FASTER Team comes through for U.S. Air Force pilot training pipeline

Senior Services Manager for PEO/CM Nancy Andrews, sixth from the left, thanked the FASTER Team during a visit to NAVAIR Oct. 10 for their efforts in expanding the CMMARS contract to include the Air Force. Also pictured, fourth from right, is William Caffaro, U.S. Air Force PEO/CM director.

Nancy Andrews, Senior Services Manager for Services and Program Executive Officer for Combat and Mission Support, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, visited the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Fast Acquisition Solutions to Enable Readiness (FASTER) Team Oct. 10 to express appreciation for its six-month-long effort to expand the Contracted Maintenance, Modification, Aircrew, and Related Service (CMMARS) contract to include the Air Force.

“The team stepped up and bridged a critical gap,” she said. “It willingly worked to understand the differences between our services, identified our specifications and requirements, and executed the task order quickly. The process was impressive.”

Because of this collaboration, an additional 248 T-1 Jayhawks, T-6 Texan IIs and T-38 Talons used to train Air Force pilots at Columbus Air Force Base (AFB), Mississippi, are now maintained under CMMARS. “The [U.S.] Air Force was a tough customer, but the FASTER team was amendable and worked diligently to ensure critical maintenance support was in place ahead of our need date,” Andrews said.

CMMARS is a NAVAIR, 10-year, $12.6 billion multiple award contract (MAC) awarded to 20 industry partners in January 2019. It serves as the primary vehicle in naval aviation for maintenance and modification of military and commercial aviation platforms including fixed-wing, rotary-wing, unmanned aerial vehicles and lighter than air vehicles as well as their related systems and weapon systems.

The Air Force began its work to replace an existing maintenance contract at Columbus AFB in 2018 with a strategic contract vehicle called Aircraft Enterprise Maintenance Solutions (ACES). Realizing the contract award was more than a year away (not including the time it would take to compete subsequent task orders), it sought a solution to ensure maintenance services were in place during the interim. Air Force maintenance officials first learned about CMMARS through the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division at an exchange of contract and project information with other services. After hearing about CMMARS and believing it could potentially meet the Air Force’s urgent need, Andrews contacted the FASTER Team’s leadership and reached Product Support Management/Integration Department Director Candace Chesser.

“The Air Force had two choices, CMMARS or a peculiar contract [a contract that is executed only for a specific purpose and specified time] that was still expected to take at least 12 months,” Agile Sustainment and FASTER Director Chris Giggey said. “CMMARS promised a very aggressive seven-month schedule. It was the only available contract vehicle capable of meeting their need date of July 31,” he said. Work on the Air Force’s task order began on Feb. 1.

Six months later, on Aug. 1, a task order for one base year with an option of three additional years was awarded. FASTER is able to do this across the portfolio by tapping into its strategic vehicle, CMMARS that uses pre-qualified offers and a simplified ordering clause, and by using its standard processes and techniques that enable speed.

“Most importantly, it conducts competitions under [Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)] 16.505 using a Fair Opportunity Process. These combine to shorten the total acquisition time,” Giggey said.

NAVAIR learned from the experience as well. “The USAF team, especially Ms. Andrews, was very familiar with contract selection under FAR and its advantages over traditional avenues. Her approach made it easier to use the full power of our methods,” he said.

Since its inception, CMMARS has been in high demand across naval aviation. As of Oct. 1, FASTER has awarded two task orders and 12 orders are in progress. Planned orders already account for $11 billion of the contract’s $12.6 billion ceiling.

Andrews also met with Chesser to discuss opportunities for future joint Navy-Air Force ventures on enterprise-level contract vehicles. In addition, the Air Force plans to reach out to the FASTER Team for guidance as it stands up ACES.

Chesser said connections made through CMMARS have the potential to benefit both services beyond the contract period. “We want to continue to bring this practice forward,” she said.

“All of the services have a common mission—the defense of our country,” Andrews said. “The collaboration between the Air Force and the Navy on CMMARS is an example of what can be achieved when we work together.”