The Corps of Engineers is charged with managing an enormous civil works program while subject to the vagaries of Congress with regard to funding.
Because projects are funded by Congress for a specific fiscal year the problem of financing a project that spans fiscal years has been handled in a variety of ways.
These contracts historically were awarded with the understanding that they would be funded when either a budget or a continuing resolution was passed using a contractual mechanism called a continuing contract. About five years ago Congress decided that they didn’t want a new budget saddled with potential pre-existing funding requirements and severely restricted used of continuing contracts.
At that point the Corps of Engineers with input from the dredging industry established a base plus options method of awarding contracts that enabled the Corps to better attempt to fulfill their dredging mission while adhering to the restraints levied by Congress.
|!|Today a new crisis has arisen|!| in the words of a folk song popular in my youth. This is the Special Continuing Contracts Clause (SCCC).
Several years ago the Corps came up with the SCCC for civil works projects which would allow them to award contracts in a certain fiscal year and if the money ran out in a succeeding fiscal year be authorized to keep the job (and contractor) on hold for up to 100 days while they sought more funding.
While the SCCC may work for other types of construction projects it doesn’t work at all for dredging Bill Hanson of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock told me. Dredging equipment is expensive and involved to mobilize and maintain and a dredging contractor’s viability depends on keeping all equipment busy throughout the dredging season. It is not feasible to risk being idled for 100 days in mid-contract.
“We applaud the Corps for trying to bring back continuing contracts which were and are a very good tool for them and us given the way they are funded but the SCCC is not a fair approach way to implement it” Hanson said.
It was only this year that the Corps powers-that-be-began moving the SCCC through the proper channels which included publishing it in the Federal Register (it appeared in the January 15 issue) and giving industry an opportunity to respond.
On January 19 Jeff McKee in the Corps Headquarters informed the dredging community of the publication of the clause and of the March 16 response date.
Presumably they will get many responses and it is hoped that a solution will be found that will be fair to to all parties.
In the long run the best solution is for Congress to fully fund the projects they require the Corps of Engineers to accomplish.
MARITIME INDUSTRY SAIL-IN
RAMP (Realize America’s Maritime Promise) members will meet in Washington D.C. on May 13 for an advocacy day entitled “Maritime Industry Sail-in”. Like the National Waterways Conference advocacy days for funding and legislation this event should be stimulating and very informative for folks from the heartland who are attempting to exist in an environment controlled by an entity (“Washington”) that is difficult to understand.
The Sail-In will give everybody a chance to find out how it is possible that taxes collected for maintaining the waterways are not being used to do so and then walk right over to their Congressperson’s office and urge (demand?) that they put these funds where they belong.
The stimulus work (ARRA) funded this year allowed the Corps and the U.S. dredging industry to prove they can handle the extra workload. This becomes even more important when considering the potential of increased funding for dredging from the HMTF (Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund) if the RAMP initiative passes Congress this year. If the Corps is given the money and the tools to execute the projects they can get it done.