The South Pacific Division wrapped up Fiscal Year 2023 with a record $2.3 billion in contracts awarded across its four districts.
“I am always amazed at the level of effort our division and district teams put forth on a daily basis, and these accomplishments are a natural consequence of their hard work and dedication,” said Col. Chad Caldwell, SPD' commander. “$2.3 billion in contract execution represents 2,346 contract actions, executed by hundreds of our team members throughout the fiscal year, and I could not be prouder of their achievements both individually and as a team.”
“Hitting $2.3 billion of total obligation is significant,” James Bartha, SPD’s region contracting chief. “SPD has averaged over the last 17 years $1.4 billion a year, when special mission dollars like FEMA Fire Debris Mission, and Border Wall Construction are removed from the total.”
Another contributing factor underlying the record year are SPD’s exceeding most of their small business goals, adds Bartha.
SPD was recognized recently by Headquarters U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Office of Small Business Programs as “Overall Highest in the Small Disadvantaged Business Award by Percentage” category for the third consecutive year.
The Small Business Program was not only a top contributor to the contracting dollars, but also reached their highest numbers on record going back at least 20 years, says Jack May, assistant director of SPD’s Office of Small Business Programs, with $1.3 billion being awarded to small and disadvantaged businesses.
“The record year for us in FY23 follows five years of unusual events,” he said. “In FY18, we had the Northern California Fires. In FY19 and FY20 we had the Border Barrier Years. In FY21 and FY22 we had the Covid Years. FY23 is probably the first year since FY17 that we didn’t experience events that changed our obligations and contracting practices significantly. So, all those factors played a role in our larger than normal obligations to Small Businesses and possibly an indication that we are closer to our normal business practices.”
The districts that comprise SPD also excelled this fiscal year across an array of categories with Albuquerque District, Los Angeles District, and San Francisco District being recognized in the “Executing Fifty or More Percent to Small Businesses” category; Albuquerque District winning both the “Overall Highest Percentage for Small Disadvantaged Businesses” and the “District with Highest Percentage of Small Business Set Asides” categories; and Sacramento District taking the “Overall Highest Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business by Dollars” by district category.
USACE as a whole has a long history of partnering with small business to execute their contracting dollars and works to maintain ties with existing businesses while looking for newly-minted businesses to partner with.
“USACE needs businesses, especially construction businesses to perform work in all our districts,” explains May.
“The more capable they are the better; the Corps vets them out carefully through its acquisition team to ensure that the small businesses can perform the work and have a proven history of doing good work. The Corps of Engineers won’t be successful without businesses both small and large capable to doing work for us all year round.
A lot of soldiers join the Army to impact real change and only some of those soldiers end their service making that dream a reality. For Staff Sgt. Andrew Hill, acquisition, logistics and technology contracting specialist assigned to the 1955th Contracting Support Detachment, 213th Regional Support Group, he was able to do just that.
This year’s Reserve Component Acquisition Summit in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, was a chance for over 200 contracting professionals across the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserves to gather and improve their craft, network and discuss policies, procedures and more.
Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were one such group in attendance. The USACE provides public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen national security, energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters.
In the USACE’s brief on Active Duty Operational Support opportunities for Army Acquisition Corps Noncommissioned Officers, presenters discussed job requirements and policies around the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Contracting Noncommissioned Officer role. And while talking about the minimum experience needed to apply, the presenter highlighted why the group was moving away from the regulations—and it’s all because of Staff Sgt. Hill’s work.
Hill is a member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Contracting Team and has singlehandedly made contracting professionals at the highest level in the Guard and Reserves reconsider the policy through his outstanding performance.
Hill applied to a job he wasn’t qualified for on paper, and through networking and perseverance, won the interviewers over so much so that they were willing to take a risk on hiring him. And since that day, Hill has knocked it out of the park.
“Contracting Team Leaders have a difficult task obtaining limited funding at the State level. SSG Hill took it upon himself to create his own path towards completing his contracting certification requirements,” said Capt. Darrin J. Weaver, operations officer for the 1955th Contracting Support Detachment, 213th Regional Support Group.
“His networking efforts with USACE – Pittsburgh District and his outstanding performance during his ADOS assignment have created new pathways forward for future 51C Officers and NCOs,” said Weaver. “USACE is now actively recruiting new graduates from the eight-week Army Acquisition Training Course with no previous contracting experience, thanks to his effort. SSG Hill has proven the AATC course provides the essential contracting knowledge USACE can leverage to achieve win-win-win outcomes for the agency, the Soldier, and the overall readiness of ARNG Contracting Teams.”
Staff Sgt. Hill acknowledges the value of the education he was provided with and credits the organization for his success.
“My performance and accomplishments are a testament to the quality education received from the Army Acquisition Center of Excellence,” Hill said. “The 12-month on-the-job training for the 51C MOS is a requirement for acquisition professionals."
Hill says that his experience serving the commonwealth through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Reserve Component Broadening Program has been a very rewarding experience.
"We provide opportunities and jobs to the American people to ensure the security and wellbeing of our waterways, locks, dams and parks. It is a worthwhile undertaking, which I am honored and proud to be a part of,” said Hill.
Because of the outstanding work Staff Sgt. Hill has done, a memorandum from USACE, Pittsburgh will release across the USACE enterprise to recommend graduates of the AATC course who pass the certification exam for USACE Active Duty Operational Support opportunities. The recommendation includes waiving the 1-year minimum contracting experience.
“Modern armies project power by relying heavily on assistance from contractors,” said Lt. Col. Terry Fetterman, commander of the 1955th Contracting Support Detachment, 213th Regional Support Group. “SSG Hill is a member of one of the Contingency Contracting Teams that award and manage the contracts for supplies, services, and construction. The learning curve for this field requires navigating over 10,000 laws and regulations. That skill can only come through training and experience. Obtaining that experience is not easy for the CCT members. It is only through SSG Hill's tenacity that he managed to overcome the roadblocks thrown his way in getting the necessary experience. His superior efforts and accomplishments bring strong credit to his team and to the 213th Regional Support Group. We are very proud to have him as part of the Pennsylvania CCT team."
And through all of the praise and excitement, Staff Sgt. Hill has kept a level head and nose to the grindstone.
His advice for soldiers looking to make an impact? “The prospects for promotion in the military are high, especially in the acquisitions field, but the dream of making rank should not be the main driver for your efforts.”
Hill continued, “Do all you can to set yourself up for success, develop a passion for your craft, learning and making mistakes are a vital part of growth, and endeavor to excel.”