Army Corps keeps IT services in-house

Employees to partner with Lockheed Martin under $447 million contract

Given how problematic A-76 is, these teaming arrangements, which are limited in scope, may be more common.'

' Stan Soloway, Professional Services Council

J. Adam Fenster

The Army Corps of Engineers isn't saying much about how a public-private partnership won the largest Defense Department competition under the new rules governing A-76, or how the partnership will go about saving the agency $1 billion over the next six years.

'We will make the final award after the protest period closes and we issue a letter of obligation,' said George Halford, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers. 'We can't release the details of the [winning] plan until then.'
But one thing is clear: The trend of partnerships between vendors and agencies on large A-76 competitions is increasing.

'Companies are more reticent to spend resources to stand alone and compete,' said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an industry association in Arlington, Va. 'Given how problematic A-76 is, it may be that these teaming arrangements, which are limited in scope, may be more common.'

Under the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76, agency organizations compete with the private sector for jobs deemed to be not inherently governmental.

The award marks DOD's move back into the A-76 arena after its use of the hotly debated program was shut down because of statutory limitations.

For this competition, corps employees teamed with Lockheed Martin Corp. in a public-private partnership, similar to the Energy and Federal Aviation Administration A-76 competitions. This one is different, however, because the government is the prime contractor.

The contract is worth $447 million over six years, and the corps expects to save $1 billion over the same time frame.

There was one private-sector bidder, but the corps declined to say who it was.
Halford said that, until the unsuccessful bidder is debriefed on why its bid lost and decides whether to protest, he cannot comment on the winning team's bid.

The losing bidder has until July 17 to file a protest with the Government Accountability Office'which at press time had not received a complaint.

The corps' employees also must receive their formal debriefing about the decision, which Halford said will come after the protest period.

The competition began in June 2004 and involved work performed by about 1,350 employees and about 550 contractors at corps locations throughout the United States.

The team will serve the corps' civil works, military construction, and R&D missions at more than 50 locations, providing management of infrastructure systems, records and documents; communications; desktop support; service desk; strategic planning; testing and solutions; information security; visual information; and printing and publications, Lockheed officials said.

Halford said the affected employees will have to reapply for positions with the new IT organizations'the Continuous Government Organization or the Most Efficient Organization, which includes Lockheed Martin.

Diana Price, a procurement specialist for the American Federation of Government Employees, said the fact that the employees must reapply for their jobs is unsettling.

'This is a win for Lockheed, not federal employees. Employees lost jobs not because the organization became more efficient, but because they converted them to the private sector under the guise of a public-private partnership,' Price said. 'This is a direct conversion, and they are violating the law by doing a direct conversion.'

Price added that AFGE has not seen the employees' bid and would like to analyze it.

Price said AFGE also is concerned about whether the corps will lay off workers because IT jobs are being taken out of their districts, leaving the employees with no positions to apply for.

Additional benefits

Soloway said private-public partnerships have a lot of benefits, among them that employees have the right of first refusal and priority placement.

'If the reduction comes through a smarter use of technology and greater efficiencies so there is a need for fewer people doing the work, I'm not sure what the union is crying foul over,' Soloway said. 'They are not giving credit to their own folks for trying to be more efficient. This is a positive thing for the government.'

PostNewsweek Tech staff writer Doug Beizer contributed to this article.

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