Washington, DC — The U.S. Army is preparing to consolidate all of its environmental contracting into three national mega-contracts worth nearly $1 billion, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This super-centralization may cause dramatic decreases in flexibility, accountability and quality that will more than wipe out any envisioned cost savings.
The Army Environment Command is now preparing acquisition plans that are due September 31, 2007 for three “enterprise-wide” mega-contracts worth $840 million over their five-year terms. These national contracts would subsume all environmental compliance, natural and cultural conservation work on each major base. The first such “ID/IQ” (indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity) master contract is slated to be awarded during the fourth quarter of 2008.
This initiative, called “Strategic Sourcing,” has sparked opposition from base commanders and their environmental specialists who will lose control over contract work now performed at their installations. Besides shutting out local small businesses and consultants, concerns include –
- Loss of responsiveness and accountability in dealing with a central mega-contractor to address uniquely local and fast changing conditions on bases across the country;
- A significant drop in the quality of work due to rapid turnover and uneven performance. As the Army Environment Command presentation of the plan concedes, the “pool of skilled labor in the environmental services industry has been fast dwindling”; and
- Larger legal and financial liability due to botched clean-ups, mishandled pollution problems and missed legal deadlines.
“This Strategic Sourcing initiative should be taken off the launch pad and carted back to the drawing board,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to growing questions about the effectiveness of the Army’s environmental performance. “The last thing the Army and its Corps of Engineers need is to become even more contract-dependent.”
The true extent and distribution of any savings theorized from contract centralization remains unclear. At the same time, some internal resistance is sparked by different commands within the Army working at cross purposes. The Strategic Sourcing plan would give the Army Environmental Command control of funding at the expense of the Installations Management Command and its garrison commanders.
Against this backdrop is the controversial role of contractors doing military environmental work. Under current law (the Sikes Act) resource and environmental management may not be contracted out to private firms. Nonetheless, the number of contractors now outnumbers the civilian staff assigned to perform environmental work and this imbalance is growing.
“While most of the public views the Army as having a clear chain-of-command, in reality, competing command structures leave many in the ranks confused as to who is really in charge – a confusion that will only grow when every simple task may require multiple approvals all the way back to DC,” added Ruch. “Congress needs to step in and force re-examination of what is happening to the millions of environmental dollars that the Army is supposed to be putting on the ground at our domestic bases.”