Expeditionary Contracting Command uses local suppliers to stretch dollars
Brig. Gen. Ted Harrison’s acquisition career has literally followed the Army’s “better buying power” all over the world.
During his 23 years as an Army acquisition officer, he has been part of the evolution of the Army’s contracting initiatives as it’s moved from a minor role in the overall Army strategy to being a major player alongside combatant commanders in theater. He has assisted in implementing initiatives for improving the management of acquisition programs, incentivizing competition, eliminating redundancy and achieving the maximum amount of savings for the Army.
Today, Harrison serves as the commander of the Expeditionary Contracting Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal. He leads a force of about 600 military and 600 civilian employees who provide contracting support for combatant commanders in support of Army and joint operations throughout the world, and for Army installations located overseas.
And the profile of that force is much higher than it has been in years past.
“Many of us remember when Army contracting was a back office function that was given little attention from operational commanders,” Harrison said. “The talented work force in ECC has worked incredibly hard over the last decade to make operational contracting support the combat multiplier that it is today. Leading this organization has been the opportunity of a lifetime.”
ECC – along with its major command, the Army Contracting Command – was born out of the necessity of war. In the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan, the Army’s contracting function wasn’t equipped to manage the large numbers of supply and services contracts that were required at a quick, war-time pace. Consequently, acquisition errors, fraud and waste threatened the Army’s ability to support the war fighter and the professionalism of the contracting function.
In 2007, the secretary of the Army formed an independent commission on Army acquisition and program management in expeditionary operations to review lessons learned and recommend ways to improve future military operations. As a result, in October 2008, ACC was formally established as a major subordinate command to the Army Materiel Command, charged with performing the majority of the Army’s contracting work. It consists of two subordinate commands, one being the Mission and Installation Contracting Command and the other being the Expeditionary Contracting Command.
“The acquisition career field has always been about getting the right kinds of materiel into the hands of our war fighters and supporting the services they need to accomplish the mission,” Harrison said.
“The acquisition corps is the link between our Army and one of our country’s greatest strengths, our industrial base fueled by free enterprise. I think what has changed in the last 10 years of war has been our ability to bring acquisition support closer to the war fighter. Iraq and Afghanistan really forced us to build an ECC capability. We’ve really grown up during the past six to 10 years.”
ECC’s effort in establishing contracting support brigades to support Army forces in every geographic area of the world has operationalized contracting support.
“Now, a trained military contracting officer co-located with an operational unit can very efficiently support U.S. forces by leveraging the local economy to deliver goods and services as varied as transportation, life support, translator services, fuel and telecommunications,” Harrison said. “This can provide huge savings versus the cost of bringing in additional forces to provide this support. Moreover, we can positively impact the economies of the countries in which we operate. A small economic impact can often garner a big payback in local support for our Soldiers.”
The grandson of an Army chaplain, Harrison was commissioned in 1981, and first served with the Air Defense Artillery and then as an Army helicopter pilot.
Since joining the acquisition corps, he has served in a variety of acquisition and staff assignments, including director of contracting, Osan Airbase, Republic of Korea; weapons system manager for aviation ground support equipment, Aviation and Troop Command; and Army section chief, Office of Defense Cooperation, U.S. Embassy, Rome, Italy. His acquisition command assignments include commander of Lima Army Tank Plant and Defense Contract Management Agency, General Dynamics Land Systems; and commander, 410th Contracting Support Brigade, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Other key assignments include chief of staff, Joint Contracting Command in Iraq and Afghanistan; director, procurement operations for Iraq and Afghanistan in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Army (procurement).
He is the recipient of a Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit and Bronze Star, and several other honors. In 2010, he was named the Army’s acquisition director of the year by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
Harrison came to Redstone in April as the new ECC commander. But he wasn’t new to the area.
“My flying status actually brought me to Redstone Arsenal for the first time,” he recalled. “I was working with Aviation Ground Support Equipment when it was located in St. Louis, Mo., and I had to fly actual aircraft once a quarter to maintain my flying status. So, I would come to Redstone, and fly all over the area.”
This time at Redstone, Harrison brought his wife Wendy, and his adopted 13-year-old daughter Maria. The family has settled in Hampton Cove, while their three adult sons pursue their life goals – one is training as a Special Forces Soldier at Fort Bragg, N.C., while another attends Samford University in Birmingham and the other is a missionary living in Colorado, married and the father of Harrison’s two grandsons.
“We love it here. This is a great community, and certainly a great military community,” Harrison said.
“I’ve had a chance to interact with civic leaders and business people, and people we meet through church and other activities, and it’s really apparent that they care about the partnership the community has with Redstone Arsenal. There’s a sense that the Huntsville community is all together in its support of Redstone. You don’t see that everywhere in this nation.”
As the ECC commander, Harrison oversees the teams of contracting professionals who provide “contracting support for Soldiers participating in training exercises or contingency operations,” he said.
“Contingency operations can include everything from combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster response. The majority of our Soldiers actually are working in contracting offices here in the U.S. at installations or at acquisition centers. We have ECC Soldiers in Korea, Hawaii, Germany, Italy and Kuwait to provide brigade support to combatant commands all over the world. Our brigades bring the force of Army contracting to our war fighter commands.”
Being located at Redstone has enhanced the efforts of ECC. The installation has become a center of excellence for acquisition with ACC and ECC joining a group that includes the Defense Acquisition Agency, Aviation and Missile Command, Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Army Materiel Command, and the program executive offices for Aviation and Missiles and Space.
“There is a synergy in being collocated in such a pocket of acquisition excellence,” Harrison said. “It allows us access to a great pool of potential civilian employees and also allows us to share best practices with some of the Army’s premier acquisition organizations. There is not a bigger center for acquisition anywhere else in the Army.”
Harrison leads ECC with a “passion for acquisition and contingency contracting.” He sets the vision and strategy for the organization, provides the resources to accomplish the mission and then trusts his professionals to get the job done.
“As a military force, we have to be able to deploy and support the war fighter on a moment’s notice,” the brigadier general said. “I’ve got to be able to trust that ECC employees know how to do their job, and know how to support the combatant commanders and war fighters, or in humanitarian efforts, that they can build relationships and be the link between those who need supplies and services and those who provide them.”
Whether supporting war fighters or humanitarian efforts in places like Haiti or the northeastern U.S. coast after Hurricane Sandy, ECC employees enter an area, establish working relationships with local sources of supplies and services, and then contract for those supplies and services in support of the mission. ECC employees build working relationships with suppliers and financial institutions throughout the world.
“We are leveraging the local economy by buying goods and services right there where our military support is deployed. We do positively impact the economies of those countries where we are deployed,” Harrison said. Local services often include food, laundry and transportation.
“We save the taxpayer money by not taking those services to the war fighter. We help the local economy by buying from local suppliers. And when we leave the country, we save money because we don’t have to ship out people and equipment that have been provided locally.”
During the new era of tightening defense budgets, Harrison said the acquisition corps will be even more essential to ensuring limited taxpayer funds are spent wisely.
“There has been a big push to implement several better buying power initiatives over the past five years,” he said. “It becomes a partnership between those formulating DoD’s requirements and those who formulate the buying strategy. Our success will depend upon our ability to engage and work with our customer, who is the war fighter, to develop better buying habits to get the biggest bang for our taxpayer buck.
“We will always rely on the support of contractors for military operations. But we will find better techniques and better ways to save through contracting.”
Harrison enjoys leading a work force that is respected throughout the Army and the world.
“Our acquisition employees must be technically astute and able to understand the complex regulatory framework that makes up our acquisition system,” he said.
“They also have to be able to think creatively and work with customers and the business community to leverage this framework to form good business deals for the taxpayer. We have a tremendously talented acquisition work force that is up to that task.”