NEW YORK — Usually it takes months or even years for the U.S. military's acquisition process to play out. But recently, the Air Force managed to gobble up more than 200 acquisitions in just one week.
The flurry of moves clustered around the service branch's first-ever "Pitch Day" last month, when officials heard direct proposals from 59 small companies — and contracts were awarded within minutes through swipes of a credit card.
Of those businesses, 51 signed a one-page contract and received an initial award of up to $158,000 within minutes of their presentations. In other words, the Air Force handed over $3.5 million in contract awards via government credit card in a handful of hours.
Over the course of a week, the Air Force awarded more than 200 contracts valued at $75 million.
The only real hiccup in the accelerated awarding process came when the bank would flag some of the credit card swipes on suspicion of fraud due to the unusually high frequency of transactions, according to Will Roper, the Air Force's acquisitions head.
On average, the Air Force awarded a contract and made the first payment via government credit card swipe in 15 minutes. The fastest happened in just three minutes. Prior to Pitch Day, the fastest service contract award took three months.
Roper cautioned, however, that the speed came with oversight and due diligence. "We do our homework on them, just like any investor would," he said.