When people ask me what my job is in the Air Force, I tell them contracting. The typical response is, “You’re a contractor?” Then, I have to explain that I am not a contractor but actually an active-duty Air Force officer who has been given the authority to spend taxpayer dollars in order to keep the mission going. Simply put, the 56th Contracting Squadron hires contractors to assist the 56th Fighter Wing in completing its mission of training fighter pilots. But what is contracting? Let me start with a brief history of acquisitions.
Did you know the first federal procurement law was passed in 1792 that authorized the Treasury Department to make all purchases for the War Department? During the Civil War, failures in the contracting processes to supply a large army caused the first major procurement scandals. As a result, congress passed legislation that required advertising for proposals and competitive bids in 1861.
In 1908, the Wright Brothers received the first contract to build a flying machine. It was not until the Air Corps Act of 1926 was enacted that the War Department was allowed to negotiate with contractors.
World War I and World War II brought major acquisition reforms as the War Department purchased more complex weapons and equipment resulting in the need for the department to “sole source” contracts in order to meet the military’s growing needs. The 1970s saw the Defense Department reforms to combat fraud, waste and abuse when weapon system procurements, such as the C-5A, ballooned in costs.
The passage of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act in 1990 established the Acquisition Corps and standardized qualifications in the contracting career field. In 1991, the 56th CONS was constituted.
Contracting is a mission enabler. The 56th CONS buys equipment, supplies and services to support installation operations. This past year, 56th CONS spent $49.8 million. Take a look around the installation, and you will see what 56th CONS does for you. We contracted for the demolition of facilities, solar panel running lights, “cool roof” technology, recycling/refuse/custodial services and new grass at the base track and softball fields.
Not only do we do all the purchasing, the 56th CONS also manages the government purchase card program. We train and delegate contracting authority to the fighter wing’s 247 GPC cardholders. Without that authority, each unit would not be able to purchase their own supplies.
We should be the first people you call if you are thinking about procuring a commodity or service. We are the fighter wing’s business advisors. You give us the requirement, and we will “make it happen.”