You won the Corps of Engineers contract, now what?
Working for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can be as challenging as winning a contract. Successfully navigating the plethora of Corps’ requirements will greatly influence their perception of you, which in turn will affect the number of task orders awarded and additional architecture-engineer (AE) indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) won.
My colleagues and I spent a good deal of the past four years aggressively marketing our consulting firm for USACE work. These efforts included working with numerous teaming partners, designing a USACE design-build project with a well-positioned contractor, writing articles for The Military Engineer, presenting scores of presentations to numerous USACE Districts and proposing on dozens of USACE AE IDIQ solicitations. After 4 ½ years, we were finally awarded an IDIQ contract.
However, winning an AE IDIQ is only half the battle; now we must maintain the momentum by rigorously addressing the numerous and at times complicated requirements. Fortunately, our work on USACE task orders and other non-Corps federal projects, prepared us well. Here are a few lessons-learned for my readers:
Stringent safety programs
USACE takes safety very seriously and expects consultants to have mature safety programs that are inculcated in their workforce. Consider implementing formal safety plans for site visits, especially if visits include confined spaces, diving or over-the-water operations. Prepare an activity hazard analysis form for every aspect of site visits.
Anti-terrorism/force protection and operations security training
If your work entails visiting a project site at a Corps facility or on a military installation, your team will need to complete online AT/FP, OPSEC and iWatch training. Plan on four hours per person for this training.
Small business utilization and reporting
You submitted a small business contracting plan if you have a Corps contract. USACE requires electronic subcontractor reporting (eSRS) and may evaluate you on each individual task order. Given the varied nature of these task orders and often the short time you have to respond to a task order RFP, it is worthwhile to have a large number of key small businesses on-call through the use of master services agreements.
In 2015, the Department of Defense published Interim Rules on Cybersecurity. The guidance directs all federal agencies to increase cybersecurity protections for “products or services that generate, collect, maintain, disseminate, store or provides access to Controlled Unclassified Information on behalf of the federal government.” Much of this is still being worked-out by the government; however, at minimum you should realize that USACE cannot accept any data on USB drives.
Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Reporting
AA and EOR reporting requirements will generate the need for company programs and may entail periodic audits.
My recommendation is to communicate with your designated USACE project manager frequently, document everything on a memorandum, and don’t be afraid to ask if you have a question. Another technique I like to use is the “over-the-shoulder” review. Don’t wait until the formal 35/60/pre-Final review to show the Corps your analysis. An informal phone review can often prevent unnecessary work caused by going off on a wrong tangent. Additionally, the Corps expects consultants to carefully document requests for information and project decisions, as well as using DrChecks for the design and study submittal and review process.
USACE consulting is graduate school work. It takes extra effort to win the opportunity, and if you win then you are expected to perform at a higher level both technically and administratively. You can prepare by working as a subconsultant to a reputable AE and by attending seminars offered by the USACE Small Business Community. I love to discuss this topic with you in person. Come see me at the Tulsa SAME “Meet the Corps” event on February 10 in Owasso, Oklahoma.
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