WINCHESTER, Va. – The U.S. Marine Corps once used the slogan, “We’re looking for a few good men.”
Recently, representatives from the Middle East District went to two countries in the Central Asian States looking for a few good contractors.
To support the U.S. Central Command’s counternarcotics program in Central Asia, district project managers, contracting officers and specialists, and area office personnel are conducting design reviews, participating in bid awareness seminars, and awarding contracts in the region.
The counternarcotics program, which totals approximately $12 million in fiscal year 2012, focuses on improving border crossings in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, according to Robert Strom, program manager, Support for Others Branch. The projects are primarily border crossing facilities or training complexes to help the host nations carry out their efforts to counter trafficking in narcotics.
USCENTCOM conducts security cooperation exchanges with Central Asian nations, including military education and training, global peacekeeping operations initiatives, counternarcotics assistance, and civil military cooperation programs, according to a USCENTCOM release. The programs are important for building security capabilities and maintaining regional security.
“We have 11 projects in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to award this fiscal year,” Strom said. “The projects are relatively small and are spread out over dispersed locations. Because of the value of the contracts, we expect local firms will be competitive for the work. To help get local companies prepared, we worked with the U.S. Embassy in both locations to set up bid awareness seminars.”
Getting assistance from the embassy staffs was critical for this outreach effort, according to Mike Weaver, deputy for small business. “The embassy made the arrangements for a suitable location for the seminars, advertised them, and hired translators to help during the presentations.
“These types of seminars help to educate local contractors about our contracting processes,” Weaver said. “Contractors must understand our requirements and how to do business with the Army Corps of Engineers in order to submit good proposals. Quality proposals help us make successful contract awards. And that’s our goal: projects that are constructed by successful contractors.”
Helping contractors understand U.S. contracting processes
During the bid awareness seminars in May, Strom, Weaver, and Dr. Khaled Masoud, chief of the United Arab Emirates/Central Asian States Area Office, spoke to contractors about how to prepare acceptable proposals. Counternarcotics project managers from the U.S. Embassy also attended these sessions.
More than 65 representatives, mostly construction contractors from 28 companies, attended the seminar in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The seminar in Almaty, Kazakhstan, brought 22 registered participants from nine construction companies.
Strom opened both seminars with a projection of timelines for each phase of the process, starting with the planning and design phase and continuing through construction completion. He described each project’s location, scope of work and a rough estimated value, as well as legal considerations, ethics, and contract law authority that contractors must abide by in U.S. government contracting.
Weaver then defined acquisition terms, registration and solicitation processes, bonding requirements, and Defense Base Act Insurance to participants. He described procedures for submitting proposals and finished by describing source selection and evaluation processes.
Masoud briefed attendees about site visits and post-award considerations, including the notice to proceed, preconstruction conference, submittals, mobilization, resource management tools, quality control, construction issues, and contract closeout.
The second day of both seminars was arranged so prospective companies could meet face-to-face with U.S. government officials to ask questions, get clarifications, or discuss issues and concerns.
Among those concerns, according to Weaver, was “the registration process in the Central Contractors Registration database, called CCR, that all contractors working with DOD have to overcome. While it is not a complicated process, it could prove a little difficult or confusing for international companies,” he said.
Other agencies were invited to attend the seminars to increase professional networking, Weaver said. Those included the Defense Logistics Agency, which handles material and supply, and U.S. Central Command Joint Theater Support Contracting Command.
“The USACE bid seminar in Almaty was an outstanding event,” said Lt. Cmdr. David Jones, C-JTSCC. “There was a great deal of excitement from the vendors’ perspectives as they seemed eager to conduct business with the U.S. government. The lead contracting officer (Weaver) provided invaluable information on conducting business with the U.S. government. C-JTSCC will look to emulate this event in its own future bid seminars.”
Representatives of Kaznex, the authority responsible for licensing and regulating products and services suppliers in Kazakhstan, also attended.
“Everyone in attendance learned something new and seemed satisfied with their time investment," Masoud said.
Conducting Design Reviews with Using Agencies
With the schedule set for the bid awareness seminars, the opportunity existed to simultaneously conduct the design reviews with the host nations’ using agencies and the Embassy counternarcotics program managers.
“We’re at the 95 percent design review stage,” Strom said, “so it was necessary for our architect, Dave Colberg, and the architect-engineer firm, Louis Berger Group, to sit down with the using agencies to make sure the design documents meet their requirements before we put them out for bid.”
The users included the host nations’ customs offices, canine training centers and border patrol agencies.
The Louis Berger Group, led by Jim Stroup, presented 11 facilities that will help Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan increase their capabilities for combating drug trafficking, such as border posts, scanning facilities and canine training centers, according to Weaver.
Each project review consisted of project background and an introduction of the site and architectural plans, followed by the common approaches of the various systems including civil, mechanical, fire protection, and electrical systems and sources, Weaver said. The using agencies provided feedback and each meeting concluded with consensus.
The group also discussed related topics, including site access, badging, security and the weather, a key consideration in construction scheduling in this region, according to Strom.
In addition to the trips in May, other Middle East District headquarters team members are traveling to Central Asia to support the counternarcotics projects.
A team recently traveled to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to award a $3.7 million contract for a national training center, and an electrical engineer performed a construction assessment in May for canine training centers in Shymkent and Taraz, Kazakhstan. These canine training centers were awarded in the fiscal year 2010 program and are nearly complete.
The Middle East District’s field offices in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan – and the embassy counternarcotics program managers – routinely support and participate in the site visits, customer meetings and contracting activities, Ballard said.
During the May meetings in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, representatives of the host nations expressed their appreciation for U.S. assistance with the counternarcotics projects, according to Weaver.
“And they spoke favorably of the relationship between their governments and the United States,” he said.