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To educate potential subcontractors about qualifications and matters pertinent to working in the region, Bechtel held the first of three program supplier conferences in Washington, D.C. on May 21. Roughly 1,800 representatives of contracting and supplier firms, foreign governments and others attended the meeting which had to be split into two sessions. Another meeting is scheduled May 23 in London and a session will be held in Kuwait City on May 28.

Bechtel says that 4,348 firms had registered as potential subcontractors on its Website as of May 16. About 35% of those firms are based in the U.S.; another 25% are based in the U.K. Bechtel’s designated supplier portal Website for prospective suppliers and subcontractors had recorded nearly 87,000 visits in its first month. The "intense interest will translate into intense competition," says Tom Elkins, Bechtel’s acquisition services manager.

Bechtel officials expect that approximately 5,000 firms will meet prequalification requirements. That list will be reduced to about 1,000 firms for project-specific consideration. Those firms, once their financial information has been evaluated, will be invited to bid on a specific subcontract. "Only responsive and responsible bills will be considered," says Elkins. All subcontracts will be awarded according to government procurement rules.

The rebuilding mission is to get existing critical infrastructure up and running as quickly as possible. "Awards will be made in a fast-track environment," says Elkins. He urged potential bidders to make their first offer their "best and final offer."

About 90% of the work will be subcontracted, says Cliff Mumm, Bechtel’s program manager for the Iraq contract. Those subcontracts will not be large, he says. Many will be for under $1 million and the largest will be for about $30 million, Mumm adds. About $600 million in subcontracts will be awarded by August, he says.

Mumm also told potential subcontractors that the bulk of the work will be performed by Iraqi labor. Only 1 to 2% of the work will not be performed by Iraqis. He urged interested companies to make connections with Iraqi firms because Bechtel would not make those introductions. Many European and Eastern European firms are already in Kuwait and Iraq making those connections, he said. Bechtel does expect to post the name and contact information of the Iraqi Contractor Association on its Website.

echtel National Inc., the prime contractor for the $680-million Iraq capital construction project, expects to award the bulk of subcontracts by August. And the competition will be stiff.