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

man who is blind working at a computer

The AbilityOne contract management support (CMS) program has grown quickly over the past decade, creating many professional career opportunities who are blind or visually impaired. NIB continues working to expand CMS to more federal agencies, explains Billy Parker, NIB program director for employment support service. “Once federal employers see a CMS team in action, they’re excited to support the program.”

Thomas D. Robinson, recently retired director of contracting for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, exemplifies that excitement. Robinson, who was appointed to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® in 2013 and stepped down from the role of chairperson in 2020, became a proponent of CMS within the Air Force after seeing the program’s results.

Thanks to Robinson’s support, NIB now has close out specialists working on Air Force contracts in multiple locations across the country, with the largest team based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; several of those team members have transitioned to positions with the federal government.

As the program starts its second decade, NIB is looking to provide greater opportunities by expanding its scope to include pre- and post-award contract work. Carolyn Madison, director of the CMS program for VisionCorps, headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is pursuing a strategic plan to expand to serve all contract administration needs, including invoice reconciliation and pre- and post-award processes, she says.

Madison’s CMS staff has grown from 12 employees in 2016 to 53 in 2020. With offices in Philadelphia and Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Bedford, Massachusetts, VisionCorps has 6,424 contracts in process, the largest of which is with the Army Intelligence and Security Command and the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). VisionCorps’ superior output led to follow-on contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce, Madison says.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Jack Bednar, site manager of the Virginia Industries for the Blind (VIB) CMS program at DCMA in Chester, Virginia, tells a similar story of growth and expansion. VIB’s program started with nine employees in September 2014 and has grown to 55 positions supported by VIB in Chester and VisionCorps in Philadelphia. VIB closes an average of 350 contracts each month.

Noting that “permanent employment is the goal,” Bednar says DCMA has hired 11 CMS employees into professional federal positions over the past five years.

“I think of the CMS program as a launching pad to other opportunities,” says Madison. “We want to provide the skills that make people who are blind or visually impaired competitive in the marketplace.”

To that end, she conducts training in pre-award processes, such as putting together solicitations, requests for quotes, or requests for proposals, to make sure her staff members are fully equipped to compete in the job market. “Our folks have been so successful in getting jobs because they can address the pre-award process.”

“I like to think that we’re assisting people to reach their goals,” says Madison. “Every time one of my contract specialists comes in to tell me they’ve found a job outside our agency you’d think I was the proud mother! That’s the most satisfying success in this 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