Three U.S. firms have been pre-selected to address a broad range of
fast-track infrastructure repair work in overseas countries, which could include Iraq, the Corps of Engineers announced on April 4. The tasks may include some responsibility for maintaining main Army supply routes where security conditions permit, an Army officer says.

The Corps says Washington Group International, Boise; Perini Construction, Framingham, Mass.; and Fluor Daniel International, Greenville, S.C., were qualified on April 1 for Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Multi-award Task Order Contracts.

The program has a maximum value of $100 million per contractor. The Corps' contracting officer may ask for proposals for any task from all three, or, if the need is urgent, may award the work directly.
The contracts will be administered by the Corps' Gulf Regional Engineer Office in Doha, Qatar. That office is an extension of the Corps' Transatlantic Program Center, in Winchester, Va.

Joan Kibler, a spokesperson for the Transatlantic Programs Center, says the contracts are for work in any of the 25 countries in the Central Command's area of operations. That area stretches from the Horn of Africa through Central Asia. "We have not issued any task orders" under the new contracts, Kibler says. Work could be in Iraq, she says, "but also in countries such as Afghanistan."

She adds, "It could involve supporting U.S. military operations, other U.S. government agencies or even friendly foreign governments under established agreements."

The Corps says the contracts are separate from one it announced March 24 with Halliburton Co.'s Kellogg Brown & Root unit to put out oil well fires and repair oil infrastructure in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Mark Holt, deputy commander of the Army's 130th Engineer Brigade, which is charged with maintaining the supply routes between Kuwait and the front-line divisions in Iraq, has been working on involving civilian contractors as soon as possible. Holt says the intention is to fill the long gap between close support of advancing forces and distant supply areas by engaging civilian firms to maintain routes in areas that have been stabilized. "

Contractors want to work in a secure environment, or, hopefully, even a permissive environment," Holt says. Privatizing the work would free military resources for use where security issues require them.

But Holt says shifting priorities and theater level strategies have kept him from launching any major deals so far. On April 6 he said he was within a week of submitting the first big project for the task order contracts, when priorities abruptly changed. "It was real darn close. I had a headlock on a multi-million-dollar project yesterday, only to be told 'we don't need it," Holt said the following day.

The project would have had one of the three companies on the task order list take over maintenance of one of the several routes the Army has staked out across southern Iraq. It is a 236-kilometer stretch of single-lane, 4-meter-wide paved blacktop with a few bridges and culverts, lots of bad spots and several stretches of deep sand.

But the route's priority in the theater of operations was downgraded just as the rough estimate and scope of work was ready to be taken up by contracting officers. "A week ago it was exactly what we needed," Holt says.

He says the effort was not wasted, however, because it laid the groundwork for an organization that will be needed again. One of the participating groups was the Corps' Field Engineering Support Team, the concept for which Holt says came from Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers, chief of the Corps. The group came forward to help with reconnaissance, assessment and
scoping. "I think this was exactly one of the applications he had in mind," Holt says. "We got the Corps of Engineers on board, particularly on reconnaissance. We got them spun up, the team spun up, and all those things were put into motion. We would have awarded a multi-million-dollar contract within a week of inception. It was a great first shot. We built a good team," Holt says.

Indefinite-quantity task order contracts aren't new. The Corps has active contracts of this type now in Russia, Egypt and the Balkans, Kibler says.

She also says that the firms that responded to the RFP "expressed interest based in part on results of some market research we had done back in February." The Corps then sent the RFP to 12 firms that were on its list and also to a 13th firm that asked for a copy of the RFP.

She said that none of the 13 firms was a foreign company but also says the Corps would have sent the RFP to a non-U.S. firm if one had requested the information.

Kibler also says, "There will not be any further contract awards from this [RFP}."