Alec Baldwin’s character in the 1992 film “Glengarry Glen Ross” said it best, “A, B, C; A – always, B – be, C- closing. Always be closing.” And when it comes to open contracts, employees with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville have made the movie mantra a reality.
Since December 2015, Huntsville Center Closeout Manager Steven Pautz has worked with contract stakeholders, from project managers to branch and division chiefs, to dramatically reduce the number of contracts clinging to the books by almost 35 percent. During the 12-month span, contracts were closed at a rate of more than two a day.
Contract closeouts are more than a check in the box or a meaningful metric of Huntsville Center’s project efficiency and sound management practices. Contracts that fail to find fruition in a timely or scheduled manner can result in a breach of faith with those the Corps seeks to serve first.
“Ultimately, not performing closeouts results in the warfighter not receiving a required facility, product or service when it is needed,” Pautz said.
Pautz says a contract closeout is in part defined by disbursement of all funds to contractors for performance and the return of unused funds to the treasury. Most importantly a completed contract ensures the contractor delivered all required items and any real property was transferred to end users.
Unsuccessfully closing contracts also causes issues beyond failing to meet the needs of service members. Unfulfilled contracts can have a fiscal domino-like effect on other current and future projects.
“If closeouts are not performed, it can result in contract funds expiring and not being used for their intended purpose,” Pautz said. “Funds that expire may also need to be replaced, and in most instances the funds will be replaced with current fiscal year funding, which means less funding for other contracts.”
According to Pautz, closing contracts is an agency-wide effort requiring the assistance of almost everyone working at Huntsville Center. But Pautz had special praise for several divisions and managers instrumental in the recent closeout success.
“I would like to recognize the work of ITS (Information Technology Services), down by 120 (contracts); Military Support, down by 60; Energy, down by 30; and Engineering, down by 25,” Pautz said. “These four divisions reduced their total closeouts by 235, which represents 52.81 percent of the total reduction of 445 closeouts from December 2015 to December 2016.”
Pautz cites Huntsville Center personnel Steve Goolsby, Betina Johnson, John Nebelsick and Terry Patton among those who provide particular aid in the ongoing closeout efforts.
“Working internally within each organization, we were able to close out the majority of our contracts,” Huntsville Center Chief of Military Munitions Nebelsick said. “This also led to future discussions on how to improve the closeout process over time and make this a routine procedure that everyone would follow.”
But Pautz says the road to a steady closeout reduction rate began with his predecessor, Michael Bosley, and the framework for reports he developed.
“He (Bosley) was instrumental in developing the process by which we assign contracts to the individual directorates, divisions, branches and programs,” Pautz said. “Without his efforts, I can confidently say that HNC would not have enjoyed the large reduction in closeouts that we have experienced to date.”
Pautz says he’s looking to build on Huntsville Center’s momentum in the new calendar year.
“Some ideas being considered include instituting an award system for the number of closeouts completed in a year and the number of late closeouts completed in a year,” Pautz said.
Other possible initiatives include increased training in completing closeouts in a timely manner, standardizing closeout check lists to make the entire process easier and instituting the Lean Six Sigma process to further streamline work flows.