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Army seeks to expand public-private partnerships

Oct. 28, 2013 - 12:14PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

The Army is looking to expand privatization efforts to nearly all commercial-like services, according to Army officials.

Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, the Army’s top installations official, told a conference of the Association of the United States Army that the privatization of housing and utilities has been a success and the Army is looking to expand privatization efforts further.

“We will partner with anyone who can cut costs,” Ferriter said at a conference of the Association of the United States Army.

He noted that the Army’s privatization of housing and utilities has been a success and said a likely next step is in-home child care within local communities. He said the Army will test various business models to make sure they work financially before rolling out something across all installations.

Another candidate: dining halls. The Army is looking at issuing dining cards that could be used at its installations and at local restaurants, according to Army officials.

Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, said the Army is considering issuing dining cards that soldiers could use at facilities on base or off base. The cards would provide them with more dining choices while keeping costs down by allowing the Army to charge DoD civilians or contractors to use the dining facilities on base. “It’s about giving them choice and giving them responsibility,” she said.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 gives the Army and the entire Defense Department broad latitude to privatize services that are not inherently governmental. The Army already partners with the private sector on utilities, energy generation, housing and education, she said.

She said at a press conference Wednesday the Army is also instructing all of its installations to further explore partnering with local governments to provide electricity and a variety of municipal services — so-called “public-public” partnerships.

“We want all installations to explore those sorts of partnerships,” she said in a conference call with reporters.

She pointed to the first such project created by a special congressional authorization in 1995 that allowed the Army’s Defense Language Institute to partner with

Monterey, Calif., to share maintenance at parks and recreation facilities, firefighting capabilities and maintenance work on the installation. She said this saves the Army nearly $1.5 million a year.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for logistics, said the Army was also looking at the role of contractors to determine where to best use private companies.

“What is the role of contractors in the battle space?” Mason asked. “We are working our way through that.” But he said the Army will continue to leverage the private sector as much as possible to be as effective as possible.

Herman Bulls, head of the public institution division at real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said privatized services could include base operations support, information technology, security, finance and accounting, recreation, medical, and library services.

He said the Army needs a business case that saves money while attracting private investment before it can begin privatizing more services.

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