Home' Army Acquisition Logistics and Technology Magazine : Army ALT April-June 2018 Contents NECESSARY APPROVALS
Automated workflow approvals can be set up easily on Ama-
zon Business, which quickly processes requests for purchases.
Workflow rules enable the user to have email alerts sent to
higher-level purchasers for approval. Depending on how many
approvers a commander would prefer, Amazon could implement
the roles for purchasing officials, approving official (is the pur-
chase appropriate?) and authorizing official (are funds available
for the purchase?). For example, a company supply officer could
go onto the e-commerce portal and put the items he would like
to purchase in the organization’s virtual shopping cart. Then the
next higher purchasing official at the battalion level would get
an email alert to approve it.
In addition to workflow approvals, unauthorized items can be
flagged. The Army has mandated that the Army’s Computer,
Hardware Enterprise Software and Solutions contract be the
primary source for purchasing COTS software, desktop and
notebook computers regardless of dollar value. If a user attempts
to purchase one of these items on the e-commerce portal, a noti-
fication would inform them that it is against policy to purchase
It’s hard to calculate the potential cost savings that an Army-
zon would accrue. If, for example, DOD started with Amazon
Business, others, such as Staples, Office Depot, Grainger or
Walmart, might decide to build FAR-compliant platforms. That
would further increase competition and make for more savings.
But there are other possibilities for savings, too.
If implemented correctly, opportunities exist to use artificial
intelligence to do predictive analysis for combatant command-
ers. E -commerce portals could contact ordering officials about
purchasing an item again based on their purchase history. For
example, the platform might send an email asking, “Over the
last six months, we noticed you purchased four black ink car-
tridges every month. Would you like us to set up an automatic
monthly delivery of four black ink cartridges?” This would cut
down on the manpower needed to manually track and order
supplies on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Having an e-commerce company analyze government purchas-
ing data and highlight opportunities for savings would take the
burden off commanders and contracting personnel.
Peter Drucker, the late consultant, educator and author who
has been called “the inventor of modern management,” suggests
that what hinders innovation is not the lack of good ideas, but
the failure of teams and organizations to be willing to discard
old ones. With current technology and a multitude of options,
now is the time to change our culture and make the shift to
e-commerce. By doing so, we can provide flexibility and agility
to combatant commanders and save billions of taxpayer dollars.
While spending a year with Amazon as a Training with Industry
fellow and seeing the inner workings of e-commerce, it became
clear that online marketplaces were the way of the future for the
Army. I tried to establish a pilot program with the Army and
Amazon to show the possibilities and savings. However, I met
with resistance and negativity.
Upon reflection, I realized that it wasn’t policy I needed to
change, but the culture. Henry Kissinger said, “ The basic
motivation of a bureaucracy is its quest for safety.” It measures
success by errors avoided rather than goals achieved. We think
nothing of putting guns, ammunition, rockets, missiles, tanks
or Soldiers’ lives in the hands of combatant commanders, but
allowing them to purchase what they want when they need it is
considered too risky.
In an effort to change the culture, I am working with Defense
Acquisition University (DAU) to develop a case study illustrat-
ing how a great idea that could save billions of dollars was met
with such strong resistance. As a future commander, I want the
power and flexibility of e-commerce to purchase what I need,
when I need it, and get it fast. As a taxpayer, I want the trans-
parency, accountability and cost savings e-commerce would
provide. We must change the culture within the Acquisition
Corps to ensure that we have a premier Army that is ready to
For more information, contact the author at rachael.m .hoagland.
LT. COL. R ACHAEL HOAGLAND is the assistant executive
officer for the Deputy CIO G-6 . She has an M.S . in global
leadership from the University of San Diego School of Business,
a B.S . in diplomacy and military history from Hawaii Pacific
University, a B.A . in communication from the University of Tampa
and an associate degree in photography from Mohawk Valley
Community College. She spent a year as a Training with Industry
fellow at Amazon.com Inc. She is a graduate of DAU’s Program
Manager’s Course, PMT 401, and is Level III certified in program
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