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Posted 2/5/2016

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By Debra Valine


The Aurora Veterans Affairs Hospital Replacement Alpha Contract Team was named the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2015 Procurement Team of the Year in the Excellence in Contracting Awards Program.

Each year USACE recognizes the achievements and contributions of its contracting workforce for their continuing and exceptional commitment and service. The awards program highlights its very best contracting professionals and honors their superior performance and fine accomplishments.

Col. John W. Henderson, Omaha District commander, in an email recognized there were dozens of people who supported the efforts of this team. The nucleus of the team included employees from USACE’s Omaha District and the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville.

Robert Michaels, Doug Hadley, Pete Sturdivant, Glenn Marks, Dick Taylor, Stan Tracey, Sam McGuffey, Jay Ling, and Eric Vokt from Omaha District received support from Huntsville Center’s Boyce Ross, Arkie Fanning, Pat Haas and April Rafael-Adams.

“The brilliant efforts of this team to work through extreme complexity to negotiate a new $571 million fixed price incentive firm completion contract for the remaining work on the Aurora (Colorado) Veterans Affairs Medical Center are truly laudatory and certainly saved our nation tens of millions of dollars in the process,” Henderson said. “Kudos to you all for this very well-deserved recognition.”

The team worked together to find a solution for completing a Veterans Affairs Medical Complex construction project in Aurora, Colorado. It was decided that USACE would procure a sole source acquisition with Kiewit – Turner, a Joint Venture to finish the last half of the project.

According to the nomination application, USACE implemented a non-traditional approach to the acquisition process called “Alpha Contracting.” Alpha Contracting is an acquisition process used to reduce the cycle time by the government and the contractor collaborating on qualifying technical requirements and reaching agreement on risk assessment. The contractor then submits its pricing and the Joint Alpha Acquisition Team, including government and contractor personnel, discuss the pricing in order to reach a fair and reasonable price.

“In less than a year, the Alpha Contracting Team entered final negotiations at the year end with contract award ready for the first week in October 2015,” said John Jacobson, Omaha District chief of contracting. “This was an incredible feat given that during that time the team had to conduct extensive market research, develop an Acquisition Strategy, create and get approval for a justification and approval document to conduct a sole source acquisition, develop and get an approved independent government estimate, develop an in-depth statement of work, develop a complete Request for Proposal, develop a detailed pre-negotiation memorandum, conduct extensive negotiations, develop detailed charts and charts explaining a Fixed Price Incentive (Firm Target) contract and obtain approvals on many of the documents all the way up to Mr. Shay Assad, director of Defense Pricing for the Department of Defense.” 

Jacobson said the team broke new ground on multiple fronts; from bringing key players from various locations throughout USACE together in one location to develop and complete vital acquisition documents (such as the Acquisition Strategy in record time), to the proposed utilization of a Fixed Price Incentive (Firm Target) contract for a half completed construction project. The collaboration and coordination up and down the leadership chain was noteworthy and was directly responsible for the effective streamlining of the acquisition process. 

Ross, Huntsville Center’s director of engineering, explained that when Omaha District was tasked with taking over and completing this project, they looked to Huntsville Center’s Medical Mandatory Center of Expertise and Standardization for assistance validating the design and status of construction. 

“The Center reviewed the design and construction documents and spent several weeks in Aurora accessing the quality and status of construction,” Ross said. “We brought our major construction expertise forward through our chemical demilitarization and medical MILCON experiences, and our technical expertise from medical experts throughout the Center. 

“What no one expected was how daunting a task it would be to put a new contract in place to complete a 1.2 million square foot medical complex that was 50 percent complete,” Ross said. “Omaha needed help from all of USACE figuring out how to put a cost estimate to complete the project together, as well as new a new construction contract in place in less than six months.”

Ross said Huntsville Center had developed many programmatic type estimates-to-complete for chemical demilitarization projects over the years that was used to estimate complex facilities like medical, missile and demilitarization projects. 

“We borrowed contract capacity from the Walla Walla District Civil Works Cost Center of Expertise and utilized a firm out of Atlanta that our cost engineers had worked with in the past (Project Time and Cost). The estimating team from the Center, augmented by as many as 15 PT&C estimators, developed a detailed estimate of the work left to do on each building in the Aurora complex over a 60-day time period. Ultimately the Fixed Price Incentive (Firm Target) was established very near the government's estimate, the first time that has occurred in my career!

“It was great to see Omaha reach out to so many people in USACE. Savannah District, Fort Worth District, Huntsville Center, Walla Walla Headquarters, USACE all contributed to this contract getting awarded,” Ross said. “There were several instances where Mr. Lloyd Caldwell, director of Military Programs, and Mr. Stuart Hazlett, director of Contracting, took direct control of the negotiations with K-T, ultimately handing it over to Omaha's team to finalize and award. It was a great USACE team effort.”

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