Contract assurance

Chief Operating Officer
Vicky White

What on earth is this you may say? What contract? Assuring what? And what does it have to do with me?

Fermi Research Alliance has a contract with the government to manage and operate Fermilab. If you hire a contractor to remodel your house, the deal comes with a written contract spelling out a very large number of expectations and deliverables, and assurances that work will be done the way you want and done right. FRA’s contract with the government is 458 pages long, contains about 660 different clauses, references more than 200 different Department of Energy orders (rules and guidance) and other federal regulations, and sets goals for scientific excellence. All of these expectations are perfectly reasonable and designed to assure the taxpayer that their money is well spent.

DOE and the public want to know that we are doing things right and achieving excellent results, and there are a number of reviews and audits and inspections to assure them that we are. But, most importantly, we need to assure ourselves. If we can do that and show that we are being honest and self-critical in reviewing ourselves, then that counts for a lot and builds confidence in our lab and our way of working. That is what a Contractor Assurance System does.

Today, our CAS is being refurbished for a number of reasons. First, we need to make absolutely sure that things we are required to do are done properly and by required standards across the lab, whether those be working safely, carrying out high-quality engineering or managing our money, projects, people, property and information. Second, we need to make sure that we have the necessary policies and procedures in place, but not outdated ones that apply to another era. Third, we need to assess whether or not we have the right balance between getting our work done in an open collaborative manner and interpreting the rules and expectations in a risk-appropriate manner. Our CAS improvement initiative is to look at all of the lab’s policies, for a start, then to streamline procedures, forms and signatures, assuring that they are applied consistently across the lab. Finally, we are working to objectively measure how well we are doing in all areas so we can identify problem areas early and spot opportunities for improvement.

I believe that a modern lab needs to pay close attention to all areas of expectation in its contract. I ask for your support to help tune up our policies and procedures and forms and ways of doing business as we work toward a strong and vibrant future at Fermilab