Air Force Contingency Contracting
Reachback and Other Opportunities for Improvement
Published Mar 31, 2011
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Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have placed great demands on the Air Force's highly skilled contracting workforce. This report examines "reachback" — the use of contracting capability outside the theater of operations to accomplish contracting tasks for customers in the theater — as a potential means for reducing the deployment burden on military personnel. The authors analyze after-action reports written by contingency contracting officers (CCOs) who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the results of focus groups with CCOs, interviews with subject matter experts, and purchasing data, and conclude that reachback might improve performance in some areas because of greater personnel continuity, standardization of processes, and the ability to access personnel with higher-level skills. Although reachback has the potential to reduce deployments and increase the effectiveness of some contracting functions, there is also a need for policy and procedural changes to address other causes of stress on contracting officers, so that they can concentrate more fully on their primary duty of purchasing goods and services for the warfighter.