JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Emergency response communications are getting a boost at 72 Army locations across the country and Puerto Rico following the September award of a contract for FirstNet wireless devices and services by Mission and Installation Contracting Command officials at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
Contracting authorities with MICC-Fort Sam Houston awarded a firm, fixed-price task order that ensures communications capabilities for Army public safety officers, first responders and emergency officials during national emergencies when emergency services are engaged and generally available wireless services may be impacted.
The award for AT&T FirstNet services is in support of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command Provost Marshal and Protection Directorate and valued at $6.2 million for the base period of one year and two option years.
“FirstNet is helping us improve vital communications on our installations, depots and arsenals, including during catastrophic disasters or emergencies when communications capabilities are strained,” said Col. Kevin Comfort, IMCOM Provost Marshal at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. “We’re adopting FirstNet because it is designed for public safety professionals with priority, preemption and highly reliable data communications that will improve our overall response and our interoperability with our civilian partners.”
Sam Colton, the contracting officer who led a team in the award, said that while this technology has already been widely available and in use for the past few year by emergency medical services, fire, law enforcement, school transportation and other critical infrastructure entities, increased research was necessary to limit competition to the only provider for FirstNet support.
Colton worked closely with MICC-Fort Sam Houston contract specialist Juan Juarez to conduct reviews of multiple contract actions administered by agencies inside and outside the command to establish adequate documentation for the award.
“What we found were files that varied in the level of detail and how they were documenting the need and justification for FirstNet,” Colton said. “From this we set out to put together a well-documented file for our action that could be used to help establish a standard starting point for field offices to be able to identify what would be required to properly document FirstNet requirements within the MICC.”
Their extensive research led to attaining information from a 25-year exclusive agreement issued by the Department of Commerce to AT&T for FirstNet. They next worked with Calvin Prouty, an IMCOM law enforcement specialist who served as the contracting officer representative, to develop justification for use of the exception to fair opportunity authority in moving the procurement forward. Colton added that once the exception was approved along with their market research report and small business coordination record, “the process was able to run its normal course.”
The FirstNet nationwide platform came about following recommendations by the 9/11 Commission to enhance communications across the public safety spectrum, It serves more than 13,000 federal, state, local, municipal and tribal public safety agencies today. The FirstNet contract task order calls for almost 3,200 lines of services, more than 3,000 devices and more than 700 signal boosters for enhanced indoor connectivity.
First use of the communications platform was piloted earlier this spring by the Army Materiel Command’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command at the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, North Carolina. FirstNet was used more recently by Army operations and planners at Fort Polk, Louisiana, during Hurricane Laura in August to assess damage and coordinate actions to restore base operations.