Magazine article National Defense

Clean-Up Contractors Courted by Pentagon

Magazine article National Defense

Clean-Up Contractors Courted by Pentagon

Article excerpt

Industry experts and Pentagon officials believe the Defense Department should seek private sector expertise to expedite environmental clean-up efforts.

One proposed solution would be to turn over more of the operations to contractors. There are enough technologies and innovative products in industry to satisfy most military clean-up needs, according to officials gathered at the National Defense Industrial Association's 25th Environmental Symposium and Exhibition in Denver.

Using commercial environmental services for tasks such as military base clean-up makes sense because it allows the armed services to focus on their primary missions, says Sherri W. Goodman deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security.

"We want to take somebody else's good housekeeping seal and use it," says Goodman, stressing that the department wants goods that are certified and preferred by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Goodman says one of the problems in adopting the suggested methods-outsourcing and privatization-is fear of making a cultural change.

"There is a natural resistance" to using contractors because it affects government careers.

James McInerney, president and chief executive officer of Business Executives for National Security, Washington, D.C., says a fear of job transition is causing the move to go slow.

Another obstacle for privatization, say officials, is the A76 process, a process designed to open up jobs for competition between the government and industry.

"A76 is an absolute travesty," says McInerney, who believes it is time-consuming and expensive.

Goodman agrees that A76 stands in the way of privatization and outsourcing.

One major obstacle is the lack of understanding, says McInerney. "We need to educate people on this ... The Defense Department system does not allow people to do what the private sector is capable of [doing]."

Outsourcing is a method of contracting independent organizations or members of the private sector to provide services to the Defense Department.

"Outsourcing doesn't shift the responsibility for performance or change the nature of the services," says Mahlon Apgar IV, assistant Army secretary for installations, logistics and environment. "It changes the organization and methods of supplying the service."

Apgar recognizes the government must ensure the quality and integrity of the work.

"Privatization goes much deeper than outsourcing," he says. "It means shifting some or all of the responsibility for planning, organizing, financing, and managing a program or activity from the services to private contractors or partners. It may also mean transferring ownership of the assets such as land, buildings and equipment. In my view, any military activity that is mirrored by a large diverse competitive market in the private sector is a candidate for privatization."

Privatization has two components, says Apgar, that are not well-understood in the Defense Department's daily routine.

"One is to attract private capital to help fund our programs and operations, but the other-in some ways more important-is enlisting private enterprise in managing and executing programs. Capital, alone, is not enough." Army Perspective

"We want to benefit ... from the four E's of private enterprise: the entrepreneurship, the energy, the efficiency, and the expertise that industry can bring to a partnership with government," says Apgar.

He would like to see industry and government pool resources. "We simply can't afford to carry the huge inventory of land and building that we've inherited because they divert scarce resources from capital needs to modernize the force and improve quality of life," Apgar says. "Privatization can help to create value and release cash from these assets, and environmental operations are an integral part of that process.

The Army currently spends approximately $1. …

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