Competitive sourcing in the military presents the opportunity for taxpayers and the military to benefit
from receiving goods and services at the most economical cost while also opening up opportunities for
Currently the federal government has a program known as A-76 Competitive Sourcing, which is
designed to tap the competitive power of the marketplace. The intent is to save money, and make military
operations that remain in house more efficient. The goal is to sustain readiness while funding the
modernization of the military forces.
The A-76 process allows private businesses to compete with government sectors for commercial
business activities related to the military. In many cases, after the evaluation is complete, the government
sectors retain the contracts.
David Bethea, commercial activities team chief, Naval Construction Battalion Center (Seabee Base),
Gulfport, said that even when the government retains the work, there are still significant savings.
“The government’s point of view is that if the government employee wins, you still are going to achieve
efficiency and savings of up to 30%,” Bethea said. “You are going to be able to do things better. It
makes you look at your processes and streamline those in order to be competitive.”
If the private sector wins a contract, allowances are made to protect the jobs of civil service workers as
the contractor is required to offer the employee a job. If the employee refuses the job, he or she has the
potential to transfer to another facility that has a civil service job opening. But Bethea said those kinds
of opportunities are becoming more and more rare.
Bethea said the process works by first developing a statement of work that is being considered. In case
of the Seabee Base, the statement is sent to the Navy’s contracting office in Charleston, S.C., which in
turn issues a solicitation for bids. The government costs out its operation, and competes with the private
sector. Then the contracting office selects the best value contractor.
Government often retains contracts
In previous competition at the Seabee Base in Gulfport, the government has won a number of the
“Thus far we have done very well which means we were very efficient to begin with,” Bethea said.
“The smaller the activity, the more efficient you are probably going to be.”
Currently an A-76 study is being done on the public works division at the Seabee Base that includes
building repairs and renovations, painting, plumbing, the water supply system, alarm systems, heating
and air conditioning and streets. Bids will be opened on public works on Jan. 14, 2001.
Also under study is the Family Services Center, which provides aid to military dependent families in the
form of personal counseling, training, financial counseling, suicide prevention and parent skills training.
Bethea said there are four Seabee battalions at the base in Gulfport. Two are home ported while two are
deployed. Families are separated for seven months at a time, so support services for families are
considered very important.
A number of A-76 studies are also ongoing at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.
“The Air Force program for competitive sourcing is very active at this time,” said Linda Clower, A-76
program manager at Keesler. “There are a lot of studies ongoing at various locations in the Air Force.
In our command, just in the area of education and training there are five studies ongoing right now for
base operating support services. They are in various stages of completion, but all of them should be
completed within the next three years.”
Best bang for the buck
Clower said the A-76 process produces many benefits.
“It is really a win-win situation for the service,” Clower said. “No matter which way it goes, the service
gets the best bang for the buck. And the competition supports that. The fact that the government and
private sector are competing is what drives that.
“The Air Force, in this case, gets the best value if they go on a contract or stay with the civil service
work force. One forces the other to be as efficient as possible.”
Detailed information about the A-76 program at Keesler can be obtain by visiting the Web page,
www.keesler.af.mil. Clower also suggests anyone interested in bidding for jobs at Keesler visit the Web
site at www1.eps.gov, the official government site for all solicitations. That Web site has information on
draft solicitations, bidder requirements, points of contact and other topics.
There might be perceptions by some in private industry that the government would have an edge in the
process. Similarly, some government workers might feel the process is slanted towards private
Process is fair
“There is a perception that there is an advantage or disadvantage for one side or other,” said Clower. “I
would assure them it is as fair and equitable as it can be. There are checks and balances throughout the
process that insure equitablility.”
One contract has been awarded to a local company for switchboard and Postal Service Center
operations. The contract was won by Goodwill Industries of South Mississippi, a non-profit
organization that helps disadvantaged people.
Leroy Modenback, CEO of Goodwill Industries of South Mississippi, said the contract has been a
tremendous opportunity for people employed by Goodwill Industries.
“Many of these people have disabilities,” Modenback said. “Some of them would not have jobs
without this. It is an alternative to being on disability, on welfare or being unemployed. It has certainly
been a wonderful opportunity for our people to be employed, make more money, and take care of
Goodwill Industries has a similar contract at the Seabee Base in Gulfport and previously did similar
work at the Navy Homeport in Pascagoula.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 872-3457.