The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District is responsible for providing engineering, construction, and related services in the Middle East, Central Asia, and other areas as required.
The majority of the District’s work includes designing and constructing facilities for use by U.S. forces and performing engineering activities for other U.S. government and foreign agencies operating within the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.
A vital step in the process of bringing construction projects to reality is awarding contracts to private industry companies for the actual construction. The District will usually award and manage construction contracts through construction managers overseas at the project site and with project and contract managers at the headquarters in Winchester, Va. There have been exceptions when a foreign customer requests that the District award the contract and then turn it over to them to manage, but typically award and management go together.
Contracting is an imperative step in the process of fulfilling customers’ requirements with turn-over of facilities that meet their needs. The District’s contracting personnel make that happen.
“USACE has some of the best contracting professionals in the Army, however, Middle East District team members face different contracting challenges that other CONUS districts don’t,” said Lisa Billman, District Chief of Contracting. “Explaining surety requirements to host nation contractors from the various countries in the AOR is not as simple as providing the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clause. For example, it involves explaining what other types of surety are required, working with their banks to provide acceptable documents and helping firms understand why their money, given in lieu of a performance or payment bond, can’t be released until after the warranty period expires.”
Another challenge most CONUS contracting professionals may not experience is walking prospective offerors through what an acceptable proposal looks like and ensuring submission requirements are understood by non-native English speaking personnel.
“We don’t have the benefit of having bilingual Contract Specialists like our counterparts in Korea, Japan or Europe Districts have,” Billman said. “As a result, our contracting professionals must prepare solicitations and contracts that are easily understood or participate in workshops with contractors to drive home expectations for proposal submission.”
At the Middle East District, new work is generated by project managers who constantly communicate with customers in order to know what requirements they have coming up. Sometimes this is one to three years in advance of any contracting needs.
When program managers are aware of an upcoming project, it is added to the Future Workload Module. As projects become more and more likely to occur, their viability percentages grow. Projects tracked at this stage range from ten to 90 percent viable.
“Once a project is determined to be viable, and we’re more certain the project will actually take place, it is initiated in the P2 data base and is then trackable via the weekly P2-RMS merge report,” said Michelle Pearman, deputy chief of Middle East District Contracting.
P2 is the Corps of Engineers Project Management System.
“P2 enables the Project Management Business Process by providing an enterprise database to create and manage project data,” said Annie Cain, chief of Programs and Project Management. “P2 provides common project, activity and milestone codes to facilitate reporting and a common resource dictionary.
“The P2 database allows distributing resource utilization over time and aggregating resource requirements to support work acceptance and resource reallocations decisions. It provides work item and budget information to CEFMS (the Corps of Engineers Financial Management System) and a means to formally approve project management plans and budget changes,” Cain continued.
“P2 also interfaces with RMS to coordinate construction and project management, and other software to produce financial and project reports,” said Cain.
During the Pre-Award phase, the actual planning starts. “The project manager forms a PDT – or Project Delivery Team – with all the key players, including contracting, office of counsel, program management, engineering, and other technical experts,” said Pearman.
And Contracting’s actions ramp up and move forward.
“We release a sources sought and then start the market research,” said Pearman. “One of the first tasks is to find out if there is interest among contractors, if contractors have the skill and experience to do what we will be asking of them and if they are financially capable of completing the project. This is also where project requirements are defined including the statement of work and statement of operations.”
The schedule is developed by the PDT, doing everything possible to help meet the date the PM promised.
“As an example, the Shield 5 project had a very tight deadline for all the required contracting actions,” Pearman said. “But the whole team got it done to meet the deadline. We worked long and hard to make it, but it was great that we could do that for the customer.”
The next step would be developing an Acquisition Strategy, which will become part of the overall Acquisition Plan.
The PDT then reviews all the specifications and makes comments. Once they are approved, the PDT discusses all the various contracting methods and which type is the most feasible.
- MATOC: Multiple Award Task Order Contracts that are already in place before specific requirements are identified. If there’s a MATOC in the country where the work is to take place, does the project qualify to be done under the MATOC? Does it fit within the costing guidelines?
- Full and Open Competition: All responsible sources are permitted to compete for the contract.
- Best Value: The expected outcome of an acquisition that, in the Government’s estimation, provides the greatest overall benefit in response to the requirement. There are two methods of proposal evaluation, Lowest Price Technically Acceptable or LPTA, and Tradeoff.
- Lowest Price Technically Acceptable: A process used in competitive negotiated contracting where the best value is expected to result from selection of the technically acceptable proposal with the lowest evaluated price.
- Subjective Tradeoff: A source selection process used when it may be in the best interest of the Government to consider award to other than the lowest priced Offeror or other than the highest technically rated Offeror but it is not possible to place a quantifiable value on proposed performance or capabilities above threshold (minimum) requirements.
There are innumerable steps involved in all those methods of acquisition making the timeline different for each project.
“Contracting will release a solicitation in the Federal Business Opportunities, or FedBiz Ops, and establish a suspense date for receipt of proposals,” Pearman said.
There are myriad other tasks involved including Congressional Notification.
“Once the proposals are received from prospective contractors, each will be evaluated against a pre-determined set of standards,” said Pearman. “A contractor will be selected based on the evaluation process described in the solicitation. An award will be made and the project moves from Pre-Award to Post-Award at this point.
During Post-Award, contractor performance is closely monitored, ensuring the contractor provides all promised deliverables and in turn is paid as contracted.
“Performance is followed throughout the life of the contract, through turn-over to the customer and on into contract closeout,” Pearman explained.