Since its inception, the Army Corps of Engineers has been a strong supporter of small business. In 1856, a small business contractor was responsible for constructing the Capital Dome. In the late 1800's, the Corps hired small business contractors to haul away blasting debris during its mission to clear Hell Gate channel from the East River in Manhattan. Small Businesses also played a role in the construction of the Panama Canal and a host of other Corps-related projects throughout history.

Today the role of the small business contractor is prevalent in most if not all of the Corps' projects so it's only fitting that they will also be responsible for cultivating some of the infrastructure for BRAC 133, located in Alexandria, VA., by installing furniture and other amenities within the office complex.

The project is being managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, and this milestone is very important given DoD's mandate to finish all BRAC projects by September 15, 2011. BRAC stands for Base Realignment and Closure and was instituted in 2005 as a means of streamlining the Army. It's the fifth of its kind since the process was created in 1988. New York District is scheduled to finish construction in August 2011 but in order to achieve that goal they had to take a very aggressive stance in awarding these infrastructure and furniture contracts. Furniture installation began February 7, 2011.

"Given that this was new to our contracting office, our team, counsel and the BRAC 133 tech team did a wonderful job preparing the solicitation and successfully awarding these furniture projects." said Frank Cashman, chief, contracting division, New York District. "We received lessons learned assistance from Huntsville Center, which specializes in contracting for furniture equipment for USACE projects. Their Installation Support Center of Expertise (IS-CX) was a great resource."

Cashman went on to say that more than 50 percent of contract dollars were awarded to small businesses. Acquisition planning for the Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment (FF&E), the contracting office, the small business office and BRAC 133 worked together to set forth numerous acquisition goals. These goals included the type of contract, and more importantly the goals for small business utilization.

"Our goal was to provide the maximum practicable opportunity for small businesses to compete and be awarded contracts," Cashman explained. "However, large businesses were not excluded from bidding on these acquisitions."

Awards were made to the businesses that were deemed technically acceptable, and on the basis of the lowest evaluated price of proposals meeting or exceeding the acceptability criteria for non-cost factors. When the selections were complete, New York District awarded furniture contracts totaling $33 million as part of the BRAC 133 project. There were 176 businesses vying for these contracts both small and large.

"New York District and the Army Corps as a whole prides itself on supporting small business," said Greg Cuyjet, chief, small business programs, New York District. "They continue to be a major resource when it comes to delivering quality work and we're very pleased to be working with them on this project."

Inscape, located in Falconer, N.Y., was awarded $4 million for storage and filing components. They got their start back in 1888 selling furniture and office supplies.

"We're absolutely thrilled to be working on this project with the Army Corps of Engineers," said Diane Wright, manager, government operations. "Our people are on schedule to meet or exceed all of our target dates for installation."

ENWORK, located in Lowell, M.I., was awarded $834,000 for the installation of cafeteria furniture. They got their start in 2003 and have had good success putting together design-oriented, environmentally-friendly products.

"Tables are our core business," said Michael Kelly, vice president, sales and development, ENWORK. "So we're very excited to work with the Corps of Engineers and contribute directly to putting together a first class product for the future residents of BRAC 133."

The final small business contract was awarded to CC&C Management Services, LLC, located in Bethesda, M.D., for $1.4 million. CC&C Management will be handling furniture installation. This company also holds the distinction of being a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. They've been in business for more than 20 years, providing integrated solutions to government agencies and corporate Facilities.

"This is a great opportunity to show our capabilities as a small business," said Thaddeus Turner, vice president, operations, CC&C. "We hope this project will result in future opportunities to work with the Army Corps of Engineers."

All of the contractors selected face a Herculean task because they're being asked to install more than 123,000 pieces of equipment in over 6,600 workspaces between February 7th and August 19th. Some of the items slated for installation include workstations, executive case goods, conference tables, reception desks, bookcases, storage cabinets, file cabinets, industrial shelving, X-Ray machines and commercial laundry equipment.

The contractors face a number of difficult challenges with regard to installation. "They will have to deal with things like narrow corridors, limited use of elevators and flexibility with regard to tenant requirements," said Joanne Hensley, chief of design and engineering, BRAC 133 project. "There is also an option to add privacy screens to every open workstation should the tenant require it. All furniture deliveries also have to be done at night."

Hensley pointed out that the biggest challenge facing the contractors is the accelerated schedule that will require them to have all of this done by August 19th. Another aspect of the installation is the project's LEED Gold status and in keeping with this provision all of the furniture is in compliance with the Greenguard Indoor Air quality certification program.

Under this program, products designed for office environment use and other indoor spaces must meet strict chemical emissions limits, which contribute to the healthier indoor environment.

Hensley said she is very pleased with the installation and the work being done. "Installation is occurring daily and going quite well. Our FF&E Team has worked very closely with the vendors to coordinate this effort."

When completed the BRAC 133 Mark Center will consolidate national capital region DoD agencies currently occupying commercial leased space in and around the Washington D.C. area. The cost of this project is $1B. It's being constructed by Duke Realty, located in Indianapolis, and is scheduled to be completed by September 2011.

Kenneth Wells is a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, 917-790-8109.