Former President George H.W. Bush (Photo by Courtesy photo)
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
As the nation mourns the passing of the 41st president of the United States, a three-person team from the Mission and Installation Contracting Command-Fort Sam Houston is providing contract support for funeral arrangements as part of the Task Force Texas.
Within one hour of notification, the team began mobilizing to depart for Ellington Air Field in Houston Dec. 1 for approximately the next two weeks where it is deployed as part of the Reserve's 75th Training Command in support of arrangements for former President George H.W. Bush. The World War II veteran passed away at the age of 94 Nov. 30.
"While we're all deeply saddened with the passing of President Bush, MICC-Fort Sam Houston is proud and honored to be called on to support his services in this way," said Ray Harris, the director of contracting for MICC-Fort Sam Houston.
Lulu Cachola, a contracting officer who leads the deployed contracting support team, explained that Task Force Texas consists of federal organizations responsible for the Houston and nearby College Station areas of operation. The 75th TC directly supports the Joint Task Force Headquarters-National Capital Region in Washington. It is responsible for providing the command and control for administrative and logistical support of state funeral plans.
"It is an honor to be an integral part of this historic event. Thousands of people from around the U.S. and world will meet to pay their respects and be a witness to a state funeral that is steeped in tradition," Cachola said. "In this particular case, President George H.W. Bush had strong ties to the Houston community and Texas in general, and still called Texas 'home.'"
Cachola's team includes contract specialists Barbara Richardson and Benjamin Guerrero, who together represent a combined 50-plus years of contracting experience dedicated toward this mission.
"The MICC was responsible for soliciting and awarding all contracts related to the support of this mission as well as providing on-site contract support," Cachola explained. "We contracted different services for more than 1,000 DOD support personnel and representatives from all five branches of the armed forces."
Contracts awarded by the team will support various elements associated with a state funeral to include honor guards, bands, choirs, public affairs, ceremonial troops, escorts, drivers and other logistical, administrative and operational support staff in downtown Houston, Ellington and other locations.
Given the short timeline to execute a national event, initial preparation for contracts began in early 2013, with the first contract signed in August 2013. Those contracts include several hotels in the Houston area, catering support, rental vehicles, buses, tents and flatbed trucks among other requirements. Contracted under a blanket purchase agreement intended for filling anticipated supplies or services, all awards were revalidated quarterly leading up to the team's deployment this week.
Now in Houston to support state ceremonies, Cachola and her team are also reaching back to MICC-Fort Sam Houston for additional support by contracting officer Andrea Vigliotti and contract specialist Israel Gutierrez. Together, they are administering the contracts already in place but still anticipate last-minute requirements for hard-to-find lodging rooms in a city of more than 80,000 hotel rooms.
"The unknowns are many, and we are prepared to execute at a moment's notice," Cachola said, adding that support for the state funeral differs from the team's day-to-day workload since contracts were awarded with no set date or number of days. "This is challenging when issuing contracts because contractors have to be willing to work with some unknown facts. Additionally, some contractors cannot guarantee performance for the same reason."
MICC-Fort Sam Houston is made up of about 90 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting good and services in support of Soldiers. The contracting office is responsible for administering more approximately 2,000 contracts that include supplies, services, construction, energy and environmental.