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Small but mighty: ECONS packs a punch

Airmen with the Expeditionary Contracting Squadron inspect a construction site at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Feb. 11, 2015. Contracting Airmen will usually inspect a work site at least monthly to ensure the work is progressing as agreed upon within the contract. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

Airmen with the Expeditionary Contracting Squadron inspect a construction site Feb. 11, 2015 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. Contracting Airmen will usually inspect a work site at least monthly to ensure the work is progressing as agreed upon within the contract. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Imagine being deployed but instead of eating at a dining facility you are eating Meals Ready to Eat, having GI parties, no entertainment to help raise morale and living in a tent instead of dorm room. Now you just might be thinking … what’s missing?

Airmen with the Expeditionary Contracting Squadron can tell you first hand what’s missing. From the construction flight to the services flight, all the way to the commodities flight, if you take them away, you end up with a deployment no one really wants to be on.

“Our mission here is to provide business advice to the Air Expeditionary Wing and tenant units,” said Maj. Rebecca, the ECONS commander. “We try to get them the stuff they need in a timely manner and do it legally.”

ECONS may be the smallest unit on base, but they are easily one of the heaviest hitters.

“We are small but mighty,” Rebecca said. “We touch every unit on base, whether you need a global positioning system for your car, need to drive a leased vehicle or just need the bathrooms cleaned. These are the types of contracts we provide for both the U.S. and our coalition partners.”

The role of the construction flight is to award contracts to meet the requirements of the Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron.

“I would say our primary mission would be to execute all of ECES’s projected requirements on time and on cost,” said Tech. Sgt. David, the construction flight contracting officer currently deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. “In the process we save as many taxpayer dollars as possible.”

The process of actually finalizing a purchase or contract for the constructions flight’s primary customer is not as simple as one might think.

“It is a pretty lengthy process that would actually start with a requirements package and a funded Form 9,” David said. “When we get everything we need, we start to build solicitation for that contract internally. Checks and balances are done to ensure there is no unfair advantage between vendors.”

ECONS then solicits vendors and anticipates a proposal. Once the vendors start to come in, the evaluation process begins, which can vary depending on requirements, accuracy and pricing variations, David added.

“The vendor that gives a technically acceptable proposal and having the lowest price would win the contract for that project,” David said .
“We act as the middle person between the customer and the market,” said 1st Lt. Samuel, the construction flight commander currently deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “It is a lengthy process because as the middle person, we need to understand what it is the customer wants and we need to create it in such a way that it is easy for the party to understand what it is.”

Additional support provided by Airmen of ECONS includes the services flight and commodities flight.

“Our commodities flight is our smallest section, but they buy the most in volume,” Rebecca said. “It is just small dollar stuff that everybody needs.”

The enlisted and officer contracting officers essentially hold the same authority and are asked to be held accountable for this authority as well as to bind taxpayer dollars.

“As a warranted contracting officer, we have the ability to bind the United States government to an agreement or contract,” Samuel said. “There are things we have to satisfy such as competition requirements and ensuring we are stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars by finding the best value to satisfy our requirement.”

Given this authority, enlisted Airmen also have additional requirements most people don’t even realize.

“Our enlisted Airmen have to have 24 business credit hours to upgrade,” Rebecca said. “It is kind of shocking really to require college for enlisted, but that is one thing I like to point out to everyone. They have to follow books of law, and it is a very difficult job. It is heavy in responsibility, especially in this environment where the operation tempo is high.”

Despite their unit size, ECONS Airmen have made a habit of delivering knockout blows that cause even the largest squadrons and groups to take notice.

Recently, the Airmen of ECONS made a clean sweep of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command December’s Performer of the Month awards winning the Airman category all the way to the team category -- a first for ECONS.

Their accomplishments for the month included managing 27 contracts and a $24 million portfolio, awarding 56 actions totaling $567,000 for all of ECES operations. They accelerated an $8.3 million lodging contract and negotiated a 70 percent period of performance decrease, which resulted in 128 additional rooms in one month, versus the average of seven months.

In addition, they acquired respirators, eliminating massive issues with one of the base facilities, bringing the facility back up to code.

Furthermore, they administered a $1 million furniture blanket purchase agreement, awarded three calls totaling $168,000 and enabled an Air Force dormitory expansion and beddown for a contingent of Royal Australian air force personnel.

“We are competing against other AFCENT personnel within the command,” David said. “We know that we have counterparts doing the same jobs we are, but somehow we managed to pull it off.”

“I like that my (Airmen) are getting recognition,” Samuel said. “This is just a testament of the hard work they do every day.”

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