oversight

Base Operations: Contracting for Firefighters and Security Guards

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-09-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                     United States General Accounting Office

GAO                  Report to Congressional Requesters




September 1997
                     BASE OPERATIONS
                     Contracting for
                     Firefighters and
                     Security Guards




GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR
             United States
GAO          General Accounting Office
             Washington, D.C. 20548

             National Security and
             International Affairs Division

             B-277056

             September 12, 1997

             The Honorable James M. Inhofe
             Chairman
             The Honorable Charles S. Robb
             Ranking Minority Member
             Subcommittee on Readiness
             Committee on Armed Services
             United States Senate

             This report responds to your request for information about contracting for
             firefighter and security guard services within the Department of Defense
             (DOD). Specifically, you asked us to provide information on (1) the military
             services’ positions on contracting for firefighters and security guards,
             (2) lessons learned from using contract firefighters and security guards at
             military bases, and (3) the cost-effectiveness of contracting for these
             services.


             Federal agencies have been encouraged since 1955 to contract with the
Background   private sector for goods and services, also known as outsourcing. In 1966,
             the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Circular A-76, which
             established the federal policy for the government’s performance of
             commercial activities. In a 1983 supplemental handbook, OMB established
             procedures for determining whether commercial activities should be
             contracted. In 1996, OMB revised the supplemental handbook to streamline
             and improve the A-76 decision-making process.

             Since late 1982, Congress has, for the most part, generally prohibited DOD
             from contracting for firefighters and security guards.1 According to the
             legislative history, the prohibition was enacted because of concerns about
             the uncertain quality and reliability of private firefighter and security
             guard services, base commanders’ control over contractor personnel, and
             the right of contractor personnel to strike. Under 10 U.S.C. 2465, the
             prohibition against contracting for these services does not apply (1) when
             the contract is to be performed overseas, (2) when the contract is to be
             performed on government-owned but privately operated installations, and
             (3) when the contract (or renewal of the contract) is for the performance
             of a function already under contract as of September 24, 1983. In addition,
             there is an exception for contracts for these services with local


             1
             These prohibitions were included in Public Laws 97-252, 98-94, 99-145, and 99-661 and codified in 10
             U.S.C. 2465.



             Page 1                                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
                   B-277056




                   governments with respect to closing bases. At present, 44 military bases in
                   the United States and its territories and possessions contract for firefighter
                   and/or security guard services under various exclusions from the
                   requirements of 10 U.S.C. 2465. A listing of these facilities appears in app.
                   I. Most of the bases were excluded because they contracted for these
                   services before September 1983.

                   Because of continuing budgetary and personnel limitations and the need
                   to fund weapons modernization, DOD has increased its emphasis on
                   outsourcing support activities. Between October 1995 and January 1997,
                   the services announced plans to begin A-76 studies during fiscal years 1996
                   and 1997. These studies will involve over 34,000 positions, most of which
                   are associated with base support activities. Additional studies involving
                   more than 100,000 positions will be started over the next 6 years.


                   DOD has previously asked Congress to repeal the prohibition against
Results in Brief   contracting for firefighter and security guard services, but DOD did not
                   make this request in fiscal year 1997. DOD officials believe that significant
                   savings can be realized if the services were allowed to compete these
                   services and that repealing the law would promote more efficient and
                   effective use of military personnel.

                   Our visits to two Navy bases that contract and discussions with service
                   personnel responsible for firefighter and security guard services found
                   that in those instances in which the services had been contracted the
                   results have been mixed. At one Navy facility with an omnibus contract
                   (before 1983) for all base operation services, firefighter service inspection
                   reports showed satisfactory performance, and contract evaluation reports
                   for both firefighter and security guard services showed outstanding
                   performance. The senior military official responsible for these functions at
                   the base stated that he was satisfied with the contract services received.
                   Another Navy facility that has contracted for security guard services since
                   before 1983, however, has experienced problems with contractor
                   performance, including one contractor who went bankrupt. According to
                   service representatives from the Air Force, Navy, and Army, contractor
                   performance has been generally satisfactory, although some minor
                   problems have occurred. The representatives generally believe that the
                   problems could have been resolved through better contracting and
                   contract oversight practices.




                   Page 2                                       GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
                  B-277056




                  The best way to determine if savings can be achieved from contracting
                  firefighter and security guard services is by completing an A-76 study at
                  each base where these services are being considered for conversion to
                  contract. Because of the law, DOD has not performed any new A-76 studies
                  for firefighters or security guards. These studies are necessary because
                  every base is unique in terms of the mission that it must support. The cost
                  of the services at each base is affected by the specialized fire prevention
                  and protection services required (e.g., shipboard or structural firefighting,
                  aircraft crash or water rescue, and the need for armed guards). Similarly,
                  local economic factors, such as base location, cost of living, and the
                  availability of qualified personnel and interested contractors in the
                  community, affect costs.

                  Because of these reasons, we could not determine the overall
                  effectiveness of contracting for firefighter and security guard services.
                  However, we previously reported on prior experience with the A-76
                  process. Our report stated that competitions produce savings, usually
                  through a reduction in personnel, regardless of whether they are won by
                  the government or the private sector.2 Savings occur as each competitor
                  strives to design the most efficient organization for doing the work—often
                  with fewer personnel than before. The report also concluded that the
                  magnitude of the savings from outsourcing over time is likely to be less
                  than projected from the initial cost comparison. The Army has reported
                  that about one-half of the commercial activities studied for outsourcing
                  had lower contract than in-house costs.


                  DOD reviewed a draft of this report and generally concurred with our
Agency Comments   conclusions. DOD’s comments appear in appendix II. DOD also provided
                  technical comments which we incorporated as appropriate. DOD stated
                  that it does not have extensive data for predicting the outcome of A-76
                  competitions for contracting for firefighter and security guard services but
                  it has benefited from competition on other commercial activities.


                  To gather information on DOD’s and the services’ positions on contracting
Scope and         firefighter and security guard services, we interviewed officials from the
Methodology       Offices of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Industrial Affairs and
                  Installations, the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Installations and
                  Management, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs,

                  2
                   Base Operations: Challenges Confronting DOD as It Renews Emphasis on Outsourcing
                  (GAO/NSIAD-97-86, Mar. 11, 1997).



                  Page 3                                                 GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
B-277056




the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Logistics, and the Marine Corps
Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations and Logistics, all located in the
Washington, D.C. area.

To identify lessons learned from contracting for firefighter and security
guard services, we visited Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Georgia, and
Jacksonville Naval Base, Florida, and interviewed contracting officers and
base officials responsible for overseeing these functions. We also
interviewed contractor officials to obtain their views. In addition, we
visited Mayport Naval Station, Florida, where both firefighter and security
guard services are provided by DOD civilians, to obtain officials’ views on
contracting for firefighter services.

To obtain information on the cost-effectiveness of contracting for
firefighter and security guard services, we reviewed the criteria in OMB
Circular A-76 and held discussions with service officials responsible for
A-76 studies and service privatization programs. We also reviewed our
prior work on this issue.

We performed our review from April to May 1997 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards.


We are sending copies of this report to the Chairmen and Ranking
Minority Members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and House
Committees on National Security and Appropriations; the Secretaries of
Defense, the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy; and the Director of OMB.

Please contact me at (202) 512-8412 if you or your staff have any questions
concerning this report. Major contributors to this report are listed in
appendix III.




David R. Warren, Director
Defense Management Issues




Page 4                                      GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Page 5   GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Contents



Letter                                                                                            1


Briefing Section I                                                                                8
                        Government Contracting Policy                                             8
Background              Policy for Contracting for Firefighters and Security Guards              10
                        Number of Positions Exempt From Contracting in Fiscal Year               12
                          1996

Briefing Section II                                                                              14
                        DOD’s Position on 10 U.S.C. 2465                                         14
DOD Position on the
Law
Briefing Section III                                                                             16
                        DOD’s Experience at Two Bases That Contract                              16
Lessons Learned
From Contracting for
Firefighter and
Security Guard
Services
Briefing Section IV                                                                              18
                        Cost-Effectiveness of Contracting Will Vary by Base                      18
Cost-Effectiveness of   Factors That Influence Savings in the Outsourcing Process                20
Contracting for
Firefighter and
Security Guard
Services
Appendix I                                                                                       22

U.S. Bases That
Contract for
Firefighter And/or
Security Guard
Services



                        Page 6                                    GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
                        Contents




Appendix II                                                                                    24

Comments From the
Department of
Defense
Appendix III                                                                                   26

Major Contributors to
This Report




                        Abbreviations

                        DOD        Department of Defense
                        OMB        Office of Management and Budget


                        Page 7                                  GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section I

Background




      GAO            Government Contracting Policy


      According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
      Circular A-76, it is the general policy to rely on
      commercial sources to supply the products and services
      the government needs.

      The Circular sets forth the procedures for studying
      commercial activities for potential contracting. On
      average, the Department of Defense (DOD) takes 18 to
      24 months to complete an A-76 study.




                            Federal policy regarding the performance of commercial activities was
                            established in 1966 by OMB Circular A-76. The Circular states that the
                            government should generally rely on commercial sources to supply the
                            products and services it needs. To implement this policy, the Circular
                            requires that cost comparisons, referred to as A-76 studies, be made to
                            determine whether agencies should use contractors or government
                            employees to perform commercial activities, such as automatic data
                            processing, guard and protection services, and maintenance and repair



                            Page 8                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section I
Background




services. An A-76 cost study involves comparing estimated contract and
in-house costs for the specific work to be performed to determine the
most cost-effective approach.

OMB’s Performance of Commercial Activities Handbook, a supplement to
Circular A-76, furnishes the guidance for computing cost comparison
amounts. Agencies considering contracting are to prepare a performance
work statement defining the function being requested, the performance
standards and measures, time frames required, and a description of the
government’s in-house organization for performing the activity. The
agencies then use these data and other estimated costs to prepare a total
estimated cost for in-house performance. To estimate contractor
performance costs, the selected bid or offer is added to other estimated
costs, such as contract administration, to develop a total projected cost.
The Circular requires agencies to compare the two estimates to determine
which alternative is more cost-effective. On average, DOD takes 18 to 24
months to complete an A-76 study.




Page 9                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
                   Briefing Section I
                   Background




GAO    Policy for Contracting for
       Firefighters and Security Guards
10 U.S.C. 2465 prohibits contracts for performance of
firefighter or security guard services at any military
installation or facility except
      when the contract is to be performed overseas,
      when the contract is to be carried out on a
      government-owned but privately operated
      installation,
      when the contract (or the renewal of a contract) is
      for the performance of a function already under
      contract on September 24, 1983, or
      when the contract is for services at a base closing
      within 180 days.


                   The prohibition against contracting out firefighter and security guard
                   services first appeared in the fiscal year 1983 Defense Authorization Act
                   (P.L. 97-252). The fiscal year 1984 Defense Authorization Act (P.L.
                   98-94) extended the prohibition for 2 additional years and included two
                   exceptions: DOD could contract for these functions at locations outside the
                   United States and at government-owned but privately operated
                   installations. The fiscal year 1986 Defense Authorization Act (P.L.
                   99-145) extended these prohibitions for 1 additional year. The fiscal year



                   Page 10                                    GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section I
Background




1987 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 99-661) made the prohibitions
permanent. Finally, the 1994 Defense Authorization Act (P.L.
103-160) added a provision permitting DOD to contract with local
governments for police and fire protection services at military installations
that were being closed within 180 days.




Page 11                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
                    Briefing Section I
                    Background




GAO
         DOD's Position on 10 U.S.C. 2465

DOD officials state that they would like Congress to repeal
the prohibition against contracting for firefighter and security
guard services. However, although DOD has previously
asked Congress to repeal the law, it did not specifically
make this request in fiscal year 1997.




                    DOD’sfiscal year 1996 inventory of civilian and military personnel involved
                    in commercial activities shows that 9,979 firefighters and 12,204 security
                    guards were exempt from outsourcing because of the law and other
                    considerations, such as mobility requirements.




                    Page 12                                    GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section I
Background




Page 13              GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section II

DOD Position on the Law




      GAO             DOD's Experience at Two Bases
                      That Contract
             One base with a large omnibus base services contract
             that included both firefighters and security guards was
             satisfied with the service received and experienced no
             major problems with the qualifications of personnel
             provided, unanticipated cost growth, management
             control of contractor personnel, or strikes.
             One base with a contract for security guard services
             had a contractor who went bankrupt. It also had
             concerns about the age and physical condition of some
             guards provided by the contractor but believed the
             problems could be resolved with better contracting
             practices.



                             DOD officials state that they would like Congress to repeal the prohibition
                             against contracting for firefighter and security guard services. However,
                             although DOD has previously asked Congress to repeal the law, it did not
                             specifically make this request in fiscal year 1997. DOD officials believe that
                             significant savings can be realized from competing these functions with
                             the private sector and that repealing the law would promote more efficient
                             and effective use of military personnel. Officials from the Offices of the
                             Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, the Deputy



                             Page 14                                      GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section II
DOD Position on the Law




Chief of Naval Operations for Logistics, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff
for Plans and Programs, and the Marine Corps Deputy Chief of Staff for
Installations and Logistics also stated that their respective services
support DOD’s position.




Page 15                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section III

Lessons Learned From Contracting for
Firefighter and Security Guard Services



      GAO              Cost-Effectiveness of Contracting
                       Will Vary by Base

                  Cost-effectiveness of contracting for firefighter and
                  security guard services can best be determined by
                  conducting A-76 studies.
                  An A-76 study is necessary at each base that may
                  convert these functions to contract because each
                  base is unique in terms of the mission it must
                  support and the nature of its local economy.




                               Visits to two Navy facilities, discussions with cognizant personnel in the
                               Office of the Secretary of Defense and the services, and a review of
                               inspection reports and other documents from the facilities showed that the
                               results of contracting for firefighter and security guard services have been
                               mixed.

                               Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Georgia, has been contracting for
                               firefighter and security guard services as part of an omnibus base



                               Page 16                                    GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section III
Lessons Learned From Contracting for
Firefighter and Security Guard Services




operating services contract since the early 1980s. Each quarter, a panel of
senior officers assesses the contractor’s performance as part of the
contract award fee process. Our review of this data since the first quarter
of fiscal year 1992 showed that the contractor received an average of
100 percent of the award fee for firefighter services and an average of
98.9 percent of the award fee for security services.

Command Readiness Inspections of the base’s fire department, conducted
by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command between 1986 and 1994,
showed that the contractor provided satisfactory service.3 The base’s
Director of Facilities and Environment also stated that the contractor
provided excellent service. The contractor has a contingency plan for
potential work stoppages, but it has not been used. Also, the recent
transition among contractors, as a result of recompeting the contract,
went smoothly.

Jacksonville Naval Base, Florida, has contracted a portion of the security
guard functions for three tenant commands located on the base for more
than 15 years. In 1996, the existing contractor went bankrupt, which
abruptly terminated the service. A new contract was quickly awarded, and
no major disruptions in service occurred during the transition.
Jacksonville officials also expressed concerns about the age and physical
condition of some personnel provided by previous contractors. According
to the contracting officer, these problems could have been avoided with a
better pre-award survey, improvements in the contract statement of work,
and better contract oversight.

Service officials told us of a few other bases that have experienced similar
problems but stated that the problems are not widespread. For example,
Los Angeles Air Force Base experienced problems with its security guard
contract, and the contractor at the Navy facility at Andros Island had
difficulty providing adequate numbers of firefighters. The officials agreed
that the problems could be avoided through better contracting practices.




3
 These inspections are conducted every 4 years and rate the firefighter services as satisfactory or
unsatisfactory in various functional areas.



Page 17                                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section IV

Cost-Effectiveness of Contracting for
Firefighter and Security Guard Services



      GAO             Factors That Influence Savings in
                      the Outsourcing Process
       Our March 1997 report on DOD's contracting program
       identified some factors that influence savings in the
       contracting process:
           A-76 competitions usually project savings of about 20
           percent, even if the function remains in house.
           On average, 60 percent of studied Army commercial
           activities projected less cost using contract services.
           Magnitude of savings from outsourcing over time is likely to
           be less than projected from initial cost comparisons.
           DOD savings achieved through competition are largely
           personnel savings.



                              Office of the Secretary of Defense officials generally believe that they can
                              save money by conducting public/private competitions for firefighter and
                              security guard services. However, the best way to determine if savings can
                              be achieved is to conduct an A-76 study at each base that may consider
                              converting these functions to contract.

                              Because of the requirements of 10 U.S.C. 2465, DOD has not performed new
                              studies for firefighters and security guards. Individual studies would be



                              Page 18                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section IV
Cost-Effectiveness of Contracting for
Firefighter and Security Guard Services




necessary because each base is unique in terms of the mission it must
support and the nature of its local economy. For example, the two bases
we visited are less than 100 miles apart, but the average cost for security
guard services differs greatly. At Jacksonville Naval Station, the contractor
is paid approximately $1.4 million annually for 72 security guards (an
average of $19,444 per guard), whereas the contractor at Kings Bay Naval
Submarine Base is paid approximately $4 million per year for 102 security
guards (an average of $39,216 per guard). We did not analyze the reasons
for the difference, but contracting officers at the bases told us that the gap
is probably due to differences in personnel qualifications, work
requirements, and economic factors at the respective bases.

In another example, officials at Onizuka Air Force Base, California,
performed a cost comparison in 1994 of the contracted security police
function. The comparison projected that the base could save
approximately $9.5 million over 55 months (the contract period) by
performing the function in house.




Page 19                                      GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
                   Briefing Section IV
                   Cost-Effectiveness of Contracting for
                   Firefighter and Security Guard Services




GAO     Number of Positions Exempt From
        Contracting in Fiscal Year 1996
                                                                        Security
   Service     Component                  Firefighters                  guards
Army           Military                                        173                   273
               Civilian                                      2,087                 1,592
Navy           Military                                        115                 1,978
               Civilian                                      2,806                   959
Air Force      Military                                      1,740                 7,030
               Civilian                                      1,695                   372
Marine Corps   Military                                          0                     0
               Civilian                                        678                     0
Subtotal       Military                                      2,028                 9,281
               Civilian                                      7,266                 2,923
Total          Both                                          9,979                12,204




                   Because each base is unique in terms of its mission and the nature of its
                   local economy, we could not determine the overall cost-effectiveness of
                   contracting for firefighter and security guard services. However, our
                   March 1997 report on DOD’s contracting program identified some factors
                   that influence savings in the outsourcing process. According to the report,
                   outsourcing competitions usually generate cost savings regardless of
                   whether the competitions are won by the government or the private
                   sector. The savings achieved through the competitive process were the



                   Page 20                                           GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Briefing Section IV
Cost-Effectiveness of Contracting for
Firefighter and Security Guard Services




result of closely examining the work to be done and determining how to
do it with fewer personnel, whether inhouse or contracted.

The report also cautioned that the magnitude of savings from contracting
over time is likely to be less than projected from initial cost comparisons.
Estimates in cost comparisons are often heavily premised on initial
savings estimates from previous outsourcing efforts, and such estimates
change as the scope of the work and wages change. Furthermore,
continuing budget and personnel reductions could make it difficult to
sustain the levels of previously projected savings.

The Army has reported that about one-half of its past commercial activity
cost comparisons had lower contract than in-house costs.




Page 21                                     GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Appendix I

U.S. Bases That Contract for Firefighter
And/or Security Guard Services

                        AIR FORCE
U.S. Bases That
Contract for            Cavalier Air Force Base, North Dakota
Firefighter Services    Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma

                        ARMY

                        Redstone Arsenal, Alabama
                        Presidio Monterey, California
                        Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey

                        NAVY

                        Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center, Andros Island
                        Pacific Missile Facility, Barking Sands, Hawaii
                        National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland


                        AIR FORCE
U.S. Bases That
Contract for Security   Edwards Air Force Base, California
Guard Services          Hill Air Force Base, Utah

                        ARMY

                        Fort Rucker, Alabama
                        Space and Strategic Defense Command, Huntsville, Alabama
                        Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona
                        Aviation Support Command, Illinois
                        Fort Riley, Kansas
                        Fort Knox, Kentucky
                        New Orleans Gulf Outport, Louisiana
                        Fort Meade, Maryland
                        Aviation Support Command, Missouri
                        White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
                        Fort Bragg, North Carolina
                        McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, Oklahoma
                        Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico
                        Army Crime Records Center, Fort Belvoir, Virginia
                        Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.

                        NAVY



                        Page 22                                  GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
                  Appendix I
                  U.S. Bases That Contract for Firefighter
                  And/or Security Guard Services




                  Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, California
                  Naval Air Facility, El Centro, California
                  Naval Oceanographic Systems Center, California
                  Fleet and Industrial Supply Center, Jacksonville, Florida
                  Naval Air Station, Key West, Florida
                  Naval Surface Warfare Center, White Oak, Maryland
                  Submarine Maintenance, Engineering, Planning and Procurement, New
                  Hampshire
                  Navy Weapons Station, Earle, New Jersey
                  Navy Inventory Control Point, Pennsylvania
                  Naval Station, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico
                  Navy Undersea Warfare Center, Newport, Rhode Island
                  Navy Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia
                  Navy Undersea Warfare Center, Keypo, Washington


                  AIR FORCE
U.S. Bases That
Contract for      Arnold Air Force Base, California
Firefighter and   Los Angeles Air Force Base, California
                  Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Florida
Security Guard    Gila Bend Air Force Base, New Mexico
Services
                  NAVY

                  Naval Submarine Base, Bangor, Washington
                  Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, Georgia




                  Page 23                                    GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Appendix II

Comments From the Department of Defense




              Page 24        GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Appendix II
Comments From the Department of Defense




Page 25                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
Appendix III

Major Contributors to This Report


                        James F. Wiggins John J. Klotz Glenn D. Furbish
National Security and
International Affairs
Division, Washington,
D.C.
                        John L. Peacock Willie J. Cheely, Jr.
Norfolk Field Office




(709256)                Page 26                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-200BR Base Operations
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