Operational contract support (OCS) is important to unit and Army mission success.  If applied carefully, OCS can be an important force multiplier and enhancing operational responsiveness for unit operations and the Department of Defense.  OCS can also supplement high-demand, low density organic support force capabilities or provide capabilities that do not exist in the military structure.  OCS allows prioritization of military units for combat power and higher priority missions and reduce operational tempo for support forces. A typical example in theater for the use of contract support is reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) activities (Department of Defense, 2019).

Sergeants major (SGMs) must know OCS is the process of planning for and obtaining supplies, services, and construction from commercial sources in support of operations.  SGMs must understand OCS is a complex source of support planned and executed with the Joint Force or Combatant Commander’s guidance through the contracting authority of military department or Department of Defense agencies.  SGMs, among others, need to advise commanders about OCS activities to provide effective and legal support to Soldiers.  This begins with whether the commander’s unit is a requiring activity, a supported activity, or both.  A requiring activity identifies, plans, and coordinates OCS while a supported unit receives support.  A unit can be both if it initiates the request for support (Department of Defense, 2016). 

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SGMs have to ensure the commander does not step in several potholes of OCS.  This includes unauthorized commitment and understanding command authority does not equal contracting authority.  An unauthorized commitment is an agreement that is not legally binding because the government representative lacks the authority to enter that agreement on behalf of the government.  Only contracting officers can enter contractual actions or modifications.  Military or civil service members can be financially liable for unauthorized commitments.  Command authority is the legal authority of the military commander to organize and employ assigned and attached forces.  Command authority does not include the authority to enter in binding contracts for the United States government.  The legally binding contracts express the specific terms and conditions contractors adhere to complete their contract (Department of Defense, 2016).  Commanders need advice to stay out of the many potholes of OCS.


Department of Defense. (2016). Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Operational Contract Support (ATP 4-10). Retrieved from

Department of Defense. (2019). Operational Contract Support (JP 4-10). Retrieved from

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