Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Likely to Hire 3 Big Guns to Help Keep Military Posts; Jacksonville Is Talking with Lobbying Firms, the Mayor's Office Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Likely to Hire 3 Big Guns to Help Keep Military Posts; Jacksonville Is Talking with Lobbying Firms, the Mayor's Office Says

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY PIATT, The Times-Union

Jacksonville could announce this week it will have three lobbying groups working on the city's strategy before the Pentagon's list for its base realignment and closure round is released in May.

Jacksonville has begun negotiating with Holland & Knight, Patton Boggs and The Cohen Group since they were recently selected finalists for the city's lobbying position, and each will handle part of the consulting duties, said Susan Wiles, top aide to Mayor John Peyton. Four firms submitted bids and made presentations.

"We hope to get it sewn up next week," Wiles said Friday.

Wiles said the city was beefing up its BRAC consultants team in order to keep local bases off the list and to attract military missions from other bases that may be closed or realigned.

"We simply want to put the best team on the field," Wiles said.

Officials from The Cohen Group, led by former Defense Secretary William Cohen, were at the White Oak resort in Nassau County this weekend for a conference about Muslims and America, according to a news release by the The Leaders Group, which is run by Cohen spokesman Doug Wilson.

The Times-Union requested an interview last week with Cohen, who was President Bill Clinton's last defense secretary, but he declined to be interviewed.

Wilson wrote in an e-mail the group wouldn't comment on negotiations, referring all Jacksonville BRAC issues to the city.

When asked if the city was negotiating with Cohen over the weekend, Wiles said, "That's coincidence, that's a nice one."

Wiles said the negotiations with the three firms were over which group would fulfill what tasks the city wants done under the five services the city described in its bid request, which was filed in January. The firms submitted their bids for services, and now the city negotiations are over price, Wiles said.

"The negotiations are: This is the scope of the work, this is how long we want you to work, and this is how much we are going to pay you," Wiles said in a phone interview.

The five services the city is looking for are econometric analysis of military facilities using a Pentagon model, aviation maintenance business opportunity, public affairs and media relations, opportunity analysis to move other Defense Department activities to Jacksonville and advocate the military value of existing facilities, and to lobby for possible relocation of other facilities or military missions to the region. …

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