On October 5 in Washington, D.C., SAME and the Department of State co-hosted the 2017 Small Business and Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Industry Day. Featuring insights from State Department leadership along with presentations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Agency for International Development, the event gave an inside look at immediate and long-term needs the federal government has to support its construction and facilities operations and maintenance requirements internationally.
More than 230 people attended the Industry Day, which was held at Marriott at Metro Center, downtown in the nation’s capital. Department of State Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Director George Price kicked-off the morning with a preview of the day’s schedule and a reminder to attendees that working overseas is hard.
Price recommended that those in the audience should be asking “why” and “how”, not necessarily “what.” There is plenty of contract opportunities he mentioned; what the State Department in particular needs is contractors that can do the job required, and do it well. Issues have arisen in the past where companies have under-performed due to the degree of difficulty in working overseas, largely because they did not know what they were getting into, he said. Outreach events such as this Industry Day are essential not just for the government to perform market research, but for industry to ask those critical “why” and “how” questions.
Also during the opening session, SAME Executive Director Brig. Gen. Joe Schroedel, P.E., F.SAME, USA (Ret.), provided welcome remarks and shared some background on SAME, the organization’s mission and role in bringing industry and government to identify challenges and develop solutions. He then showed SAME’s 2016 Annual Report video. While the day’s event was co-hosted by SAME, a sizable percentage of the audience was not members of the Society.
Gen. Schroedel was followed by two senior leaders with the State Department: Angel Dizon, Managing Director of Project Development, Coordination & Support, Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations; and Rod Webb, Lead Industrial Security Specialist, Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Dizon emphasized how the agency’s design and construction objectives have evolved over the decades, to today, where embassies and consulates must be highly secure while also representative of the United States overseas. These facilities may be the only “face” of the United States in certain countries and therefore it is crucial that they best represent the country and its image and values. Webb focused on the varying levels of security on State Department projects and the needed processes and requirements contractors (and subcontractors) must adhere to. Foreign ownership control and influence, bonding, prohibited countries list, public release of information, and other unique components unique to State Department contracts was presented. There are also notable differences in what the agency’s facilities require depending on where in the world they are. For instance, in the Middle East, State Department facilities may be called upon to support defense personnel, in South America, it may Justice Department personnel, and in Asia, it may be more humanitarian and relief agencies.
After the opening session, the State Department held two concurrent briefings: one on its construction program and the other on facilities operations and maintenance. It then repeated the two briefings in the afternoon, following a networking lunch, in order to ensure that attendees had access to all its upcoming requirements. The key takeaway from the operations and maintenance briefing is that the agency is looking to significantly increase its investment in maintaining its facilities. For about 25 years, operations and maintenance has been underfunded compared to new construction and many facilities are in need of rehabilitation. As one speaker pointed out, about 80 percent of facility costs come after the ribbon-cutting—but full lifecycle costs has not been an area of focus, until recently.
During the construction program briefing, the speakers re-emphasized that on overseas projects for the State Department, contractors are literally building America. The need for secure and functional, but also representative facilities is paramount. Challenges of bonding, logistics (where to store materials is often a contractor concern), safety of workers and job sites, fire protection, weather and geography, and host nation laws and regulations are all amplified. However, the mission of the agency is a crucial one for the U.S. government. There are ample projects in the coming years that will need U.S. firms to complete them. Ensuring those projects are successful begins with good market research and requests-for-information today. In both briefings, State Department presenters emphasized where there are opportunities for small businesses—both as a prime and also as subcontractors.
The final two briefings of the day were given by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, focusing on its Foreign Military Sales and Foreign Military Financing programs, and by the U.S. Agency for International Development, both moderated by Laura Ruch, an SAME member and experienced contractor overseas. Janet Phillips, Chief of Security Assistance shared updates on the Corps’ program, including singling out Brazil, Qatar, India and Saudi Arabia as some of the main locations where it anticipates an emphasis going forward. The Corps’ work for foreign countries includes infrastructure and waterways projects and also resilience investments. Additionally, while contract opportunities for a small business as a prime may be difficult to find for Corps projects in Foreign Military Sales, the agency emphasizes that there are ample opportunities to get involved as a subcontractor and through partnering.
U.S. Agency for International Development’s presentation by David Canada, Procurement Analyst/Program Manager, touched on the types of contracts and requirements the agency sources for, and noted that the types of work often trail the types of disasters or incidents that occur around the world and where they are located. For instance, while construction is not generally one of the top need areas for the agency, following the Haiti earthquake construction became one of the most desired needs. The U.S. Agency for International Development has a robust real-time business opportunity forecast platform on its website where businesses can go to find what may be available for various types of work in locations globally. Following the briefings, a networking reception was held onsite to close out the event.
For more information on the 2017 SAME-Department of State Industry Day, including downloadable presentations from the agencies, visit www.same.org/DOSday. The State Department Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations also will be presenting at the 2017 SAME Federal Small Business Conference, being held Nov. 15-17, in Pittsburgh. Visit www.samesbc.org for more information.
About Department of State
The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad. In concert with other State Department bureaus, foreign affairs agencies, and Congress, OBO sets worldwide priorities for the design, construction, acquisition, maintenance, use, and sale of real properties and the use of sales proceeds.
The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) ensures that all legislatively specified categories of small businesses in prime contracts and subcontracts are effectively utilized to the maximum extent possible. OSDBU champions U.S. small business interests in the State Department’s acquisition process and provide to the small business community training and counseling in order to expand the base of small business firms selling to the department.
About Society of American Military Engineers
Founded in 1920 out of the need to harness the technical engineering lessons and camaraderie shared during battlefield experiences in World War I, SAME has grown to more than 29,000 members and 1,500 Sustaining Member companies, public agencies and academic institutions—representing the military and public sector engineering community, as well as the architecture, engineering and construction industry. SAME provides extensive opportunities for training, education and professional development through a robust offering of conferences, workshops, networking events, webinars, and publications. For more information, visit www.same.org.