By Daniel P. Elkins, MICC Public Affairs Office June 6, 2011
The transfer of management for critical contracted services to the Mission and Installation Contracting Command is allowing this nation’s most active cemetery to continue functioning while ensuring world-class support for Soldiers and their families.
The April 1 start of contractor performance at the Arlington National Cemetery not only marked a shift in the management of contract support to the MICC but also a significant restructure in the administration of those agreements.
Army officials announced changes in management at Arlington National Cemetery in June 2010 resulting from findings in two inspector general reports about management and operational activities at the cemetery. Those changes included the establishment of an Army National Cemeteries Advisory Commission that assessed contracting procedures as one of its objectives.
The commission’s recommendations led to the Mission and Installation Contracting Command headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, assuming management of service contracts for the cemetery from the Army Contracting Command’s National Capital Region Contracting Center.
The MICC is responsible for planning, integrating, awarding and administering contracts in support of the Army’s generating force including the Army commands, direct reporting units, U.S. Army North and other organizations.
Contract experts from MICC headquarters, the Mission Contracting Center-Fort Belvoir, Va., and Arlington National Cemetery teamed together over the past eight months to meet an aggressive deadline for rewriting and staffing new performance work statements as well as award contracts. The last of 16 contracts in support of the cemetery, which attracts more than four million visitors annually, was awarded April 27.
Due to the accelerated timeline and limited resources available at MCC-Fort Belvoir, an integrated process team was formed bringing together MICC program management, contracting and technical expertise to ensure appropriate source selection.
Clay Cole, MCC-Fort Belvoir director, said the team effort by all allowed his staff to meet the compressed timeline for award of the contracts. His staff received specific requirements at the end of December following consolidation of many of the existing 28 contracts. What he estimated would take six or seven months was accomplished in approximately 75 days.
“The flash to bang on actions that needed review couldn’t have happened without the support between our folks and the headquarters,” Cole said. “We were able to move staffing actions through the system in a short timeframe.”
Cole added that the small business specialists at the MICC headquarters also played an integral role by helping MCC-Belvoir conduct market research and process requirements through the Small Business Association.
The 16 total contracts for Arlington National Cemetery reflect a concerted effort between members of the MICC at all levels who closely examined the original 28 contracts previously in place to identify duplication in scope. Valued at more than $32 million, the contracts include turf and grounds maintenance, concrete grave liner installation, landscape and gardening, headstone placement and alignment, elevator and automatic door maintenance, tree and shrub trimming, uniform lease, burial, pest control, custodial services, public safety aides, and heating and air conditioning service.
Additionally, intergrated process team members structured service contracts to include support for the nearby U.S. Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
Andrea Armstrong, the contract support liaison temporarily assigned to Arlington National Cemetery from the MCC-Fort Hood, Texas, said consolidation of contracts provided an additional benefit for cemetery customers.
“Consolidating those efforts also lessens the footprint of contractors at different times of the day since Arlington is a very active cemetery,” Armstrong said of the cemetery, where approximately 25 funerals take place each day.
Pat Hogston, chief of MICC Contract Support, Plans and Operations, said the IPT proved valuable from developing an acquisition strategy to award and administration.
“One of the commission’s findings was a lack of surveillance in the performance of a contract,” Hogston said. “To address this, the senior quality assurance specialist at MICC headquarters met with contract officer representatives at the cemetery to conduct one-on-one training and ensure contractor surveillance plans were in place.”
The initial training was conducted at the end of April with follow-on training scheduled for June. Armstrong said that training includes the implementation of quality assurance surveillance plans, developing surveillance instructions and schedules, documenting results and non-conforming services, and conducting data analysis.
Contracting officials will continue to work closely with MCC-Fort Belvoir and MICC headquarters officials as the contract process shifts from award to administration.