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‘Serving Isn’t Only Going to War:’ U.S. Air Force Contracting Officer and SPS Student Joins National COVID-19 Task Force

Second Lieutenant Adam C. Grant (’22SPS, M.S. in Enterprise Risk Management) first entered the U.S. Air Force in August 2007 after graduating high school, and worked as a combat cameraman overseas and in public affairs. Spotted as a rising leader in the Air Force, he completed his undergraduate degree and commissioned upon completion in May 2019.

Today, Grant is a Contract Manager with the 45th Contract Squadron at Patrick AFB in Cocoa Beach, Florida, where he manages a team of 12 and runs a multi-million dollar portfolio that includes acquisitions and support of the space mission through various contracting methods. He is also pursuing his M.S. in Enterprise Risk Management at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies. Earlier this spring, he was selected to join the United States Air Force COVID-19 Rapid Acquisition and Procurement Innovation Directorate Task Force (RAPiDx).

As part of the Task Force, Adam is responsible for helping to accelerate the process of contracting small businesses to work with the U.S. Air Force to deploy solutions to the COVID-19 crisis, with funding of $475 million to do so.

“We’re trying to touch small businesses,” Grant said. “We’re trying to get to businesses that can make the products. Companies are small that can make masks or part of a ventilator. The Unite and Fight website is a great resource to learn how anyone can get involved. I’m assigned to this for the next three to six months to help in any way I can. A lot of companies I’m working with are small businesses and it is a learning process. We’re there to assist. I want them to succeed and we want a great product. We’re in the middle between government and small businesses. I want to make sure all opportunities are awarded fairly and everyone wins.”

While Adam is still juggling both school work and his duties at Patrick Air Force Base in addition to the Task Force, he says he is energized to be helping fight the COVID-19 pandemic in this way.

Serving isn’t only going to war. You serve in different ways. Most people, when they think of the military, you think of airplanes or the guys on the ground. But there are also people behind-the-scenes making things happen.

— Second Lieutenant Adam Grant, '22SPS M.S. in Enterprise Risk Management

“Serving isn’t only going to war,” Grant said of the appointment. “You serve in different ways. Most people, when they think of the military, you think of airplanes or the guys on the ground. But there are also people behind-the-scenes making things happen.”

We caught up with Adam to learn a little bit more about his work with the Task Force and how his studies in Enterprise Risk Management are informing the critical decisions he is making every day while in that role -- and beyond. 

When did you join SPS' Enterprise Risk Management program and what drew you to it?

I was actually notified that I was granted entrance during the last hurricane evacuation. I was en route to Charlotte, North Carolina and got the email. I'm in an unorthodox position; Serving in my job like many of my peers is very demanding, but as an Officer, you have to pursue your graduate degree. Most of my peers pursue MBAs, and I wanted to take a risk on myself and pursue something that I have a little more interest in but would also correlate to helping me make improvements in my work center. After searching and researching, I did what I tell all of my Airmen to do, and I went after my dream and applied to Columbia SPS. I choose it because of the close-knit feeling and the idea of being a part of something bigger than yourself, and I feel that same way about the Air Force.

What has your experience been like in the program?

The instruction I have received has been top-notch; professors have gone above and beyond to make sure that I understand everything as well as how each topic relates in the real world. I also appreciate my classmates, I'm surrounded by such great minds, and I'm a firm believer when you're surrounded by high performers, if you weren't already, you will rise to the occasion and perform at a higher rate as well. 

Has your coursework informed any of your responses to the crisis? In what ways?

The great part of my program and as I mentioned above is the professors and their ability to bring real-world application into the classroom as graduate students were able to learn and then take that back to the many different organizations and industries we represent. 

We are in the early stages of the team forming, but we are essentially going to award contracts very rapidly to try to counter the effects of COVID-19. Although it’s great to move very fast, the faster you move, the more risk there is and being able to take some of the controls from the different risk models and implement them as the team I'm a part of is awarding these contracts makes me feel very confident. 

Although it’s great to move very fast, the faster you move, the more risk there is and being able to take some of the controls from the different risk models and implement them as the team I'm a part of is awarding these contracts makes me feel very confident. 

— Second Lieutenant Adam Grant, '22SPS M.S. in Enterprise Risk Management

Tell us a little bit more about the COVID-19 task force. 

COVID-19 Rapid Acquisition and Procurement Innovation Directorate (RAPiDx) is the organization was recently established to provide agile contracting support to AFWERX (HAF/A8I) and by extension Innovation Cells (Spark Cells) established under MAJCOM and PEO Organizations. In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, SAF/AQC has requested that RAPiDx concepts and capabilities be employed to support the Department of Defense efforts prioritizing the protection of our forces—inclusive of service members and their dependents, federal civilians, and contracted personnel—maintaining mission readiness, and supporting the national level effort to fight this pandemic.

Led by SAF/AQ, Dr. William Roper and, SAF/AQC Maj General Cameron Holt, TF C-19 was established to provide rapid acquisition and execution support to COVID-19 relief, resilience, and recovery efforts. To that end, RAPiDx was tasked to augment traditional Operational Contract Support (OCS) capabilities and fill potential supply chain shortfalls during this response effort. As a newly formed organization, RAPiDx is not currently staffed with contracting officers to meet this mission and has sought experienced, motivated contracting professionals to temporarily join this team to support a wide range of contracting activities and assist in safeguarding the resiliency of our economy during our COVID-19 response and recovery period.

What do you hope the task force will accomplish? 

Well, right off the bat, that we can do our job quickly and efficiently and have the most significant impact of combating COVD-19. I also hope to learn from those around me. It's a fast-paced environment, but I believe every opportunity is a chance to learn something new and add to my business acumen. 

What are your hopes for the future?

First and foremost, I hope that all those who are sick are able to make a speedy recovery, all those who have lost loved ones are able to find comfort. I hope that all of the health care professionals can get a well-needed break because they have been on the frontline of something we've never encountered before. I hope that the team that I'm a part of is able to effectively make a positive impact on this pandemic.

Personally, I hope that I'm able to perform both as a part of this task force, and I hope that I have continued performance in my classroom. I hope that I'm also able to continue the pursuit of my degree here at Columbia.

If anyone is reading this who wants to learn more, especially if they have a small business that could offer COVID-19 supply chain assistance, please find more information at the Unite the Fight website here. To kick off the effort, we are collecting information from both government and non-government personnel who are interested in getting involved. All resources and solutions are welcome from industry, academia, Department of Defense personnel, venture capital firms, individual contributors, and more.

Second Lieutenant Adam Grant is a master’s student in the Enterprise Risk Management program. You can learn more about the program here