Army to outsource two major software centers; 500 jobs at risk

The Army has approved a waiver clearing the way for the privatization of two government software development centers without having to conduct a public/private competition for the work, putting up to 500 government jobs at risk, a spokesperson for the Army Materiel Command confirmed today.

The Army plans to release a request for proposals tomorrow for the St. Louis and Chambersburg, Pa., software centers. The move marks the latest step in the Army's plan to move forward with its Wholesale Logistics Modernization Program, a $1 billion program aimed at modernizing the Army's logistics operations. The Army plans to use WLMP to modernize systems that help manage an inventory valued at $9 billion and to rely on just-in-time delivery practices to supply troops with everything from helmets to helicopters. AMC wants to use WLMP to upgrade those systems by privatizing logistics software support functions.

According to sources familiar with the effort, the RFP will cover the privatization of jobs and computer systems at the two centers and is expected to set off a politically charged round of legal maneuvering on the part of Congress and local union representatives to save the roughly 500 government jobs that would be lost under the plan.

The WLMP procurement is managed by the Army Communications-Electronics Command (Cecom) at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the subordinate command of the Army Materiel Command, which has 60,000 employees scattered at depots nationwide. Many of the depots are in small communities where AMC is the largest employer. The congressionally mandated "Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces" report, issued in 1995, called for outsourcing many of the depot functions.

The St. Louis and Chambersburg facilities are primarily responsible for writing code and maintaining much of the Army's legacy logistics applications, which are in dire need of modernization and upgrades, sources said. The two main systems maintained by these facilities are the Commodity Command Standard System and the Standard Depot System.

A source who spoke to FCW on condition of anonymity said the RFP will transfer jobs at the St. Louis and Chambersburg facilities to the private sector but will guarantee employees their jobs for at least one year. "There's a tremendous amount of functional knowledge among the government workers that will be very valuable to industry," the source said. Although jobs will be lost, "some would argue that a bigger readiness issue for the Army is not modernizing."

A spokesperson for the National Federation of Federal Employees, an organization that since 1917 has sought to protect the interests of federal employees, said the federation plans to challenge the Army's decision. "We are reviewing our legal options and plan to move ahead with great vigor," the spokesperson said.

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