In May 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers posted a preliminary solicitation seeking contractors for excavation and grading work at Arlington National Cemetery. The work was specifically set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs). To view the official notification and subsequent amendments, visit the Corps' posting on FedBizOpps.gov.
After only a few short weeks online, the solicitation changed, apparently setting aside the work at our nation's most hallowed veterans' cemetery for Historically Underserved Business Zone (HUBZone) contractors.
When the veterans' community caught wind of the change, it prompted some significant questions to the Corps about the solicitation and bid processes.
Upon further inquiry, AMVETS legislative department learned that the original posting lacked proper coding, making it appear as though the Corps was not actually looking for potential bids, but rather simply companies that would be interested in the kind of work offered at Arlington.
When the original posting went onto FedBizOpps.gov, only two SDVOSBs replied, and only one was actually qualified to do the work. Upon learning of this, the Corps decided to open up the work for HUBZone contractors.
However, it came to the attention of Corps administrators that the original coding was flawed, meaning that veteran contractors were not properly informed of the opportunity. This oversight prompted requests from the veterans' community to reopen the bid process for both veteran-owned businesses and HUBZone contractors that had expressed an interest, taking into consideration the Corps' clerical error.
The Corps balked at this idea, noting that their arbitrary internal deadline had passed and that the work would be posted exclusively for HUBZone contractors. To date, 23 SDVOSBs have inquired about the work at Arlington, compared to four HUBZone contractors. Only one contractor is certified as both.
It seems unconscionable that the civilian leadership behind the scenes at the Army Corps of Engineers would not acknowledge their mistake to ensure an equitable bid process. Veterans should be given first priority to maintain the final resting place of veterans.
The Corps plans to post the official solicitation for bids on this project next week exclusively for HUBZone contractors.
Contact the Army Corps of Engineers today and tell them to reopen this contract to service-disabled veteran's small businesses. To view a list of contact information for the Corps, Click Here.
(Photo: An Army bugler plays "Taps" during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in March 2009 honoring fallen military medical personnel. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, released.)