Army moving forward on logistics modernization contract

The Army plans to award a contract in early December to outsource the operation of a major portion of its logistics system, now that the service has cleared the last procedural log jam standing in the way of its $1 billion logistics modernization program.

Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera said he denied an appeal of the outsourcing effort levied by the National Federation of Federal Employees, clearing the way for the military service to move forward with the Wholesale Logistics Modernization Program (WLMP). The NFFE represents less than 500 civilian Army workers who maintain the Army's outdated logistics information system at computer software centers in St. Louis and Chambersburg, Pa.

Caldera, speaking this week at a press conference during the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, said with the union appeal out of the way, the Army can proceed with WLMP, which will provide the service "with a completely new way of doing things" in the logistics arena.

Maj. Gen. John Coburn, commander of the Army Materiel Command, which manages WLMP and oversees the acquisition of products ranging from helmets to helicopters, said the winning contractor will keep the Army's logistics information system up-to-date by "constantly modernizing computer systems." However, outsourcing WLMP means the Army will no longer "buy hardware, but services," Coburn said. "I'm excited. [Logistics modernization] is the way to go."

Although the union had enlisted wide support for its opposition to WLMP in Congress, Coburn said he believed that Congress "reluctantly" will accept the Army's need to contract out, adding that the WLMP contract offers built-in provisions for the winning contractor "to take care of our employees."

Executives from the two remaining bidders on WLMP, Computer Sciences Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp., said providing future employment or retirement options for civilian employees working on the Army's old logistics systems is a key part of their bid strategies. However, because of the size of the project and the intensive nature of the competition, they declined to provide details.

Retired Maj. Gen. Russ Baldwin, who manages WLMP for CSC, said his company has submitted a proposal that will provide a "soft landing" for the Army employees. Baldwin, who managed key Army and Defense Department logistics programs while on active duty, said he believes that congressional opposition to WLMP may soon dissipate because "the Hill is coming to realize the inevitability of outsourcing."

John Beaver, Lockheed Martin's WLMP program manger, said that financial considerations for the current Army civilian logistics employees also are a key component of his company's bid, adding that the winning contractor needs the employees' help because "out of savings from maintaining the current systems will come the funds to modernize." Beaver also said in addition to saving money, WLMP will provide the budget-crunched Army with a "whole new way to do business" that is applicable to other nonwarfighting organizations.

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