Saturday, January 20, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 20, 2001

Florida firm loses Hawai'i military contract

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Saying the Army incorrectly inflated an in-house bid, a military appeals board yesterday reversed a decision that had given control of more than 200 civil service jobs to a Florida defense contractor.

The contractor, BAE Systems, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., has 10 days to contest the U.S. Army Pacific Administrative Appeals Board ruling. The company would not comment yesterday.

Barring a successful challenge, the Directorate of Logistics, which is made up of union civil service workers, will be awarded the contract. They will continue to oversee maintenance, supply and transportation duties at Schofield Barracks, Fort Shafter and Pěhakuloa Training Center on the Big Island.

The appeals board found that the Army was wrong when it told workers to adjust their bid by nine positions, said Col. William R. Puttmann Jr., commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.

The board also ruled that the contractor should have been forced to bid on three full-time positions, Puttmann said.

After making the adjustments, the bids were compared again and the in-house bid was $1.3 million lower.

"This is a good news story for us," Puttmann said. "We are very proud of what the work force does for Army soldiers and families every day. I think we found efficiencies within our organization."

Even so, the Army workers still must pare their work force from about 230 to 209, the level it submitted in its original bid.

The Army initially awarded a five-year contract to BAE in October. Workers were told there was no guarantee any of them would be hired by BAE, even though many of them had 20 to 30 years of government service.

Two unions appealed the decision after learning a Schofield Barracks general had ordered Hawaii civil service workers to adjust their completed bid by an additional $2.9 million, primarily by having them add 15 more full-time employees.

The workers lost because the adjustment pumped up the in-house bid to $60.4 million. The bid from BAE was $59 million.

Just days before awarding the contract to BAE, Army officials at Schofield Barracks had been warned that increasing the local bid by adding staff and services was "unwarranted" and "inappropriate."

The unions yesterday hailed the reversal.

"This is unprecedented, to win this way, this quickly," said Maria Santiago Lillis, a spokeswoman for the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Local 1998, which represents most of the affected employees.

"What happens usually is you go through the appeal process and lose," she said. "At some point it then becomes pure politics."

She praised the efforts of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, who came to the workers’ defense. "We probably wouldn’t have won this without him," she said.

Abercrombie has been a vocal and angry opponent of the privatization process, which seeks to cut government costs by farming jobs out to the private sector.

Abercrombie was instrumental last year in helping Navy fuel workers retain their jobs at Pearl Harbor during a similar cost comparison.

"What is happening now is you’re taking some of the most experienced, most efficient, most dedicated and loyal military workers and destroying their morale," Abercrombie said yesterday.

A private constractor "has no other desire than to make money," he said.

Military leaders privately oppose the process, Abercrombie said.

"I have yet to have a private conversation with a military commander who said he or she wants to do this," he said. "All this will do is disrupt the command and disrupt the work force."

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