By Andrew KornackiAugust 28, 2018
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employs approximately 33,000 civilian employees and 800 military personnel to support the Nation's military and civil works missions across the world.
One of USACE's most unique mission is that of disaster response. When the Federal Emergency Management Agency calls upon USACE for disaster response and recovery, USACE coordinates and organizes federal resources to facilitate the delivery of multiple core public works and engineering capabilities.
Any singular disaster would place a strain on the Corps of Engineers to execute their daily mission but last year they were called on to respond to four, with one being Hurricane Maria that decimated the island of Puerto Rico. So how was the agency able to successfully deliver its missions and disaster response?
The answer in Puerto Rico was a contracting mechanism, used mostly by the U.S. Army overseas, known as Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. LOGCAP plans for and executes contracted support services for forces performing missions directed or supported by the Department of Defense.
"LOGCAP is a force-multiplier," said Staff Sgt. John Butts, Contracting Officer for USACE administering LOGCAP in Puerto Rico. "LOGCAP provided contracting support so that organizational resources could be used to accomplish other parts of the mission."
The mission in Puerto Rico was the first time the Corps of Engineers utilized the LOGCAP contract. It required approval from the Department of the Army's Chief of Logistics, before the Corps of Engineers could utilize U.S. Northern Command/U.S. Army North's LOGCAP services.
"Think of the LOGCAP as a menu that has about 123 different pre-awarded contract options," said Gill Ponce, Army Sustainment Command, LOGCAP Forward Planner. "Having the options pre-awarded you eliminate the acquisition time, and can execute options in the contract within days, not months. It is versatile and fast, making it advantageous to use during an emergency response."
So far, the Corps of Engineers has used contracting options to support the Environmental Stabilization mission to restore the sites disturbed during the emergency power restoration mission, and logistical support for the purchase and distribution of all bill of material for the grid restoration mission. For each of these missions, the Corps of Engineers has provided oversight while the contractors have provided the main workforce.
"Because the mission needs could change at a moment's notice, the fact that LOGCAP is a cost contract has been vital for the environment that we are working in," said Staff Sgt. Butts. "We were able to change the scope of the contract without renegotiating cost, and any underruns were shifted back to ensure mission requirements were met."
According to Staff Sgt. Butts, flexibility and diversity led to mission success but would not have been possible if it was not for the people adapting the process together.
"The working relationship was a team effort between the Corps of Engineers, Army Sustainment Command, and the contractor DynCorps," said Ponce. "We had challenges at first, but we have learned together and have been able to reliably execute. Together we are now working on learning about how LOGCAP was used here in Puerto Rico, taking part in emergency response exercises, and working lessons learned into future planning efforts."
The innovative use of the LOGCAP contract ensured the Corps of Engineers success in Puerto Rico while supporting three other emergency response missions and continuing to deliver engineering solutions for the Nation's most difficult challenges.