The good thing is that I am surrounded by experienced contracting personnel with a wealth of knowledge. The bad part about being centralized is that customer service declines rapidly. I have noticed that many 1102s tend to lose focus of the requirement(s). However, newcomers and interns seem to benefit from being in a large acquisitions office rather than being in a field office with little support.

What has your experience been being embedded/centralized? What did you enjoy about being embedded with a program? What did you enjoy about being in a central contracting office?

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I prefer centralized.

I agree it's a bit harder to connect with customers, but with just a little effort, it can be done.

I like the ease of consulting with peers in contracting when it's centralized. I think it's easier to develop as a CS/CO, if you can share and hear about other procurements easily.

I also find that when stationed with the customer, the Acquisition HQ, tends to forget us, or when they do think of us, it is with a bit of a dismissive attitude.

And, it's harder to be considered for promotions when you aren't seen.

Ideally, I prefer a cross between the two: Centralized by region.

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NOT embedded and for one major reason: maintaining independence. There is too much potential risk for customer pressure in an embedded environment. The customer might be delighted until everyone gets in trouble! Unfortunately, I have found that the happier my customer is with contracting- the more worried I should be...

Comparing to centralized is not an apples to apples comparison. While I do feel for the multiple reasons mentioned above that having a critical mass of contracting folks together is highly beneficial- this does not mean that the entire effort needs to be in one spot. If you have enough folks (several 100) that should suffice.

Now distance issues can be a problem. The ideal would be an independent office near the customer. This way one can closely interact when necessary, but allows for contracting to have its needed arms length space.

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Motorcity, I have experience from the Integrated Project Delivery Team and Program Management Office approach on an extremely large Cat 1 Defense Program for the elimination of the nation's Chemical Weapons Stockpile. We had our own dedicated, contracting officers and specialists, attorneys, project/program managers, engineering and construction managers. They were all co-located within our Program Office, although that office is at a Division level location. Is that what you are inquiring about or are you referring to remotely located PCO's and/or ACO's?

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My agency finds that embedding some personnel with high volume and high value customers helps with customer service and permits closer contract administration. However, you want those personnel assigned to the Central Office, supervised by the Central Office and thier work QC'd by the Central Office. This maintains independence from the program office and ensures procedures are followed. You will be under great stress if your boss is in the program office.

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Motorcity, I have experience from the Integrated Project Delivery Team and Program Management Office approach on an extremely large Cat 1 Defense Program for the elimination of the nation's Chemical Weapons Stockpile. We had our own dedicated, contracting officers and specialists, attorneys, project/program managers, engineering and construction managers. They were all co-located within our Program Office, although that office is at a Division level location. Is that what you are inquiring about or are you referring to remotely located PCO's and/or ACO's?

I suppose I was inquiring about both, in a way. However, my agency is much smaller than the DoD, so the scale of the programs(s) is much smaller. I have found, however, that many of the COs become "subject matter experts" after being involved in a program for so long. The problem is that the Co becomes so valuable to the program (embedded or not) that if he or she leaves, the effect becomes detrimental to the program itself.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Don's suggestion is a good one based on my experience. It's important for COs to know the program, and it's important for program personnel to know contracting requirements. If the two do work together collaboratively (COs can't do certain things for progarms and vice versa), it's a win/win. Too often progarm personnel are told to do something remotely by a CO without any guidance, assistance, or direction. Then when the program person suffers and stumbles through complying, it's tossed back as being incomplete/wrong. So having a CO report centrally but provide onsite progarm support a few days a week often is the best approach.

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