Chapter 2: Authorities and Structure

Table of Contents

  1. Key Points
  2. Introduction
  3. Contracting Officers’ Authority and Command Authority
  4. Contracting Appointment Authority
  5. Contingency Contracting in Relation to OCS
  6. Contingency Contracting Structure
  7. Contracting In-Theater Organizational Structures
  8. Contracting Organizational Elements
  9. Organizational Roles and Responsibilities
  10. Additional References

Table of Visuals

  1. Figure 2-1: Lines of Authority
  2. Figure 2-2: OCS Description and Subordinate Functions
  3. Figure 2-3: Lead Contracting Activity Primary Tasks and Phasing Model
  4. Figure 2-4: Geographic Combatant Command OCS Coordination

Key Points

  • Contracting officers, pursuant to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 1.602, are the only personnel authorized to enter into, administer, or terminate contracts and to make related determinations and findings.
  • Contracting officers may bind the government only to the extent of the authority delegated to them. The appointing authority must give the contracting officer clear instructions in writing regarding the limits of their authority.
  • Contracting officers must understand the difference between the command line of authority and the contracting line of authority.
  • Contracting officials should work with the operational commander to establish a structure and system for requirements generation and approval as soon as possible when supporting contingency and humanitarian or peacekeeping operations.
  • Contingency contracting officers (CCOs) should work to obtain and maintain deployed commander support through all phases of the contingency.
  • Joint Publication (JP) 4-10, Operational Contract Support, contains valuable information and guidance on joint contracting authorities, roles and responsibilities, and structure.
  • Contingency contracting is a subset of operational contract support (OCS) as defined in JP 4-10. CCOs must be familiar with OCS and how contingency contracting fits into the OCS process.
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Contingency contracting is the process of obtaining supplies, services, and construction via contracting means in support of contingency operations. It is a force multiplier and a significant component in achieving OCS in support of mission objectives. OCS is the overarching process that plans for and obtains supplies, services, and construction in support of combatant commander (CCDR)–directed operations through the related contract support integration, contracting support, and contractor management functions.

Contingency contracting is conducted by contracting officers with the legal authority to enter into, administer, modify, or terminate contracts under authorities granted to the Services, combat support agencies (CSAs), and functional combatant commands (CCMDs) under Title 10 of the United States Code (U.S.C.) in accordance with rules established in the FAR, Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), Service FAR supplements (48 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)), and applicable contingency contracting acquisition instructions (AIs).

CCOs must know and understand their contracting authority and the organizational construct in which they are working. This chapter discusses CCO legal authorities and distinguishes between command authority and contracting authority. It also offers an overview of the in-theater contracting structure, joint staff, organizational support options, and other contracting roles and responsibilities.  

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Contracting Officer's Authority and Command Authority

Contracting officers have the legal authority to enter into and make binding contracts, obligate funds, and make other commitments on behalf of the U.S. Government. Pursuant to FAR 1.602, contracting officers are the only personnel authorized to enter into, administer, or terminate contracts. They may bind the government only to the extent of the authority delegated to them. Also, they are the only personnel with the authority to designate ordering officers and field ordering officers (FOOs). As a CCO, you are responsible for ensuring that FOOs understand their authority and limitations as delegated. (See the Defense Contingency COR Handbook for additional information about working with FOOs.)

In contrast to contracting officers’ authority, command authority includes the authority and responsibility for effectively using available resources and for planning the employment, organization, direction, coordination, and control of military forces for the accomplishment of assigned missions. Combatant command (command authority) does not include the authority to make binding contracts or modify existing contracts for the government. Also, geographic combatant commands (GCCs) do not have their own contracting authority. However, command authority includes command direction on how contracting will be integrated in the planning stages of contingency and humanitarian or peacekeeping operations and how contracting will support the warfighter and mission as a force multiplier.

In accordance with 10 U.S.C, section 167, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has its own budget and acquisition authority. While this authority is far reaching, SOCOM is not staffed to support contingency operations globally and instead relies on the Services for full OCS that includes contracting assistance for administrative and common logistical requirements. The CCO should be aware that some activities that support special operations involve unique considerations that may not be reflected within this handbook. For more information on special operations requirements, see JP 4-10, Operational Contract Support, and the Defense Acquisition University's CON 334 course, Advanced Contingency Contracting. Additionally, contact the Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC) and/or Coalition Joint Operations Task Force (CJOTF) contracting activity for further information.

Figure 2-1 shows the command and contracting lines of authority.

Line of Authority

Figure 2-1. Lines of Authority

Commanders and other contracting support personnel at all levels must avoid improper command influence—or even the appearance of improper command influence—on the CCO and the acquisition process. Through proper channels, CCOs should relay the dangers of undue influence and how the commander can help prevent coercion or improper pressures on the CCO. The CCO must be able to independently exercise sound, unbiased business judgment and contract oversight in accomplishing the contracting mission.

Real-World Example:

A COR on a new construction project was a high-ranking commander. The COR developed the requirements package and delivered it to the CCO. The COR then told the CCO to award the contract to the incumbent contractor in order to commence work sooner. When the CCO explained the contracting process, the COR tried to “pull rank” and told the CCO to follow orders. The COR obviously did not understand contracting authority and was trying to use rank to influence the contracting process. The CCO courteously removed himself from the situation and immediately contacted his supervisor. The chief of the contracting office (COCO) and CCO explained the difference between contracting authority and command authority to the COR.

The Bottom Line:

You can expect to be unduly pressured at times. Be diplomatic and professional when dealing with undue influence, and elevate such issues up your chain of command to avoid delays in acquisition.

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Contracting Appointment Authority

Contracting appointment authority includes selecting, appointing, and terminating contracting officer warrants(1).The senior contracting official (SCO) must appoint as contracting officers only personnel who are assigned to, attached to, or operating under the head of the contracting activity (HCA). The complexity and dollar value of the acquisitions are main considerations in selecting and appointing a contracting officer. Other factors include the candidate’s experience, training, education, business acumen, judgment, character, and reputation. Local AIs may provide more specific information on the selection, appointment and termination of appointments of contracting officers.

Contracting officers. The appointing authority must give contracting officers clear, written instructions on the limits of their authority. This information also should be available to the public and agency personnel.

Contracting authority. Contracting authority in the operational area flows from Congress to the President and then successively to the Secretary of Defense, Service or agency head, HCA, and SCO. This contracting authority is explicitly documented in the certificate of appointment, Standard Form (SF) 1402.

Selection and appointment of contracting officers. The HCA appoints SCOs, by name and in writing, and delegates certain authorities to them, including the appointment of CCOs under their control. If the HCA allows further redelegation, SCOs also may delegate certain authorities to regional contracting centers (RCCs), including appointment of CCOs under the control of the RCC chief(2).

Contingency contracting. CCOs support Continental United States (CONUS) and outside CONUS (OCONUS) contingencies, including major accidents, natural disasters, enemy attacks, and use of weapons of mass destruction. CCOs also support humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. When CCOs are deployed to declared contingencies, the flow of contracting authority may change on the basis of the maturity of the location, theater of operation, and established command and control (C2). OCS, which includes contingency contracting, is a force multiplier and enhances the outcome of an operation when executed properly.

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Contingency Contracting in Relation to OCS

Contingency contracting is a subset of OCS. Figure 2-2 shows the three tenets that make up OCS: contract support integration, contracting support, and contractor management. Contingency contracting primarily falls into the contracting support category, but other contracting functions, such as “manage contractors,” can fall into the remaining two categories(3).

OCS Description

Figure 2-2. OCS Description and Subordinate Functions

As shown in Figure 2-2, OCS includes a multitude of planning, integration, contract execution, and contractor management activities. Accordingly, commanders, contracting officers, contracting officer’s representatives (CORs), OCS planners, finance officers, logistics personnel, and others are involved. Understanding their roles and responsibilities is important to all commands and staffs that may be involved with planning and managing OCS actions in support of joint operations.

Proper OCS synchronization among the collective joint staff enables the commander to leverage contracted support to create desired OCS-related effects and achieve operational and strategic objectives. Refer to JP 4-10 Figure III-3, which shows key OCS-related staff functions and responsibilities(4).

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Contingency Contracting Structure(5)

The GCC, in coordination with the subordinate joint force commander (JFC) and considering the Service component’s mission requirements and operational factors, determines the best contracting organizational structure to support joint operations, on the basis of the size, duration, and complexity of the contingency or humanitarian or peacekeeping operation. The GCC normally designates a lead Service for contracting (LSC), a lead Service for contracting coordination (LSCC), or a JTSCC. In small-scale, single-Service operations, Service component commanders retain control of their own theater support contracting authority and organization.

CCOs should familiarize themselves with local AIs, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and other localized guidance for their area of responsibility (AOR). The Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (DPAP) Contingency Contracting website’s International Operations page lists GCC OCS websites, which may include additional OCS information for the numerous theaters of operation. CCOs need to understand the organizational contracting structures in which they will operate, given the current and future joint operational environment.

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Contracting In-Theater Organizational Structures

Figure 2-3 shows the three primary contracting-related organizational options. The GCC normally designates an LSC, LSCC, or JTSCC, as described below, to integrate, execute, and manage OCS actions in support of joint operations (not necessary for minor, single-Service operations). (See JP 4-10 for specific information on these constructs, including their primary advantages.)

Lead Contracting Activity Primary Tasks and Phasing Model

Source: JP 4-10, July 16, 2014.

Figure 2-3. Lead Contracting Activity Primary Tasks and Phasing Model

Lead Service for Contracting Coordination. The GCC may designate a specific Service component as the LSCC. The LSCC coordinates common contract support and other common external support contract actions for a particular joint operations area (JOA) via the joint contracting support board (JCSB), if established, and assists in OCS analysis of the operational environment effort. The LSCC has only coordination authority (JCSB lead function). Under this organizational option, the Services retain C2 and contracting authority over their deployed theater support contracting organizations, but a designated lead Service coordinates common contracting actions through a JCSB or JCSB-like process. This entity best applies to small-scale, short-term operations. Under this construct, CCOs deployed from other than the lead Service are likely to receive their warrant from their own Service or agency component.

Lead Service for Contracting. The GCC may designate a specific Service component as the LSC. In this organizational construct, the designated Service component contracting activity provides theater support contracting for specified common commodities and services for a particular geographical region, normally a JOA or major expeditionary base. The LSC has contracting authority over attached Service or CSA contracting augmentation personnel. Under this construct, CCOs deployed from other than the lead Service are likely to apply for and receive their warrant from the lead Service.

Joint Theater Support Contracting Command. The JTSCC is a functionally focused joint task force (JTF) with C2, normally tactical control, and contracting authority over contracting personnel assigned or organizations attached within a designated operational area, normally a JOA. The JTSCC commands theater support contracting, coordinates common contracting actions in the joint operations area via the JCSB, and assists in OCS analysis of the operational environment effort. The JTSCC best applies to complex, large-scale operations and may require more oversight than the LSC option. Under this construct, the JTSCC is the warranting authority for all assigned CCOs. Operational conditions that drive the JTSCC option can include the following:

  • An extremely complex operation that requires direct control of theater support contracting by the JFC
  • A long-term mission
  • A mission beyond the capability of a single Service
  • A mission that requires significant coordination of contracting and civil-military aspects of the JFC campaign plan
  • Significant numbers of different Service forces operating in the same area (or joint bases served by the same local vendor base).

Because GCCs do not have their own contracting authority, JTSCC authority flows from one of the Service components (normally the LSC or lead Service component responsible for common-user logistics) to the operational area.

The JTSCC has no formally approved, set model. In general, a JTSCC is stood up only for major sustained operations. As seen in recent operations, such sustained operations can include mission requirements for major reconstruction and the transition to civil authority (in addition to the standard joint forces support mission requirements). Such major, long-term stability operations may call for standing up a JTSCC with separate SCOs responsible for supporting joint forces, host nation forces or transition operations, and reconstruction work.

It is imperative for CCOs to become familiar with the different organizational structures above and the advantages of each in order to operate effectively and efficently in theater. Refer to JP 4-10, Appendix E, "Theater Support Contracting Organizational Options," for additional information and graphical representations of a LSCC, LSC, and JTSCC.

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Contracting Organizational Elements

Operational Contract Support Integration Cell (OCSIC). The OCSIC is a key organizational element in effective, efficient OCS planning and integration. Its primary task at the GCC and subordinate JFC levels is overseeing OCS planning and execution across the joint force. This includes OCS analysis of the phase 0/steady-state operational environment and the resulting planning and coordination of OCS actions. The OCSIC ensures relevant OCS common operating picture (COP) information flow between the subordinate JFCs’ primary and special staff members, the designated lead contracting activity, and other key supporting contracting activities, such as the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), designated military construction agent (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for example), and Service Civil Augmentation Program (CAP) offices. The OCSIC also ensures the contract support drawdown progresses according to plan. Figure 2-4 is an example of a GCC OCSIC placed in the J-4.

Typical JTSCC Organization

Source: JP 4-10, July 16, 2014.

Figure 2-4. Geographic Combatant Command OCS Coordination

Regional Contracting Centers.The makeup of RCCs depends on the mission support requirement; a typical RCC consists of 10 to 25 warranted contracting officers, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and Department of Defense (DoD) civilians. These RCCs are commonly aligned with a major land force (such as a division, corps, or Marine expeditionary force), headquarters, or air expeditionary wing or group. Command structure is vital to effective operation of the contracting office, while contracting expertise is vital to mission fulfillment. The two coexist and are not independent of each other but should be balanced with the skills of the assigned personnel.

Regional contracting offices (RCOs). RCOs are joint-staffed contracting organizations under the C2 of an RCC. RCOs normally are led by a contracting officer and composed of two to eight warranted contracting officers, NCOs, DoD civilians, and possibly even contractors. RCOs normally provide area support to specific forward operating bases and designated areas in the joint operations area.

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Organizational Roles and Responsibilities

Head of Contracting Activity. The HCA (or SCO if authority is delegated) is the official designated by the agency head to have overall responsibility for managing the contracting activity. The HCA oversees contracting to ensure it complies with applicable statutes, regulations, and sound business practices.

Senior Contracting Official. The SCO is the official designated by a Service HCA to execute theater support contracting authority for a specific command or operational area. This includes establishing policies and procedures for developing, reviewing, and managing the contingency contracting process in theater. SCO responsibilities include the following:

  • Managing administrative plans to control documents, maintain records, and conduct audit trails of procurement actions
  • Overseeing and assessing the effectiveness of contracting programs
  • Issuing warrants and determining delegated warrant authorities
  • Participating in the joint requirements review board (JRRB)—primarily the SCO for forces support
  • Chairing the JCSB as directed
  • Managing and executing procurement management reviews
  • Developing and providing oversight management control programs
  • Conducting special reviews as required
  • Managing the contract audit follow-up program
  • Overseeing contract closeout
  • Coordinating Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audit and financial advisory support
  • Managing suspension and debarment actions
  • Coordinating inter-command agreements that detail contracting support relationships among U.S. military Services
  • Coordinating operational plans or requirements originating with the joint staff and providing host nation support, status of forces agreements, assistance-in-kind agreements, or any treaties for CCO review.

Regional Contracting Centers chief. The RCC chief or COCO plans, directs, and supervises purchasing, contracting, administration, and closeout for supplies, services, and construction for assigned customers. The RCC chief also acts as the business advisor to the deployed commander. The RCC chief typically approves actions that exceed the CCO’s authority and reviews internal and external contractual actions to ensure statutory, regulatory, and procedural compliance. The RCC chief develops and executes programs to ensure maximum competition.

Additional key responsibilities of the RCC chief include the following:

  • Maintaining the highest degree of integrity and setting the tone for the rest of the office
  • Knowing the mission (RCC mission brief) and linking contract effects to the mission
  • Engaging with the customer
  • Setting priorities for requirements (per internal and external customers)
  • Educating the customer
  • Serving as business advisor
  • Developing the vendor base
  • Encouraging contracting innovation while using sound business judgment
  • Managing continuity of office
  •  Advising the deployed commander and units on business.

Contingency Contracting Officer (6). The CCO acquires supplies and services needed by the warfighter to support essential missions in response to a crisis, contingency, or declaration of war.

The CCO has the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Ensure that contract files are documented, prepared, maintained, and closed out.
  • Oversee, regularly record, and report on contractor performance.
  • Train and monitor the performance of CCO-appointed representatives, including FOOs and CORs.
  • Ensure that contingency contracting is accomplished in accordance with AOR policies and procedures.
  • Develop an accountability plan, with the commander and appropriate supply office for contracted property (leased and purchased) brought into the theater via contract, in accordance with DoD Instruction 5000.64.
  • Ensure that contracts are competed among and—when appropriate and in compliance with local policy—awarded to local bidders to the fullest extent possible to support the development of the local economy while ensuring fair and reasonable prices.
  • Establish contact with local or reachback representatives of the applicable contracting activity for contract administration support.
  • Engage DCAA auditors to provide audit support in awarding contracts to responsible bidders that have acceptable business systems to deliver goods or services and hold sufficient capital to carry out contractual obligations.
  • Abide by host nation, inter-Service, status of forces, or other authoritative agreements that apply within the appropriate theater of operation.
  • Ensure that efforts are synchronized with commander and contingency mission guidance.      

Contracting Officer’s Representative. CORs are appointed in writing and trained by a contracting officer (normally before contract award) in pre-award and post-award responsibilities, including requirements generation, preparation of acquisition documents to support contract actions, monitoring contract performance, and performing other duties specified by their appointment letter. The appointment letter, issued by the CCO before contract award, defines COR duties and emphasizes their responsibilities and the limitations of their authority. With their specialized knowledge about the needed supplies, services, or construction being procured, CORs are the eyes and ears of the CCO and are instrumental in ensuring that products and services provided to the end user comply with contractual requirements. A COR must be an employee—military or civilian—of the U.S. Government, a foreign government, or North Atlantic Treaty Association/Coalition partners. Contractor personnel cannot serve as CORs. The unit commander is responsible for identifying and nominating CORs and must do so using the Contracting Officer’s Representative Tracking (CORT) Tool.

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Additional References

The following references were not mentioned in this chapter but offer additional information related to authorities and structure:

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1. FAR 1.603 addresses these topics.

2. FAR subpart 1.6 outlines warrant authority requirements.

3. JP 4-10, July 16, 2014.

4. See Note 3.

5. See Note 3.

6. For consistency, and given that a joint term does not exist, this handbook refers to a CCO as a contracting officer who supports contingency, humanitarian, or peacekeeping operations (as defined in FAR 2.101) and other emergency operations, including domestic emergencies, as described in Chapter 9. However, CCMDs and Services may have their own titles for a contracting officer who supports these operations.

7. See DFARS 201.602-2 for more information on COR designation, assignment, and responsibilities.

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