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Contracting specialist talks about career with Armament Directorate

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Brianna Miller a contract specialist with the Armament Directorate’s Agile Weapons Division, was nominated for an award for her support of engineering teams within the directorate. Recently she sat down for an interview to discuss her job and how she supports the mission.

Q: How long have you be a contracting specialist?

A: I’ve been a contracting specialist for almost four years. The last two years I’ve worked in the Agile Weapons Division, primarily on the Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW) program.

Q: What’s your educational background?

A: I graduated from the University of West Florida, with dual bachelor’s degrees in public relations and psychology. After college, I was an ultrasound tech for ten years, before I got into government contracting.

Q: How did you find out about the contracting career field?

A: My father was in the United States Marine Corps and when he retired from active-duty, he found another career as a civilian contract specialist with the Air Force. He actually started out in the Copper Cap Intern program and shared his experience with me along the way. His enthusiasm for the program and positive experience piqued my interest and I decided do some of my own research. That led to going back to school for the required business credits in order to be eligible, then applying for the program straight away.
For a few months before he retired, my father got the unique experience of working in the same division. He was on the Small Diameter Bomb I team, and I was on the Small Diameter Bomb II team within the Miniature Munitions Division at Eglin Air Force Base. It was a fun and educational experience that I will never forget! I enjoyed working with my dad, and still look to him for his experience in the field.

Q: What exactly do you do as a contract specialist?

A: I’m the buyer. I'm the individual who puts together the contracting documentation when we, as the government, have a requirement that needs to be addressed. I assist with building the contractual agreement, negotiations, performance assessment, and administration of the contract once awarded. Since I work on a weapons program, I communicate with industry partners that work in weapon and missile development and production, and also some prototype research and development.

Q: Is it a challenging job?
A: It absolutely can be. There is a lot of detail that goes into building a contract and making sure that our requirement is exactly what the government needs. Fully defined requirements take time and we work as a team to make sure that we can fulfil that requirement in a way that is the best value for the Government. That can be challenging in itself, because our requirements change constantly, our needs change constantly, and the best way to address those needs change constantly. So, it's an ongoing process. I get to be part of a team focused on building a contract that can get us exactly the requirement that we are looking for at the best value and the best timeline with the most appropriate industry partners to address our requirements. It’s putting together a puzzle. I really enjoy taking the pieces and finding the best fit.

Q: Are you the person on the team that is responsible for obligating the government to pay something?

A: No, it’s not me that does the official obligation of the government, that’s my contracting officer. I’m his buyer and support. I'm the one that works with him to develop the contract, issue the contract, and administer the contract. Together we work with our program managers, engineers, and industry partners to turn a requirement into a contract action.

Q: What's the hardest thing about your job?

A: The hardest thing about my job is maintaining the documentation. We update things within the contract on a regular basis, and as big changes happen within the contract, we have to stay on top of making sure those changes are documented within the file and within the contract. This ensures that we are communicating correctly both within the government and with our industry partners. But as long as I maintain my organization and keep my timeline managed, it doesn't roll me over, but it can get to be stressful at times.

Q: What advice or career advice would you give someone who may be thinking about becoming a contract specialist?

A: If you enjoy interacting with other people, if you enjoy doing research to find answers to difficult scenarios, if you enjoy being challenged, this is the place to be. It's a place where taking initiative is always rewarded, and you will never be bored. My advice would be to never shy away from something because it seems difficult at first, you learn so much by just taking the shot. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, we all do. Use all of your available resources, including your colleagues. Different perspectives and different experiences can influence you in such beneficial ways.

Q: How does it feel to be nominated for an engineering support award?

A: I'm absolutely honored and taken aback at being nominated for an award like this. It means that I’ve been able to step up and pull my weight by supporting the engineers and program managers within my program office. They play such vital roles within our team and take on enormous amounts of technical data and requirements, that if I can do anything to help make their jobs a little easier or help flow things a little smoother, I’m more than happy to do it.  I appreciate and am truly grateful for the recognition, and equally as grateful for the incredible people I am lucky to work with everyday.

Q: How do you support engineering?

A: The engineers and program managers within program offices that I work on have the technical knowledge base. They provide contracting with the technical needs for the requirement, and I support them by incorporating that requirement data into a contractual document that we can then communicate with our industry partners. Once we receive proposals, the engineers evaluate that information for technical adequacy, while contracting supports with appropriate terms, conditions, and price evaluations prior to making an award.

Q: What’s next for you?

A:  My next step is to study for and hopefully obtain my limited warrant once I pass the necessary tests.  I would like to further assist my division by become a contracting officer.  Obtaining a warrant is required to be a contracting officer, and there are different levels depending on the type of procurement. A warrant is what basically gives the contracting officer the ability to obligate the government.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I’m very grateful for my position working for the government and supporting the war fighter. I love being part of the PK [contracting] community here and I’ve met some incredible people. I look forward to growing every day as I continue my career.