Home Management The cor/cotr answer book
About the Author
Bob Boyd worked for over 20 years as an electronics technician, COTR, contract administrator, and contract specialist for the U.S. Navy. He then worked for 15 years as an instructor in basic, advanced, and executive level acquisition courses at the Army Logistics Management College (ALMC) in Fort Lee, Virginia, and the Navy Acquisition Management Training Office (NAMTO) in Norfolk, Virginia. He also held the positions of course director and department chairman at ALMC and NAMTO, as well as the position of Associate Dean for the School of Acquisition Management at ALMC.
After retiring from federal government service, Bob founded Training Concepts, Inc. (TCI), which provided tailored COR/COTR training and consulting services for government and commercial clients. He also worked as an independent contractor, developing and teaching numerous acquisition courses, especially COR/COTR courses. He taught thousands of COR/COTRs and consistently received high praise from his students.
Bob's career uniquely qualifies him as a creditable and skilled COR/ COTR trainer and consultant. He spent about 20 years in the technical arena and another 20 years in the contracting arena. This dual experience track gives him significant and valuable insight into the roles and responsibilities of the COR/COTR because the COR/COTR, a technical expert, must also perform as a contract monitor. Having "been there, done that," Bob is very familiar with the needs, challenges, and day-to-day functions of the COR/COTR.
Bob has been a member of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) for more than 30 years and is a Certified Federal Contracts Manager (CFCM). He received his BS from Saint Paul's College and his MBA from Averett University.
To all the COs, CORs/COTRs, and private sector acquisition professionals. I hope you will be able to use this book to make your critical role in the acquisition process more effective and more rewarding. This book was a labor of love on my part for your benefit.
The contracting officer (CO), at his or her discretion, may delegate contract monitoring duties to individuals possessing technical expertise or other specific qualifications, to ensure that all contract performance and delivery requirements are met in an acceptable and timely manner. These individuals may be called contracting officer's representatives, or CORs. This book focuses on the responsibilities of the COR during initial technical requirements definition, preaward technical assistance to the CO, and postaward technical contract administration. This individual may also be referred to as the contracting officer's technical representative (COTR). Throughout this book, COR is used to refer to either designation.
The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), in its Guide to Best Practices for Contract Administration, states the following regarding CORs:
The government is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of proper contract administration in ensuring the maximum return on our contract dollars. The COTR plays a critical role in affecting the outcome of the contract administration process. [Emphasis added.]
The technical administration of government contracts is an essential activity. It is absolutely essential that those entrusted with the duty to ensure that the government gets all that it has bargained for must be competent in the practices of contract administration and aware of and faithful to the contents and limits of their delegation of authority from the contracting officer.
The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, in its December 2005 report to the President and the Congress of the United States, titled "Contracting Officer Representatives: Managing the Government's Technical Experts to Achieve Positive Contract Outcomes," stated:
Without question contracting is an appropriate and effective way to accomplish an important share of the Government's work. The volume of contract spending$328 billion in fiscal year 2004, up 87% from FY 1997demonstrates the importance of developing and managing Federal contracts in ways that will ensure the best contract outcomes and the best return on the taxpayers' dollar. In recent years, the Government has modernized its contracting rules and procedures and improved the management of contracting officers who carry out the business aspects of contracting. However, almost no work has been done to assess agencies' management of contracting officer representatives (CORs). These individuals provide the technical expertise necessary to convey the technical requirements of the Government, oversee the technical work of the contractor, and ensure that deliverables meet the technical requirements of the Government. Even the best managed contract is not successful if its deliverables fail to meet the technical requirements of the Government.
All federal government contracts have, or should have, three basic objectives:
1. To get what the government needs
2. When it needs it
3. At a fair and reasonable price.
How can the government ensure the successful achievement of these objectives?
The answer lies in three basic areas of responsibility:
1. Clear, precise, and complete definition of the requirements (what the government needs)
2. Selection of the best possible source (contractor) to fulfill the needs
3. Performance of the contract in a manner that accomplishes the three objectives.
The acquisition team, including contracting, technical (or program/project), legal, quality assurance, audit, and finance personnel, has overall responsibility for accomplishment of the government's objectives, and it is essential to take advantage of the team approach. Further, technical continuity and oversight are extremely important during the contracting process. While the CO is the person of authority, the COR has intimate knowledge of, and technical expertise related to, the contract requirements, and he or she should be involved with the contract from "cradle to grave." It is essential that the COR be identified right at the beginning of the acquisition processduring the initial definition of the contract technical requirements. He or she should then be responsible for technically coordinating and monitoring the contract action all the way through contract closeout.
Unfortunately, many contracts lack the necessary degree of technical oversight, and as a result, performance problems and cost overruns can arise. My career experiences as both a technical and a contracting person have convinced me that one of the most effective ways to help alleviate performance and cost problems is by implementing a better COR/COTR program for technical coordination and contract monitoring.
The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board report also stated:
We surveyed CORs from 10 agencies that accounted for 90 percent of the Government's contracting dollars. Based on the findings from this survey, we make recommendations for agencies to improve the regulatory and day-to-day management of CORs. In particular, agencies need to fulfill the regulatory aspects of managing CORs to include formal delegation of authority, improved COR training, and strategic management of the COR workforce. [Emphasis added.]
Good COR/COTR oversight and implementation programs with structure, uniformity, formalized training, and certification criteria have been desperately needed for the COR/COTR designation process. Significant changes were announced in the September 6, 2011, OFPP memorandum, Revisions to the Federal Acquisition Certification for Contracting Officer's Representatives (FAC-COR). The memorandum establishes a risk-based, three-tiered certification program with varying requirements for training, experience, and continuous learning. The new requirements were effective January 1, 2012, and apply to all executive agencies except the Department of Defense. Such programs will allow us to realize the significant benefits to be derived from better contract technical oversight by assigning those well-trained COR/COTRs to our contracts on a dedicated "cradle to grave" basis.
I was motivated to write this book in the hope that it would bring this type of attention to the need for better COR/COTR designation programs and improved technical administration of government contracts. I also hope that by using this book as guidance, the acquisition team, especially the COR/COTR, will be able to accomplish its contract objectives in a manner that ensures that the government gets what it needs, when it needs it, at a fair and reasonable price.
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