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Career Story: Procurement Contract Specialist For The Pentagon

Procurement Contract Specialist For The Pentagon

Job Title: Contract Specialist

Type of Company: I work for the Pentagon.

Education: BA, Technical Writing, George Mason University •• MS, National Resource Strategy, Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Previous Experience: I started as an entry-level contract specialist in a career-track position in the Department of Defense and I've held a succession of posts requiring more and more ability and knowledge.

Job Tasks: As director of procurement, I've been given responsibility for all contractual agreements between the agency I work for and its suppliers, and I ensure that those contracts meet the dictates of law, executive orders, Department of Defense regulations, and other applicable guidelines. In short, I work to safeguard the interests of the United States in its contractual relationships at the same time I also ensure that contractors receive impartial, fair, and even-handed treatment. I supervise a staff of specialists located around the world, making sure that they're properly trained and educated and have the resources they need to do their jobs.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the continual problem-solving. There is always a new situation or complicating factor that needs careful and thorough analysis. Our mission is important and most of my co-workers are professional, intelligent, and motivated (and still know how to have fun!).

The worst part of the job is dealing with co-workers who don't understand the responsibilities that the procurement system imposes on us. Government procurement and contracting regulations are based on statute -- and on statutes enacted by Congress. The system is designed to be fair, not fast. Not everyone understands that, and only a few comprehend the attention to detail it implies.

Job Tips: Get as much education as you can, as early in your career as you can. The demands of work and life make obtaining advanced degrees much more difficult as you get older.

Understand that you will NOT master this (or any other) job in a matter of weeks, or after a couple of classes. The field is fluid and changing and "pre-fab" solutions are rare.

Keep an eye on those around you. Learn from the successes and failures of those who've gone before you. Ask questions and make no assumptions. Develop a system for organizing information that works best for you. You will need to retrieve lots of data, and a knowledge-management system that is simple and effective will be invaluable.

Additional Thoughts: This is a field that few people enter on purpose. Most of us end up here by accident or chance. But it's the only job in the federal government that allows you to obligate funds and make commitments on the government's behalf, and with such unparalleled authority come great responsibilities.

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