Base Operations:

Contracting for Firefighters and Security Guards

NSIAD-97-200BR: Published: Sep 12, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about contracting for firefighter and security guard services within the Department of Defense (DOD), focusing on: (1) the military services' positions on contracting for firefighters and security guards; (2) lessons learned from using contract firefighters and security guards at military bases; and (3) the cost-effectiveness of contracting for these services.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD has previously asked Congress to repeal the prohibition against contracting for firefighter and security guard services, but DOD did not make this request in fiscal year 1997; (2) DOD officials believe that significant savings can be realized if the services were allowed to compete these services and that repealing the law would promote more efficient and effective use of military personnel; (3) GAO found that in those instances in which the services had been contracted the results have been mixed; (4) at one Navy facility with an omnibus contract (before 1983) for all base operation services, firefighter service inspection reports showed satisfactory performance, and contract evaluation reports for both firefighter and security guard services showed outstanding performance; (5) the senior military official responsible for these functions at the base stated that he was satisfied with the contract services received; (6) another Navy facility that has contracted for security guard services since before 1983, however, has experienced problems with contractor performance, including one contractor who went bankrupt; (7) according to service representatives from the Air Force, Navy, and Army, contractor performance has been generally satisfactory, although some minor problems have occured; (8) the representatives generally believe that the problems could have been resolved through better contracting and contract oversight practices; (9) the best way to determine if savings can be achieved from contracting firefighter and security guard services is by completing an A-76 study at each base where these services are being considered for conversion to contract; (10) because of the law, DOD has not performed any new A-76 studies for firefighters or security guards; (11) these studies are necessary because every base is unique in terms of the mission that it must support; (12) the cost of the services at each base is affected by the specialized fire prevention and protection services required; (13) similarly, local economic factors affect costs; (14) although GAO could not determine the overall effectiveness of contracting for firefighter and security guard services, GAO has previously reported that competitions produce savings, regardless of whether they are won by the government or the private sector; (15) savings occur as each competitor strives to design the most efficient organization for doing the work--often with fewer personnel than before; and (16) the Army has reported that about one-half of the commercial activities studied for outsourcing had lower contract than in-house costs.

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