Picture the acquisition process flow as a wheel. Around the wheel are the pre-award and award process, contract management and finally the contract close-out. Because Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs) may be involved in all aspects of the acquisition cycle, they operate as the linchpin that holds it all together. What would happen if you pulled this linchpin away with no CORs to assist in the process? Chances are the wheel will fall off.
In my experience as a former Contracting Officer (CO), our office did not nominate CORs initially to provide assistance. As the amount of work increased, it became imperative to nominate CORs to help with the various stages in the acquisition process. Adding CORs proved to be the best decision that our office made because the CORs provided the oversight the COs needed for their active contracts.
CORs are appointed in writing by Contracting Officers. The appointment letter must clearly designate the CORs responsibilities for all phases of the acquisition cycle. CORs provide assistance to the Contracting Officers (CO) on so many levels for both the pre and post award stages. Here are some key areas where CORs add value to the process flow:
- Provide input to the Integrated Product Team (IPT) for needs determination and proposal evaluation
- Develop Work Breakdown Structure for the proposed requirement
- Assist in developing Independent Government Cost Estimates (IGCE) and later the Statement of Work (SOW) or Performance Work Statement (PWS)
- After award, the COR becomes the COs “eyes and ears” through:
- Contractor performance monitoring
- Review and acceptance of deliverables
- Based on acceptance, approving invoice payment
- Facilitating effective communication with contractor
- Informing the CO if problems arise during the contract term
In order to perform their duties effectively, CORs must meet the continuous learning for their assigned Certification Level. There are several resources available, both online and classroom, that will help the COR meet the training requirement. Some examples of training resources are the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI), the Defense Acquisition University (DAU), the National Contract Management Association (NCMA), the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP), private contractors and other government agencies.
The COR designation is not job series specific. Any federal employee who meets the FAC-COR requirements (at the properly designated level) may be nominated as a COR. In many circumstances, the duties are often ancillary and it becomes difficult to juggle between the additional COR responsibilities and their regular assignments. This can render the COR uninterested or lead to bad decisions because of time constraints. To remedy these possible pitfalls:
- Communicate: COs and CORs should have standing meetings to discuss contract status, potential performance issues, inquire about additional questions/concerns about the contract
- Provide Feedback: Ensure the COR is aware of how valuable they are to the contract management process
- Encourage Training: To help with juggling duties, CORs should take time management training, which would help them meet the continuous learning requirements. Other developmental training should include conference attendance, ethics and fraud workshops.
CORs could gain a sense of fulfillment by following a contract from inception to close-out. CORs are seen as an agent of continuity because sometimes the COs and Project Managers (PMs) roll off into new assignments and CORs are left. They preserve critical contract and program history, which offers perspective that’s vital to future planning efforts.
Depending where you are in your career, the experience gained from COR appointments could be a stepping stone into career advancement opportunities. This is an excellent time for a CO to mentor their nominated COR.
CORs are crucial players in that they ensure successful contract outcomes. COs depend heavily on CORs to perform such pre-award duties as market research, ICGE development, SOW/PWS development and post-award duties such as contractor performance monitoring; review and acceptance of deliverables; communication with the CO about contractor status; approving invoices for payment and closing-out expired contracts.
If you’ve ever doubted the role of CORs, this is why they matter.