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Handbook 09-16
July 2009

Chapter 1

The Down and Dirty of Field Ordering Officers and Paying Agents on the Battlefield

Introduction

Perhaps your commander recently selected you as a field ordering officer (FOO) or paying agent, and you are wondering how you are going to accomplish either of these missions. The first thing you must do is complete the training that your supporting contracting office (for FOOs) or disbursing office (for paying agents) requires. This handbook provides the basic tools and knowledge to use in conjunction with the formal training. Contracting is a highly regulated process with many traps for unsuspecting FOOs and paying agents, so be careful.

The Importance of Contracting on the Battlefield

In some form or another, contractors have been part of the battlefield since the American Revolution. General George Washington used civilian wagon drivers to haul military supplies. Over time, contracting support evolved from an ad hoc, add-on capability to an essential, vital part of force projection capability.

Contractors, including vendors for very small purchases, are a force multiplier, and the Army relies on their support for just about every mission. The key is ensuring contractors follow the contract requirements. FOOs and paying agents play critical roles.

Commanders establish and use FOOs to make over-the-counter purchases in amounts up to the micro-purchase threshold (check with your supporting contracting office to find out the FOO purchase threshold). As a part of the FOO/paying agent team, you will provide your commander with the ability to make local purchases, quickly and directly, to support the commander’s (your unit’s) mission. 

Future FOOs undergo training 
Figure 1-1. Future FOOs undergo training 

Keep in mind there are several players involved in field ordering operations besides FOOs and paying agents. The financial management or disbursing office, resource management office, supporting contracting office, and the unit commander are all part of the “acquisition team” that enables this program. Successfully navigating through a maze of personnel and bureaucracy can be a daunting task. Patience, flexibility, and creativity are required to reach the ultimate goal of supporting Soldiers.

The following list includes just a few of the challenges FOOs/paying agents may encounter: 

  • Corruption (number one threat) 
  • Customs and culture differences 
  • Trafficking in persons 
  • Enemy threats against vendors 
  • Information security and operations security (vendors can provide intelligence to the enemy) 
  • Language barriers 
  • Time-management challenges 
  • Unauthorized commitments by you or by someone speaking for you 
  • Chain of command and conflicting responsibilities 
  • Contingency/combat environment 
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