Marshalls steps up Kwajalein interest

USAG-KA visits in Majuro: Major Dan Lacario, USAG-KA Commander Col. James DeOre, Mike Sakaio and Ursula Labrie. Photo: Hilary Hosia.
Major Dan Lacario, USAG-KA Commander Col. James DeOre, Mike Sakaio and Ursula LaBrie.


GIFF JOHNSON

A large number of construction projects in progress and in planning at the US Army Garrison—Kwajalein Atoll (USAG-KA) suggest Marshallese employment opportunities will remain steady.

Local business hopes for new business opportunities at the Army base, however, were disappointed when the new base operations contract did not go out to bid as was originally envisioned early this year. Instead, the contract for base operations services, now held by Kwajalein Range Services, is being taken over by DynCorp through its existing LOGCAP (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) contract with the US Army.

Still, said Kwajalein Senator David Paul, there are opportunities for increased Marshallese employment and use of Marshall Islands companies at the missile test range that make business sense for the incoming contractor. For these to materialize, the Army needs to establish the criteria that DynCorp must follow in implementing the new Base Operations Support (BOS) contract, he said.

DynCorp is coming in under a LOGCAP contract, which is a system used by the Army in specific countries with large base operations. Use of DynCorp’s LOGCAP contract is the first time a LOGCAP contract is being used to cover base activity not in a combat zone or operations activity, said new Kwajalein Commander Col. James DeOre.

Paul, who met with Army officials during the July change of command ceremony at Kwajalein, said he raised a series of employment and contract issues that he and other leaders have been promoting with the Army since last year in anticipation that the BOS would be bid out. Earlier in the year, the Army had announced plans for bidding the three contracts for Kwajalein — the BOS, and test range technical and communications services. For the first time, the Army announced that US contractors would gain evaluation points for their bid by including Marshall Islands firms, in similar fashion as outgoing BOS contractor KRS is a conglomeration of Bechtel, Lockheed Martin, Berry Aviation and Chugach Alaska Corporation — the latter an Alaska Native regional company.

But that changed recently when the Army opted to use its LOGCAP contract with DynCorp for the BOS contract.

Paul, other Kwajalein leaders and national government representatives met late last year with US Army Space and Missile Defense Command officials in Huntsville, Alabama to raise job and employment issues, and Paul continued the push in July.

“We raised the issues of equal pay for equal work, training for Marshallese, and fringe benefits for workers,” he said. “We can’t engage with DynCorp because it is waiting for criteria from the Army. If the Army doesn’t include these, it will be difficult of DynCorp to submit a budget reflecting these needs.”

Army contract specialists are expected to be on Kwajalein in September to address a range of issues, and

In addition to worker-related concerns — there are about 1,000 Marshall Islanders working at Kwajalein — Paul is pushing engagement with local companies even in the absence of a bidding process. “It boils down to dollars and cents,” said Paul. “If the contractor hires people from the US, it costs them more (than hiring qualified local workers). If they subcontract with a Marshallese company, they pay a fee and get a lower cost.”

 

Read more about this in the August 25, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.