After several appeals and two Pentagon investigations, the Air Force has canceled a public-private job competition at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and ordered base officials to hold a new competition. The decision adds a new chapter to a competition that has taken several twists since August 2000, when the Air Force awarded a $336 million support services contract to Lackland 21st Century Consolidated Services, a joint venture of three private firms. The Air Force reversed its original decision in November and again in December, leading outraged members of the Texas congressional delegation to request a Pentagon investigation. The outcome of the investigation was a May report by the Pentagon's inspector general that offered four recommendations for fixing the competition. After further review by the Air Force Audit Agency, the Air Force decided to scrap the competition and go back to square one, essentially combining two recommendations from the IG's report. Holding a new competition is the best way to be fair to both the contractor and the in-house team who competed for the work, according to Air Force Lt. Col. David Lamp. "We concluded it was really in the best interest of all parties concerned to cancel the current solicitation and re-start the competition at Lackland," he said. This means the Air Force will start the competition again from scratch, a process that could take years to complete. Lackland employees affected by the competition will have to form a new in-house team and the base must solicit new bids from private sector firms that want to do the work. An analyst with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that represented the members of the in-house team, hailed Lackland employees for bringing public attention to flaws in the competition. "Fortunately, we had an extremely good local [unit of AFGE] down there that forced these issues out into the open," said Wiley Pearson, AFGE's defense policy analyst. A spokesman for the lead company in the Lackland joint venture expressed dismay with the Air Force's decision. "We're extremely disappointed," said Frank Pollare, director of public relations for Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif. "We believe our proposal … provided exceptional value to the Air Force and opportunities for employees in the San Antonio area." Computer Sciences, one of the three private firms that makes up the Lackland 21st Century Consolidated Services joint venture, has not decided whether to bid in the new competition at Lackland, Pollare said. The Air Force also announced Monday that Virginia-based DynCorp Technical Services will receive a $198 million, five-year contract to perform base operations at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Last month, the General Accounting Office urged the Air Force to award the contract to DynCorp after concluding the public-private competition at Maxwell had been skewed against the contractor. The Air Force decision means that 402 civilian jobs at Maxwell will be eliminated, although workers are likely to have the right of first refusal to work for DynCorp.
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