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Responsibilities: yours and your contractors

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Relationships with contractors...not something many of us think about, but certainly something we should!

Consider this: There are more than 5,000 contractor employees at Patrick and the Cape, and more than 75 percent of our wing's annual budget goes to contracts. In virtually every important mission area - launch, range, and mission support - the Sharks depend on contractor performance in mission execution.

It is convenient because of our dependence on contractors to think that they too are Sharks, but that is an oversimplification of a complex relationship. Contractors are patriotic and have a strong affinity for our mission, but ultimately they are businesses.
Equally, we must recognize that we have both mission responsibilities and a higher obligation to be good stewards of the public interest. In simpler terms, we all need to make sure our contractors are performing correctly and ethically.

Here are some practical tips on how to help ensure effective contractor relations:

· If you have a contractor supporting your functional area, make it your business to know their contract requirements - get ahold of their contract and read it;

· If you have special assigned responsibilities, such as being a Quality Assurance Evaluator (QAE), know them and conduct them meticulously;

· Do not allow personal relationships to cloud your objectivity - maintain an arm's length relationship, and use appropriate means to provide candid feedback to the contractor;

· Comply with the Joint Ethics Regulation at all times;

· Recognize the limits of your authority - remember, only a Contracting Officer (CO) can direct the contractor;

· Refer any observed performance anomalies to the CO, Functional Commander, or QAE;

· Contact OSI if you detect any fraudulent contractor behavior; and

· Consult with the CONS CO if you are unsure of anything relative to contractor performance.

We live in an era where contracted support has multiplied due to budget realities and our operations tempo. Our obligation to provide effective contract oversight has remained, however, and there will be increased emphasis on that in the future.

Contract management is not the responsibility of a few, but of every Shark. If we employ these tips, we will attain the delicate balance, the one that allows our mission to be successful, for our contractors' business interests to be met, and the interests of the American public served.