Commodities council help AF save time, money Published April 24, 2009 By Wayne Crenshaw 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Three of the eight commodities councils in the Air Force are based at Robins, and leaders of the units here say the concept is succeeding. The councils were born out an initiative in 2003 to try to save money by making purchases Air Force-wide, rather than for specific installations, and by combining into a single contract like-items that were previously purchased in separate contracts. The Aircraft Structures Commodity Council at Robins realized that vision in October when it inked its first spares competitive contract, a 10-year deal worth $40 million and covering 109 items. Denise Pollard, a contracting officer for the council, said the deal puts into three contracts what would previously have required 41 contracts. "It costs a lot less money to manage three contracts than it does 41," said George Kalebaugh, director of the ASCC. Mr. Kalebaugh is also director of the Communi-cations and Electronics Commodity Council. The third council at Robins is the Support Equip-ment Commodity Council. Three other councils are at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and two are at Hill AFB, Utah. Each council is assigned federal stock classes of items, and the councils arrange contracts for the purchase of those items for the entire Air Force, Mr. Kalebaugh explained. "We take their collective requirements and try to put them in on a long-term strategic contracting vehicle to try to capture as much cost saving as we can," he said. Prior to the formation of the commodities councils, whenever an item was needed that was not already covered under a contract the item manager would make a purchase request. That would then go through a process that could take up to six months administrative work, Mr. Kalebaugh said. With commodities councils, that time is cut 70 percent, he said. "Now the time it takes to drop an order is very much shortened," he said. "It's a matter of weeks versus several months." The Support Equipment Commodity Council, formed in 2003, was one of the first three councils created. Director Steve Manning said he believes the concept has worked. "It creates a lot of economies of scale for us," he said. "You have a lot of managers buying items individually, and this groups those requirements. It eliminates a lot of the work, and frees up people to do other things. It's a good environment to try to exploit efficiencies." He said some of the types of items his council covers are automatic test equipment, life-support equipment , flightline test equipment, hydraulic test equipment and trailers. These items are typically low demand items with sporadic buys. Each council is comprised of about a dozen people, including contracting personnel, program managers, sourcing analysts and engineers. The councils have a goal of reducing the total processing time for orders by half, reducing the costs 20 percent, and through those efficiencies improving product availability by 20 percent. Mr. Kalebaugh said the councils may even go a step farther, looking to make purchases not just for the Air Force but for other branches of the military as well. "We are looking at the department of defense rather than just the Air Force to give us better leverage with the contractor," he said.