PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA --
Prince Sultan Air Base has been open and operational for less than a year, and with that, changes and improvements continually occur.
While growing the base, building new facilities and expanding operational capabilities, some work falls outside the general duties of the military members deployed here.
Contracted work can lessen responsibilities placed on service members, which allows focus on the mission. The 378th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron plays a vital role in this exchange.
“Our fingerprints are everywhere because this base doesn’t have the organic capability to do everything that is required,” said Lt. Col. Smith, 378th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron commander. “Meaning, we using contracting to help fill in the gaps so our Airmen can do their jobs and help provide necessary support to the base.”
The three main areas 378th ECONS Airmen influence the most are support to the warfighter, base operations and host nation local business relations.
Support to the warfighter includes anything involved with the operational mission, such as contracts for heavy equipment, tools, and if assets needs to be installed.
Base support can range from contractors who install commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning units to building the new communication server trailer to custodial cleaning in the latrines and showers.
Support to relationships with local businesses is key to the U.S. and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia partnership. The contracting office finds local businesses to fulfill contracts which can benefit both countries.
“How it generally works is a mission partner comes to us with a certain need, we do our market research to find possible businesses, and then we select the business that provides the best value to the government,” said Master Sgt. Thulin, 378th ECONS superintendent. “After a contract is awarded, we help secure base access for the contractors onto PSAB with our RSAF counterparts and the 378th ESFS for access to the Life Support Area and Ops-Town.”
Thulin added that mission partners can be any unit or agency that has a request for work, provides subject matter expertise, or assists the 378th ECONS Airmen to evaluate the job performance and pay the contractors for their work.
“We want to make sure all parties involved are satisfied with what work is being done,” said Thulin. “When we finalize a contract, we are building a long-lasting partnership between the U.S. Government, the contracted business, and the Royal Saudi Air Force that will benefit the security mission of both countries.”
Through this partnership, the 378th ECONS has helped the base grow during a “build-up” phase. Contracting Airmen have secured new commercial HVAC units, food service support at the dining facility, a new communications server trailer, upgraded ground transportation busses, and ordered equipment for the improved Wi-Fi.
Every step of each project is carefully outlined in the contracted agreements. With any agreement, both sides must understand each other’s differences.
“Each of us needs to be good ambassadors as we work through these contracts and we have to respect our cultural differences,” said Smith. “How and when work is done helps us come to a mutual agreement. All parties involved in the contract may come from a different business environment and have different labor processes.”
Smith added that by understanding the request, type of work required, and the labor and budget constraints, him and his team can set realistic expectations for base leadership.
More than setting realistic expectations, contracting Airmen must be good stewards of taxpayer money.
“A mission partner may have an issue they need solved, and because contracting has a good overview, we can offer insight on a solution that might save time and money,” said Smith. “For example, there may be certain strategies or an existing contract which can help meet the needs of another mission partner, creating efficiencies across the board.”
Contracting Airmen will continue to think of strategic solutions to meet the needs of the squadrons, the base, and the Department of Defense in this joint force environment. As Prince Sultan Air Base’s footprint expands, 378th ECONS will expand its influence to help enable the mission.