NIB’s CMS Program Builds Professional Careers (part 1)

man who is blind at computer working in CMS program

In 2020, the AbilityOne Contract Management Support (CMS) program celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Today, it continues to thrive and expand, offering professional employment to people who are blind or have significant disabilities, all while saving taxpayers’ money by providing an invaluable service to the Department of Defense (DOD) and other federal agencies.

The program’s roots go back to 2008, when DOD needed specialists to close out a backlog of contracts. At the same time, NIB was working to develop upwardly mobile career opportunities for people who are blind. DOD and NIB joined forces and in late 2009, launching a nine-month pilot program to train people who are blind to close out DOD contracts. The CMS pilot – carried out by NIB associated nonprofit agencies VisionCorps in Philadelphia and San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind in Texas – quickly proved a success. In June 2010, CMS services were added to the AbilityOne Procurement List. Soon after, DOD signed a five-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract with NIB as the prime contractor and manager of the AbilityOne CMS program.

Today, nine NIB associated agencies participate in the CMS program, which currently employs 166 people. Of these employees, 112 are blind, 17 are service-disabled veterans, and eight are wounded warriors. Even more encouraging, well over 100 CMS program participants have been hired into career positions by federal and local government agencies, NIB, and private-sector employers like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and BAE Systems.

The CMS training program is open to U.S. citizens who are blind, legally blind, or have significant disabilities; have a four-year college degree or equivalent work experience; and are proficient in using assistive technology such as screen readers and magnification applications. Through an agreement with DOD’s Defense Acquisition University (DAU), participants in the CMS training program complete five online business courses totaling nearly 80 hours of instruction. Additional training and networking opportunities are available to participants through NIB’s partnership with the National Contract Management Association, which provides memberships to CMS team members.

After training is completed, NIB works closely with participants to help them find contract closeout positions, although finding employment hasn’t been a problem – after 10 years, the high-caliber work accomplished by CMS specialists is well-known.

Usually working in teams composed of a clerk, three closeout specialists, and a supervisor, CMS employees review open federal contracts, verify government receipt and acceptance, identify funds that should be de-obligated and returned to the government, scan and index contract documents, and deliver completed, ready-to-close packages to federal agencies.

The program’s numbers are impressive: Since September 2010, AbilityOne CMS specialists have closed out more than 460,000 contracts with a 99.65% quality rating and identified more than $2.6 billion in funds to be de-obligated and returned to the general fund.

As impressive as the cost savings and efficient, timely closeout of contracts is the program’s proven ability to offer professional jobs and opportunities for career growth. The CMS program provides professional career paths with real potential for advancement for people who are blind.

Next week’s blog will profile two people who are blind building rewarding careers in the CMS program.

To learn about training for the CMS program, contact NIB’s Employment Support Services Program Director Billy Parker at

To learn about how a CMS Team can meet your contract administration needs, contact NIB’s CMS Senior Program Manager Wallace Neal at