NEWS | Aug. 5, 2020

JBSA contracting actions move at record pace during pandemic

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When COVID-19 began affecting Joint Base San Antonio training operations in March, one of the first organizations to feel the effects was the 502nd Contracting Squadron.  

As the pandemic infiltrated JBSA locations, additional supplies and services were needed quickly to keep training moving at its pre-pandemic pace.  

The first priority request to JBSA’s contracting unit was for cleaning services, which is accomplished through Blanket Purchase Agreements, or BPAs.  

“The 502nd Contracting Squadron awarded four BPAs in support of JBSA for deep and enhanced cleaning services related to COVID-19,” said Cynthia Forbis, flight chief for the 502nd Contracting Squadron’s Infrastructure Acquisition Flight. “The contractors selected through the agreements were required to perform in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for facilities with suspected or confirmed coronavirus disease.” 

The process of awarding cleaning the initial contracts happened quickly to support training and other missions across JBSA.  

“We received the request for the BPAs from 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron on March 18 and the awards were made March 20,” Forbis said. “The services that continue to be provided by the cleaning contractors are vital in allowing employees to return to work in a clean and safe environment.” 

Cleaning contracts were not the only rush purchases coordinated by contracting personnel.  

“At the onset of COVID-19 affecting the health and welfare of new Basic Military Training recruits, an alternate location for training was established at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, to help meet physical distancing requirements,” said Robert De La Rosa, section chief and contracting officer for the 502nd Contracting Squadron’s Infrastructure and Installation Acquisition Flight. “Rather than the contracting office at Keesler Air Force Base purchasing dormitory furniture, the decision was made to keep uniformity and the same level of specifications as JBSA-Lackland, so we relocated new furniture which had just arrived at JBSA-Lackland to Keesler.” 

As a result, a new contract will be established to replace the 1,200 sets of furniture that made its way to Mississippi, and should be awarded within a few weeks. 

De La Rosa said a plus side of the pandemic -- if there can be one -- is that the decrease in group activities has allowed time for upgrades.  

The pandemic, and subsequent moving of BMT graduation online for families and friends to view in real time, has allowed training teams time to replace equipment, he said.  

“Under normal circumstances, with graduations being held every week, there was never time to replace the parade ground speaker system,” De La Rosa said. “Now, with contracting’s help and a new speaker system in place, everyone attending graduations at the parade field in the future should be able to hear everything loud and clear.” 

The need for contracts to support BMT has also led to the streamlining of procedures to expedite purchases.  

“We are currently working multiple requirements with a very short request notice and suspense,” De La Rosa said. “Working the requirements for requests would normally require 90 to 180 days, but these have all been last-minute requests, and we are working them in record time, down to less than 30 days from inception and development to award.” 

De La Rosa added that the contractors have been very flexible in responding to their instructions based on guidance from the CDC.  

“No contractor is allowed on base unless they follow the physical distancing guidelines and mask requirements,” he said. “We also only allowed one contractor at a time to conduct a site visit.” 

Another contract that is essential to keeping the training pipeline flowing at JBSA is the contract for food services.  

“The 502nd Contracting Squadron’s Installation Acquisition Flight has processed numerous modifications against the current JBSA – Lackland’s full food-service contract, the biggest food service contract in the Air Force, in support of COVID-19 requirements,” according to Gary Wynder, 502nd Contracting Squadron section chief and contracting officer for the flight. “The contract provides services for JBSA-Lackland's 13 dining facilities, including a JBSA-Camp Bullis location, one flight kitchen, two warehouses, a field feeding site located at the BEAST [Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training] at JBSA-Chapman Training Annex.” 

The coordination of the contract modifications took a major effort from multiple mission partners. 

“Coordinating organizations for the contract modifications are the 802nd Force Support Squadron and the using organizations, the 37th Training Wing, and other mission partners,” he said. “We have all tirelessly worked with the contractor, Texas Work Force Commission, and its subcontractor, to negotiate the COVID-19 requirements within this contract.” 

Wynder noted that the contractor has been very responsive to the needs of the government, which in turn has resulted in little to minimal impact on training missions at JBSA.        

“In support of COVID-19, numerous modifications to the contract have been made, are being made, and, depending on the pandemic status, may be made in the future support of the ever-changing mission requirements of the 37th TRW training mission,” he said, adding that modifications to the contract, as necessary, will continue to ensure trainees remain safe.  

“Contract modifications have been made in support of the Restriction of Movement effort with new incoming trainees and the reduction of Kitchen Patrol by student trainees,” he said, noting that the reduction in KP duties supported by the trainees is expected to minimize the students’ exposure to COVID-19. 

Wynder said contracting personnel will continue to support training needs throughout the pandemic, including researching options for various other services.    

“Requests have also been submitted for furniture modifications to support physical distancing requirements and teleworking,” he said. “This is a reflection that customers are taking action to ensure employees will be safe should they need to come into the office, while at home, or when the restrictions are lifted.”