UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Center for Army Lesson Learned Logo

Field Ordering Officer and Paying Agent Handbook

Handbook 09-16
July 2009

CALL Handbook 09-16: Field Ordering Officer and Paying Agent Handbook

Making a Purchase

Chapter 8

Making a Purchase

  • Each field ordering officer (FOO) must maintain the following documents on file for every purchase:
  • Request document from the unit requesting purchase of the item.
  • Standard Form (SF) 44, Purchase Order–Invoice–Voucher.
  • Seller's receipt (if possible).
  • Ledger of all transactions.
  • Documentation of any special approvals or description of special circumstances surrounding the purchase.

Failure to obtain the above documents may result in the FOO not obtaining clearance for the purchase.

All purchase requests must be in writing. Each purchase request must contain a clear and understandable item description, a specific quantity, and a cost estimate. The requesting unit's property book officer (PBO) must approve purchases of any items that are property book accountable.

Tip: A best practice is for the requesting unit's PBO to review and approve (including approvals by e-mail) all purchase requests to ensure the PBO is not left out of the loop for property book accountable items. This step may not be possible in all cases, but the FOO must establish and maintain close contacts with the PBOs of the units he supports.

The FOO must ensure he has the authority to make purchases of each requested item or service in compliance with the letter of appointment/appointment orders from the contracting officer and any special instructions. The FOO also must ensure the paying agent has sufficient funds available for each purchase. As designated representatives of the chief of contracting, FOOs do not have authority to purchase supplies and/or services beyond the authority the chief of contracting establishes in their appointment orders or letters of appointment (FOOs must review their appointment letters).

Photo: A FOO negotiates a purchase with a vendor
SFigure 8-1. A FOO negotiates a purchase with a vendor

The FOO and the paying agent will then locate a local source of supply or services to fulfill the request and obtain pricing for the item or service. 

The FOO then will make and record a determination of price reasonableness. If the price exceeds the single purchase authorization, the FOO will forward the requirement to the contracting office using Department of the Army (DA) Form 3953, Purchase Request and Commitment. 

During discussions with contractors/vendors, the FOO must make it clear from the beginning that the FOO cannot accept gifts and money. However, bartering is part of every deal, and everything is negotiable. 

Expect vendors who have established relationships with FOOs and paying agents to offer gifts and money as a “cut” of the deal. This gesture is customary business practice and should not be seen as a bribe or other blight on the character of the vendor. Politely decline all offers/gifts. 

If the price is reasonable, the FOO and paying agent will complete their respective sections within the SF 44 and purchase the item (see sample SF 44s at Appendices A and B). The paying agent will execute payment at the time of purchase and complete the SF 44. 

Remember that a completed SF 44 is equivalent to the monetary value of the cash it represents. If you lose a completed SF 44, you may lose that amount out of your leave and earnings statement (LES). Safeguard all completed SF 44s and make copies. 

Photo: A FOO closes a deal 
Figure 8-2. A FOO closes a deal 

If possible, the FOO should obtain a purchase receipt from the seller and maintain the receipt on file as proof of purchase. If the vendor refuses to sign the SF 44, document the circumstances later and place that report on file with the purchase records but continue to finalize the purchase with the current vendor. 

Each FOO must maintain an obligation record annotating the following for each purchase: 

  • Purchase order number 
  • Name and location of the vendor
  • Date of transaction 
  • Description of the item/service purchased 
  • Amount of obligation 
  • Balance of unobligated funds 

This information can be maintained on the reverse side of the DA Form 3953 or, more commonly, by a locally produced manual or automated ledger (see Appendix C for an example of a ledger). Remember, the ledger is the granddaddy of the bookkeeping system. Draw on the ledger for account summaries to develop reports and to help make key business decisions. In addition, each FOO should consider computerizing the ledger to increase accuracy and to cut the time it takes to do bookkeeping—use automated spreadsheet software such as the widely available Excel component of the Army standard Microsoft Office Suite. 

At the end of each day of purchasing, the paying agent must “prove-out” or test the ledger and supporting documents. It is a big job, but a necessary one. Testing starts with counting cash. Why start with cash? Because the accounting process starts with transactions, and transactions occur when cash exchanges hands for purchases. The ledger and SF 44s need to match the amount of cash you have on hand. 

If a purchase is made under unusual circumstances and special situations or is a regulated purchase, the FOO must document the date, description of circumstances, and any other relevant information that directly affected the procurement process. 

The rush to complete transactions and the stress level under which FOOs and paying agents work can lead to confusing math and tracking problems. FOOs and paying agents must use a system for managing the money. A checkbook-style ledger or money management software program is a crucial asset for a FOO team. The FOO and paying agent must check each other’s work constantly. 

The following chart depicts a generalized process as it relates responsibility of each member on the acquisition team: 

Chart: The FOO’s acquisition process
Figure 8-3. The FOO’s acquisition process 

Reminder: The paying agent must accompany the FOO when making any purchases. Only the FOO negotiates with vendors, and only the paying agent safeguards, disburses, and accounts for the funds. 

Tip: Army Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (AFARS) 5113.270-90 dated 22 May 2007 authorizes government purchases from Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) stores. AAFES offers a 10 percent discount for purchases made with the Government Purchase Card or an SF 44. Consult your AAFES manager before making purchases to ensure you get the discount. 

Authorized Purchases

The contracting officer establishes and defines authorized purchases in each FOO'>s appointment letter or orders. When in doubt whether an item is an authorized purchase, each FOO must ask the contracting officer who appointed him. Do not ask other FOOs—there are different types of FOOs who have different authorizations for purchasing.

Unauthorized Purchases

Unauthorized purchases are purchases the contracting officer did not authorize or outline in the FOO's appointment letter or orders. Violations of the terms and conditions of the FOO's appointment letter may result in the revocation of the FOO's appointment as well as that of any additional or other FOOs within the unit (section, battalion, etc.) based on the chief of contracting's evaluation of the violation. The revocation will stay in effect until such time as:

(1) The chief of contracting ratifies the unauthorized purchases that are $10,000 or less in accordance with FAR 1.602-3(b) (3) (B), AFARS 5101.602-3 and 5101.602-3-90. Actions over $10,000 require ratification from higher headquarters.

(2) The staff judge advocate reviews the situation to determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate and forwards his recommendation to the commander. 

(3) Reconciliation is conducted between the FOO and the chief of contracting. 

(4) The FOO completes any additional training the chief of contracting officer requires.

Once all actions have been addressed or evaluated, the culpable FOO may be reinstated, or the unit may be required to nominate another FOO. 

Typical unauthorized purchases include but are not limited to the following: 

  • State and local taxes (contracting officer approval required)
  • Ammunition or explosives
  • Personal services
  • Modified table of organization and equipment items
  • Information technology services, supplies, or equipment without appropriate preapprovals
  • Payments for intelligence information
  • Clothing Insurance
  • Medical and dental treatment
  • Passenger transportation on commercial carriers
  • Personal comfort items
  • Plaques, mementos, and training certificates
  • Construction
  • Purchases over established threshold for FOO (see your appointing contracting officer for details)
  • Purchases requiring more than one delivery or one payment (known as split purchasing)
  • Class I items (food, water, or ice)

Split Purchases

Split purchases occur when a FOO under the same contracting office places two or more orders within a short period for the same, similar, or related materials or services to circumvent the established single purchase threshold per order limit.

Other examples of split purchases include the following:

  • A single FOO makes multiple purchases from the same merchant on the same day, the total amount of the purchases exceeds the single purchase limit, and the FOO knows the total requirement at the time of the first purchase.
  • A single FOO purchases the same/similar item(s) from multiple merchants on the same day, the total amount of the purchases exceeds the single purchase limit, and the FOO knows the total requirement at the time of the first purchase.
  • A single FOO makes multiple purchases of similar items from the same or multiple contractors, vendors, or other merchants over time; the FOO knows the total requirement at the time of the first purchase; and the total value of the multiple purchases exceeds the single purchase limit.
  • Multiple FOOs under the same supervision/approving official purchase the same/similar item(s) the same day or in a compressed timeframe, the FOOs know the total requirement at a given time, and the total exceeds the single purchase limit.

Contracting and financial management scrutinize every FOO account for unauthorized purchases. The contracting office usually reviews FOO accounts monthly. 

Tip: Remember, as a FOO you cannot make everyone happy. The key to getting the most for Soldiers and avoiding a “no-pay-due” on your LES is working with the contracting office and following its rules. By contacting your contracting officer and relating the requirement, you can either receive permission to purchase (get it in writing [e.g., e-mail]) with your funds or submit a separate DA 3953, and the requirement will be contracted by the contracting officer. 

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list