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AFIMSC acquisition team in running for DOD award for COVID-19 efforts

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – A small Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center team recently garnered Air Force-level recognition for its vast life-saving impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 45-person, 773rd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron team was selected as an Air Force nominee for the Department of Defense 2021 David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award. 

The award is given to teams that “demonstrate exemplary acquisition excellence, innovation and reform,” according to the DOD website for the awards program. 
The 773rd ESS, a unit with AFIMSC’s Air Force Installation Contracting Center, delivers patient care and medical support sourcing solutions to the Air Force Surgeon General at 76 military treatment facilities worldwide. 

From executing quick-turn contracts to increasing the cleaning standards at various medical treatment facilities in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to awarding a $33 million contract for COVID Test Kits, the work the squadron accomplished during the COVID-19 pandemic was critical in protecting more than 2.6 million beneficiaries worldwide, said Lt. Col. Ethel Seabrook-Hennessy, 773rd ESS commander. 

Embracing the Air Force Chief of Staff’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” charge, the 773rd team continues to quickly execute and respond to its mission partner requirements, she said.

“Whether it’s supporting the Air Force Surgeon General’s $1 billion medical contracting portfolio, leading the efforts on the $700 million Department of the Air Force to the Defense Health Agency acquisition transition, or executing four enterprise-wide contract vehicles for cloth face coverings in four versus 60 days, the change agents of the 773rd ESS continue to be innovative and courageous problem solvers," the commander said.

“In a testament to the squadron’s duty to protect and support the Air Force’s medical operations, the squadron quickly divided into two teams to work ongoing Air Force Surgeon General requirements and COVID-19 pandemic workload, which added an additional 4,000 man hours to the squadron’s already taxing portfolio.”

One team, the Rapid Response Team, supported urgent COVID-19 response efforts while the other continued executing and managing the squadron’s $1 billion enterprise-wide portfolio.

A key example of the squadron’s gargantuan COVID response effort was COVID-19 Test Kit acquisition.

Last fall with only three weeks remaining in the fiscal year, the 773rd received a critical $33 million requirement in support of the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency. 

Although there was already an enterprise-wide contract vehicle in place with the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, it was only providing 500 COVID-19 tests a week to the Air Force because of the great need across all services. At the time, the Air Force demand was well over 7,000 per week, Seabrook-Hennessy said. 

“Staying in constant contact with our mission partner, legal, as well as the acquisition clearance authority, the team was able to come up with an acquisition strategy, solicit and award this herculean effort in just over two weeks,” she said.

The speed and flexibility of the 773rd’s team was “extremely critical in the procurement of commodities related to the treatment or testing of COVID-19 based on the velocity and turnover of products within the global market, resorting in severe supply chain shortages,” said Blake Smith, chief of Air Force Medical Service Central Contracts Program, AFMRA.

The BioFire COVID-19 test contract, awarded by the enterprise sourcing squadron, directly aided DOD and Air Force testing strategies being used to break the chain viral disease transmission and eliminate risks to our warfighters and DOD mission, said Smith.

“Without the 773rd and its focus on speed/flexibility within the acquisition process, the Air Force Medical Service and its line partners would have encountered significant risk to mission critical functionalities,” he added.

The BioFire test panels not only better meet the demand for COVID-19 testing across the Air Force but also detect 21 additional respiratory pathogens to help clinicians detect or rule out other common causes of respiratory illnesses in about 45 minutes.

In addition to COVID-19 response, during the award period the 773rd also “masterfully led the transition of 44 enterprise-wide contracts valued at $700 million to DHA, paving the way for the Department of the Air Force to address the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, keeping the Air Force Surgeon General mission intact and ensuring there are no gaps in health and welfare services for more than 2.6 million beneficiaries,” Seabrook-Hennessy said.

“We were at the leading edge of market research for many organizations as the pandemic started,” said Ernest Medina, 773rd ESS contracting specialist, “which led to multiple awards on supplies needed across the DOD. 

“(The work of the squadron over the last year) really gives you a sense of pride, along with a humbling experience in that we are all in this COVID-19 pandemic together. There is nothing we can’t accomplish if we just work as a team and in our squadron as a family,” Medina said.

“I am extremely proud of all of the hard work and dedication of the 773rd ESS,” the commander said. “The 45-member squadron has made significant impacts by not only supporting the pandemic efforts, but by also pioneering the Department of the Air Force to the Defense Health Agency acquisition transition. 

“To be recognized as an Air Force nominee for this award is a complete honor. I am truly blessed and privileged to be working alongside an amazing team who goes above and beyond to support our mission partners,” she said.

“The recognition for this award is just icing on the cake for the simple fact that, as a squadron, we know what we are capable of and we are all very grateful to have been given the opportunity to support our nation in this time of need,” Medina said.

Packard award winners will be announced in December during the virtual 2021 Defense Acquisition Awards Ceremony.