About that Antarctic contract rebid...

Swiss chalet 2 uplifting research site

Above...construction of the landmark Chalet in McMurdo in 1969-1970. This distinctive prefabricated structure, the main NSF office facility in McMurdo, was the first major building project completed by a prime NSF support contractor, which at the time was Holmes and Narver, Inc. (H&N). Except for site preparation by the Navy the previous year, it was successfully completed in the one summer season. (Left photo by RM3 Ken "Hogman" Trettin, WO McMurdo DF-70; right U. S. Navy photo from the Antarctic Journal, July/August 1970)

The contract award announcement to Lockheed Martin was made on 23 December 2011. The contractor and employment information on this page is now historical...for current job info go here.

Interest was stirred up in 2007, but the first official announcement was made on the FedBizOpps (FBO) site on 30 April 2008. This site contains all of the detailed official announcements, presolicitation conference presentations, and the RFP itself, along with amendments and links to pages with more information and lists of interested participants. As things progressed, there were no announcements as to the actual lists of serious bidders, participants in the site visits (which were the week of 17 November 2008), the joint venture posturing, or similar information. An archive of he NSF information site page (which was first issued in 2008) is located here; it includes a detailed schedule of the bid program as well as "reading room" links to extensive quantities of additional information--site details, procedures, and other data of greater or lesser importance (you may find some of it of interest, check it out before it disappears). Some of the backup proposal data was due in January 2009, the final due date for submitting those pallet loads of bids and supporting information was 23 February 2009. Ever since then, one would think that the real serious arm twisting, negotiating, and "best and final" offering would have continuing behind closed doors. Not. At least not yet. [As of 2 February 2012, the FBO and NSF sites have not been updated to reflect the contract award.]

On 28 August 2009, NSF started notifying the seven bidding teams that everything was off. There would be a revised schedule and solicitation amendment issued by the end of September...for what basically is a year's postponement. RPSC is being asked to provide a 1-year extension. The final turnover to the new contractor will not be until 1 April 2011. Behind-the-scenes discussions obviously continued, but it would be several months before the official NSF or FBO sites would be updated. Not quite...the FBO page was revised on 10 September 2009 to announce an update, but the update was missing.

A 19 August Engineering News-Record article (no longer available to non-subscribers) basically outlines that mum was the word in Arlington, although more than one of the bidders has opted to buy billboard space near the NSF headquarters. An earlier 4 June 2009 Washington Technology news article tells us that the whole thing could be worth over $1.5 billion if the options for all of the 13 years are exercised. Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon Technical Services (parent company of RPSC) stated that his company had partnered with AECOM this time--AECOM is of course the successor company to Holmes and Narver, Inc., the 1970's contractor as well as the lead partner in the Antarctic Support Associates (ASA) joint venture that was "Denver" in the 1990's. This joint venture had launched itself as TransPolar LLC; with a short FAQ page from president Sam Feola directed primarily to current RPSC employees (their web presence has since disappeared). Another bidding joint venture consists of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and EG&G--this team called itself Antarctic Research Support (ARS) (their web presence has also disappeared for reasons that are obvious). EG&G was the other original ASA joint venture partner. A total of seven bidding teams submitted proposals before the original February 2009 deadlines--the other bidders were ITT (the 1980's support contractor), KBR, a Fluor/Day & Zimmerman joint venture, CH2M Hill, and Lockheed Martin. Some of the bid teams had been collecting resumes since 2009, either on their own web sites or job recruiting web sites.

One of the issues that continued to confound both the bidding teams and the NSF proposal evaluators is the new requirement that a significant amount of the work must be subcontracted--perhaps nearly 25%--just a bit more than the current operation (although not THAT much more if you include the other NSF contracts such as the Navy SPAWAR contracts for McMurdo air traffic control and weather).

Finally in December 2009 the FBO site was updated with stale news of "amendment 6" which had been issued in October requiring the bidders to restate their financial information in a different format by 24 November. The amendment also included new Q&A's outlining some of the additional forthcoming proposal review steps. Denver reporter Jonathan Shikes of Westword covered the contract award delay in this 30 December 2009 blog. And finally on 5 January 2010 NSF revised its main solicitation page to include a new schedule...further competitive range determination in February and March 2010, evaluation and "best and final" negotiations between March and June, and contract award by the end of the 2010 boreal summer.

Since then, the current RPSC contract was finally officially extended for a year, less than a week before it was due to expire on 1 April (5 April 2010 Raytheon press release). But other than that...nothing. There were several hints and announcements that the field would be narrowed by 1 April...or in May...but all has been silent and the official pages were not updated for many months.

On 20 August 2010...at last...an announcement of the "downselect" or the "best and final" or whatever. The three finalists are CH2MHILL, Lockheed Martin, and KBR. And of course some of us expected an announcement of the award in another month or two per the then-current schedule. But no. On 20 September, NSF announced they were extending things ANOTHER year, with this announcement, which was actually the announcement of the planned extension of RPSC's contract through March 2012. On 26 October the FedBizOpps site posted a new amendment with a new set of data requirements with a new deadline of 6 December. Later came another round of Q&A's which may be of interest to the pedantic accountants among you (and which may be viewable only if you have MS Word 2007 or later or a viewer for .docx files). And on 19 November this deadline was pushed back again to 20 December 2010. Which, as far as I know, is where we are now. Per the current NSF schedule, the award will be in September 2011.

As for the one-year extension...with all of the continuing Federal budget negotiations...as expected, it took awhile for the 1-year RPSC contract extension to be finalized. This didn't officially happen until 31 March 2011, and the announcement wasn't issued until 1 April (!). Here's the official fbo.gov announcement page, a hard copy of the extension justification, the 8 April Raytheon press release, and a bit of commentary from the 12 April Westword (Denver) Off Limits column (scroll down to the second half of the column).

June 2011...the number crunching continues. Amendment 11 was issued on 20 May--it requested some significant recalculations and resubmittals. Amendment 12, issued on 3 June, included Q&A's about Amendment 11...postponed the resubmittal date to 14 June...and clarified that only the 3 best-and-final bidders were expected to resubmit. Otherwise, rumors continued to fly, but I wasn't privy to them.

Late July 2011...OPP director Karl Erb outlined the contract award status at the 28-29 July National Science Board meeting. There would be final discussions with the proposers in mid to late August...followed by final proposal revisions to be received in mid to late September. The goal was to announce the award no later than mid November. And a few days later, RPSC put up a "transition" page (no longer available) on the Raytheon website, as a source for news, updates, and FAQs about the award and transition process.

September/October 2011...there were FOUR contract amendments posted in September on the GSA contract web site...and two more in mid-October. Mostly they provided an opportunity for the number crunchers with KBR, CH2M Hill, and Lockheed Martin to break out their #2 pencils and spreadsheets one more time, for another final submission due 30 September. One of the data items in the amendments (they are now up to amendment #18!) was an updated list of USAP subcontracts and leases that are part of the contract. Everything from the Xerox machines and ATM...to the N B Palmer...to...the lease on the RPSC building in Centennial. Which was scheduled to expire on 30 April 2012. No one has negotiated an extension. Also...the schedule on the NSF contract site was adjusted on 2 September to indicate that the evaluations/negotiations would run to 30 September and the contract award would be in November. And the RPSC "Transition" page and FAQ were updated several times to reflect the mid-November award schedule.

More recently...a mid-November award didn't happen. The rumor around at the time (which was all it was) was that the award would be announced on 1 December. Well, that didn't happen either. Around that time, the Blue Ribbon panel led by Norm Augustine was in McMurdo...on Sunday 4 December they held an open discussion. Before the main presentation, Dr. Karl Erb said that that an announcement about the contract rebid would be made within the next two weeks...which was close to the truth.

Lockheed logo

On 22 December at 1600 US Eastern time (1000 Friday at Pole) the initial announcement was made to the USAP community that the contract had been awarded to the Lockheed Martin Corporation. A few hours later on the same day, Sam Feola sent out the official announcement. The official public press releases didn't happen until after the Christmas holiday on 28 December 2011...here's the Lockheed Martin press release, and the NSF announcement. And Science/AAAS issued this news article on the 29th.

With only about 2 months before the scheduled closing of McMurdo, and 3 months before the official transition date of 1 April, things started happening frantically. Lockheed Martin established a project website(which was since revised frequently before being taken down). They held an information session with RPSC personnel in Denver on 5 January (information from the RPSC transition page). And the jobs postings began. Not only by Lockheed...but also by many of their subcontractors. Terms of the new contract required even more subcontractor participation than that in the RPSC contract...and the subcontracting picture was made even more complicated by the fact that Lockheed Martin's original bid had included participation by their wholly owned subsidiary Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE)...but that entity had been sold to private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg, LLC in April 2011.

Celia Lang, the project director for what Lockheed Martin calls the ASC (Antarctic Support Contract) (yes, more new acronyms) put up a welcome message on the web site in early January; the page included this listing of Lockheed Martin and subcontractor functions:

Lockheed Martin:
Program Management and Integration, Site Management, Functional Area Leadership, Technical Management & Administration (TM&A), Science and Technical Project Services (S&TPS), Information Technology and Communications (IT&C), Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) and Transportation and Logistics (T&L)

PAE Government Services, Inc:
Infrastructure and Operations (I&O), Transportation and Logistics (T&L)

GHG Corporation:
On-site Information Technology and Communications (IT&C)

Information Security

University of Texas Medical Branch:
Medical Services

Transportation and Logistics (T&L)

PAE New Zealand Ltd:
New Zealand Operations

Best Recycling:
Waste Management and Recycling

Gana-A'Yoo Services Corporation (GSC):
Food Services, Housing & Janitorial Services, Retail & Postal Services

(Note that the above list reflects the contractors as of the original December 2011 award. The prime ASC contract was transferred by Lockheed-Martin to Leidos in August 2016; for the current list of active contractors/subcontractors, refer to my Antarctic Jobs page.)

Celia and other Lockheed team members visited McMurdo and Pole in late January as part of the transition process. The first priority for hiring was arranging for transition of the winterover contracts. She was back in Denver to work with folks in the RPSC office the first week in February. At the time various Lockheed Martin and subcontractor web sites were listing many jobs, summer and winter, in Antarctica, Denver, and elsewhere. For a time it was a fluid fast-changing situation on the web, as it must have been in the office. One issue was the fact that portions of the contract structure were several years old and did not reflect current "projects"--as such, many "project" oriented RPSC jobs were not part of the new contract. Also, some of the RPSC job functions were to be relocated (such as some of the science planning activities, which will be relocated to the DC area near NSF), totally assigned to subcontractor locations elsewhere, assumed by existing Lockheed Martin organizational functions, or eliminated for other reasons. So as the dust settled, some incumbent RPSC folks, including long-time employees, found themselves with a need to relocate...or without a job altogether.

By the way...yes, there was a protest. CH2M Hill was officially debriefed by NSF on 5 January and filed a protest the next day. This Engineering News-Record story is still available (behind a paywall), along with this this Washington Technology article. "CH2M HILL Antarctic Support, Inc. is disappointed with result of the NSF's selection process for the Antarctic Support Contract," the company said in a statement. Lockheed-Martin declined to comment on the protest. And NSF contracting officer Bart Bridwell noted, "I'm afraid Federal acquisition isn't for the faint of heart." According to the official court docket, a decision was due by 18 April.

By February, Lockheed Martin had consolidated the job seeker information onto a Facebook page (you do not need to belong or sign up for Facebook to see it). The "Jobs" tab links to a variety of positions with both Lockheed and the subcontractors...the "Links" tab has differently ordered jobs with Lockheed and some of the subcontractors. Since then, the listing of hundreds of jobs has dwindled to less than a couple of dozen. As of late April it was not clear whether the positions for the 2012-13 summer/winter would be selected from previously received applications or whether they would be readvertised. It appears that the hiring for at least some of the subcontractor positions were being handled by their representatives in the Centennial office, and as of April some people had already been hired for the 2012-13 ice season.

The latter stages of the contract transition appeared from this distance to go smoothly. Over the weekend of 1 April, Lockheed Martin took over the office spaces and issued new badges to all continuing ex-RPSC employees, and the RPSC contract web site disappeared except for a single page of referral information (archive site) for former employees and vendors. And a few days later, Celia Lang posted on the project web site that the contract transition had been successful, and that the first Annual Program Plan had been delivered to NSF--it included specific projects which NSF was to review and approve.

And a postscript...the CH2M Hill protest was denied on 18 April 2012, originally reported summarily without comment by the U. S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). On 9 May, the decision details were announced. In summary, the protest involved 3 major issues--the technical rating given to CH2M Hill's vs Lockheed Martin's proposal (one significant item here was the risk assigned to CH2M Hill's plan to relocate the data center), the fact that after the bid closing NSF had "discussions" with Lockheed which may have been inappropriate, and the fact that the Lockheed proposal as valued was priced slightly higher than the CH2M Hill proposal. A summary of the decision is contained in this 8 May Washington Technology news article, and more details are provided by the redacted version of the official decision released on the GAO site.

Another postscript--this 31 May 2012 MSN NZ Money article describing the NZ$100 million role of PAE NZ as the subcontractor providing the New Zealand support for the contract...apparently only in New Zealand, as no mention is made about hiring Kiwis for work on the ice, as had been done in the past.

3 men on iceAt left in a November 1996 McMurdo photo...3 men who played a significant part in program facilities construction and science support for many years. At left, Jim Chambers...project engineer for ASA, and earlier in the 1970's for Holmes & Narver. Center, Dave Bresnahan, an NSF representative for many years. And at right, Frank Brier, who was a H&N and NSF consultant in the 1970's--he later would direct the construction program for NSF, including the new elevated station at Pole. Oh, what is happening here? These 3 men are standing on a future McMurdo supply warehouse site. As of 2013 there is no warehouse there, even though these same 3 people stood on the same future warehouse site (in the same order in the photo) back in the late 70s. Photos courtesy of Dave Bresnahan.

The historical background:

Briefly...since the late 1970s it has happened every 10 years...and the announced schedule of events (read on) has been pretty much the same each time...except that it must now be noted that the contract period which will start in 2010 will run for a maximum of 13 years rather than ten (!) Since the late 1960s the National Science Foundation (NSF) has increasingly relied on a prime private contractor to provide science support, operations and maintenance, logistics support and construction in the Antarctic. How'd we get where we are now (and where are we now, anyway)?

Operation Deep Freeze, the beginning of America's current Antarctic research program, began in 1955-56 in preparation for the International Geophysical Year (IGY), and the support force at that time was the U. S. Navy. However, even then, it was recognized that private companies were better equipped to provide certain aspects of support. During the first summer at McMurdo, Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I) had welders on site constructing two fuel storage tanks--a 250,000 gallon tank for aviation gasoline and a 100,000 gallon tank for diesel fuel.

farmingAs the original temporary IGY-era program evolved into the continuing research program (CARP/USARP/USAP) that it is today, the Navy remained the primary support organization except for direct assistance to scientists and their missions in the field. One of the first private organizations that NSF looked to for research support was the Arctic Institute of North America (AINA), a binational Canadian-based nonprofit organization then headquartered at McGill University. AINA provided research support in many disciplines in both hemispheres during IGY, and afterward they sent geophysical researchers to Pole and other Antarctic stations (historical report on the AINA web site). For example, at right you see David L. Sylwester, the Arctic Institute of North America (AINA) aurora observer for the 1961 summer/winter, tending bean plants left over from a summer biology project (more information). Another of the first NSF contracting efforts after IGY was to arrange to provide cold-weather clothing (ECW) to scientists. This contract was with the American Geographical Society...who had truckloads of gear for issue to folks--at the Skyline orientation conference in Washington, DC. Grantees would have to arrange to get this ECW to Christchurch--typically as baggage on their commercial airline flight--and then get it back. For the more specialized assistance that was needed for some projects, NSF did what it still does now for some technically complex projects such as IceCube--it arranges with the research institution to include technical expertise, and field manpower in the project support grant. In the days before a resident support contractor, the research institution had to provide field assistants, laboratory supplies, camping equipment, and specialized vehicles.snow cats heading outa townOne example of this involved support of some of the major traverses beginning in 1959. The University of Wisconsin (yes, the same institution that now is the prime manager of IceCube) employed support personnel to organize and maintain the traverse equipment--including Jack Long, who wintered at McMurdo in 1960 preparing equipment for Crary's traverse to Pole the following year...during that winter Jack cajoled the Navy into building the "USARP Garage" (later known as the MEC) as a facility to work on the expedition Sno-Cats. (Above left, the traverse departs McMurdo on 10 December 1960; they would reach Pole on 12 February 1961. U. S. Navy photo from the Bulletin of the U. S. Antarctic Projects Officer, March 1961) Jack continued to work for the program until H&N received the first major support contract in 1968.

Perhaps the first significant specific laboratory support contract was awarded to Stanford University in 1960--a 5-year contract to operate the biolab in McMurdo, and that year the facility, later known as the Eklund Biological Center, was doubled in size. This contract was assumed by North Star Research and Development Institute of Minneapolis, MN, in October 1965. I'm not clear how the selection process went for these small early contracts. Meanwhile, the first exclusive NSF Antarctic research vessel, a converted cargo vessel known as the USNS Eltanin, was placed in service in June 1962...operated by the U. S. Navy.taking scientists for a ride

The next evolution in the business of Antarctic support contracting again involved the marine side...as plans for the permanent Palmer Station, to be constructed by the Navy's Seabees, were being finalized. In July 1966 a contract was awarded to Harvey F. Gamage, Shipbuilder, Inc., of South Bristol, Maine, for the construction of the 135-foot research vessel Hero. When the vessel and the permanent station were placed in service, Marine Acoustical Services (MAS) of Miami, Florida, had a 3 year contract to operate the ship as well as the biolab at Palmer Station (right, the Hero at Palmer Station, 1977 photo by Gary Cullen). Shortly after the contract award, MAS was purchased by TRACOR, which in the late 90's became part of BAE.

At some unknown point in the early 1970s the contract was awarded to Hydrospace-Challenger Inc. (HCI), interestingly this corporation was owned by EG&G, which would later successfully participate in the Antarctic Support Associates joint venture.

stamp of approval
radio call

A cachet and a QSL card for the R/V Hero from the first years of that vessel's operation, featuring the names of the support contractors.

In the late 1960s, both the Navy and NSF explored the possibility of increasing the role of private support contractors. In 1967, Rodney Gray of ITT was one of the consultants employed in this study--he would later serve as the project director for ITT's major USARP support contract in the 1980s. Meanwhile back on the other side of the continent, in 1968 Holmes & Narver (H&N) was awarded the science support contract for McMurdo, taking over in the 1968-69 summer season. The contractor support role was growing...as by this time the Field Party Processing Center--later renamed the Berg Field Center (BFC), was being fitted out. Another significant impetus toward reducing the extent of military support came in 1971--an executive order effective 1 July of that year shifted the Antarctic program responsibility and funding management from the Navy to NSF. This action was due in part to the close political scrutiny which was being placed on the defense budget at the time--when the war in Southeast Asia was a significant part of the defense budget. HERO/GOI/Palmer Station patchPerhaps as a result of this decision, in 1972-73 after Seabees completed the the first permanent Siple Station, H&N furnished the Siple support crew for its first winter in 1973. Also, on 1 December 1973, H&N assumed operation of Palmer Station (from the Navy) and the Hero (from HCI) with a new 5-year contract; at this point H&N arranged for subcontractor General Oceanographics Inc. of San Diego (right) to operate the Hero, and 1974 would see the first all-civilian crew at Palmer Station. Captain Norm Deniston, a GOI employee, worked out of Holmes & Narver's Anaheim office (where I met him in 1976) except for about a month per year when he would relieve Captain Lenie. This arrangement would continue until 30 November 1978, when H&N (with NSF approval) elected not to renew GOI's contract; at that point Norm and the Hero crew became H&N employees.

the dome is up

Another impetus for expanding the scope of the support contractor was the construction of the new domed South Pole Station (left, NOAA photo) (more project details). The Navy took this large project to the field in 1970-71 and did quite well with it, but they eventually had to deal with limited manpower and lack of specific trade expertise...due in no small part to the increasing demand for Seabee units in Southeast Asia. Accordingly, H&N furnished about 33 workers during the 1973-74 season-- they primarily dealt with some of the more specialized utility work.

At the beginning of the following season (1974-75) the last Navy crew at Pole turned over the old IGY-era station to Dick Wolak, its first civilian manager, the H&N support team, and the construction crew that showed up to finish the domed station in time for its dedication in January 1975. Two H&N employees in particular worth mentioning are Robert Byrd Breyer, the grandson of Admiral Byrd. He was living in Anaheim and saw the ads for Pole construction workers...and the rest is, well you know. Robert spent lots of time in the utilidor insulating the water, sewer and glycol piping. And then there was Jerry Marty, who later came back to Pole as the NSF construction manager for the present elevated station.

capture the flagstep outside the office

At left, Robert Breyer in front of the new station on 29 November 1974, the 45th anniversary of his grandfather's South Pole flight. Robert, standing in front of the balloon inflation tower/helium arch, has just retrieved this flag dropped by VXE-6, the Navy LC-130 squadron (photo courtesy Billy-Ace Baker). At right, Jerry and Elena Marty, two H&N employees, in front of the construction office in Dry Gulch, the summer/ construction camp (photo courtesy Elena Marty).

In 1976 H&N's two USARP support contracts--for the continental side and for Hero/Palmer operations, were more closely aligned into what eventually would be a single contract. Later in the 1970s, construction activities continued. One highlight was the successful 1976-77 summer, which featured the new Clean Air Facility (CAF, right) getting stick-built from scratch in one summer...clean air breathed herealong with a new summer camp to replace the burned-out old one, the dome weight room, and a number of other projects successfully managed by superintendent Pat Haggerty (yes, another familiar name). And the new Siple II modular station was completed and occupied in February 1979 (below left, photo by Craig Martin).

not buried yet

Meanwhile...the first in what has become a series of 10-year support contractor bidding cycles was underway, with much the same schedule that is being followed in the current process. The contract preliminary information and RFQ was issued in the 8th year of the decade...bidder site visits to the ice occurred during the 8-9 austral summer, final proposals were due in the middle of the 9th year, and contract award occurred later in that year. The new contractor started taking over during a transition period that encompassed the 9-0 austral summer, taking over completely on 1 April. In 1979 the precedent was set that continued for the next two contract cycles--NSF selected a new support contractor. In this case it was ITT Antarctic Services, Inc., (ITT/ANS), and thus the support offices moved from H&N's new building in Orange, CA to the headquarters of ITT Federal Electric Corporation (FEC, ITT's communications and support contracting division) in Paramus, NJ. ITT/ANS completed the hiring of winterovers for the 1980 season. John's Fresh Vegetable's

The next major construction effort was in McMurdo...ITT/ANS folks showed up in 1980-81, the first austral summer season of their new contract, to deal with completion of the new power plant as well as the 203-205 series of dorms. At right, steel erection for the power plant early in the 1980-81 season-- the plant was on line by the end of the summer (photo from Nick Majerus). The workforce was rather small by today's standards--in 1980-81 the entire ITT/ANS crew could fit into the Chalet for All Hands meetings. steel for scienceBut 10 years later things were different--it was difficult to fit just the foremen and supervisors into the Chalet all at once. The steadily increasing McM support population was due in no small part to a series of much larger construction projects--the new water plant built adjacent to the power plant, a replacement vehicle maintenance facility to replace the burned-down Public Works Garage, and the next series of dormitories--the 3 story 206-209 facilities. Some of these facilities were designed by ITT/ANS...but other major projects were designed via the Navy as they are today--NSF has an arrangement with the Navy's facility design office in Hawaii to arrange for A&E services for major projects...ultimately including the replacement South Pole Station.

At the end of the decade ITT/ANS began the first phase of the replacement science facility, later to be dedicated the Crary Science and Engineering Center (above left, the structure of the first two pods as completed in February 1990, the last summer of the ITT/ANS contract). Construction work at the smaller stations during the 1980s was incremental rather than major--replacement power plant generator systems at Palmer and Pole...significant structural repairs to the Dome at Pole...new communications and computer systems at all stations (including an addition to the comms building at Pole. On the research vessel front, the NSF-owned R/V Hero was retired in 1984--replaced with the Polar Duke, a 212-foot leased ice-strengthened research vessel chartered from Rieber Shipping A/S of Norway. The vessel leasing arrangements evolved into direct USAP NSF contracts, although the support contractor continues to have a significant role in contract management and on-board science support operations.

ship outThe next round of support contract bidding began in 1988...to culminate in the announcement that Antarctic Support Associates (ASA)--a joint venture between H&N and EG&G--was to take over the contract by 1 April 1990...I heard this announcement in September 1989 in PA aboard the Polar Duke as we were about to set off for Palmer Station.

ASA established a new office in the south suburbs of Denver, CO...while the old ITT/ANS/FEC offices in Paramus were emptied and closed up. The 1990s was a period of accelerating turnover of McMurdo support activities from the Naval Support Force Antarctica (NSFA) to the civilian support contractor--this was completed in the 1997-98 season, when NSFA left the ice for the last time and was disbanded in 1998. On the research vessel front, NSF turned to Edison Chouest Offshore for its newer and larger next generation of research and support vessels. These were the Nathaniel B. Palmer, 308 feet, completed in 1992, and the smaller Lawrence M. Gould, 230 feet, completed in 1997. Both vessels were constructed at Edison Schouest's North American Shipyards in Larose, LA (a right, the Gould under construction in Larose in April 1997). The Polar Duke completed its last cruise to Palmer Station in May 1997. In the air, Navy helicopter support was replaced with a contract to Petroleum Helicopters, Inc., (PHI) beginning in the 1996-97 season...they started with one Bell 212 (the commercial equivalent to the Navy's UH-1N "Huey") and three smaller A-Star aircraft. These four helicopters were supported that year by 7 pilots and 5 mechanics. Meanwhile, McMurdo also saw a few significant efforts to subcontract the food and janitorial services beginning in the middle of the decade.

this is a frame upConstruction activity in the 1990s saw completion of the Crary Lab in McMurdo as well as upgrades to other facilities. Meanwhile at Pole things were heating up as it were. Four "blue buildings" were purchased originally for use as summer camp replacements...but only one of these, the elevated dorm, was ever used for berthing. The other 3 were developed as the NOAA Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO), MAPO (the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory), and the Dark Sector Laboratory (DSL). At left is a view of DSL during the early stages of erection in 1999-2000...this building would not actually be completed for use by science until 2006 (photo courtesy Carlton Walker). see noteBut...the biggest news ever for the Antarctic contracting industry came in 1997--Congressional approval for full funding of the new elevated South Pole Station. This originally was $127.9 million for the "South Pole Station Modernization" (SPSM) along with $25 million for "South Pole Safety and Environmental" (SPSE). The first phases of the new station project were SPSE--the doubling of the fuel capacity to 450,000 gallons by replacing the old bladders with contained steel tanks (summer 1998-99...along with a replacement vehicle maintenance facility summer/winter 1999). At right, ASA (and later RPSC) Pole construction manager Carlton Walker passes through the newly completed garage in December 1999 (Antarctic Sun 12/12/99 photo by Josh Landis).

But by this time the next new contract proposal was on the street...with a juicy new chunk of work--South Pole! There had been some consideration to awarding the SPSM construction contract separately, but in the end it was incorporated in the master support contract. The bidders came out...and when the dust settled, this press release came out of Raytheon's Vienna, VA headquarters on 29 October 1999. The news was spread on the ice through this 31 October 1999 Antarctic Sun article. But all was not said and done right away. ASA launched a protest, leaving ice folks pondering their fate for a bit longer. This was finally resolved (at least for all practical purposes) in late January (30 January 2000 Antarctic Sun article), and Raytheon Polar Services Company (RPSC) assumed full control, taking over the former ASA offices in Englewood, CO.three sides to any issue

As for the current contract period, things continue to go well. The science is getting bigger and bigger--witness the 10 meter telescope at Pole, new buildings at McM such as the Long Duration Ballooning (LDB) buildings, the Science Support Center (SSC) and the Joint Satellite Operations Center (JSOC), and increasing activity by those two large research vessels. beam me upPalmer Station saw completion of major rebuilds of the Biolab and GWR interiors, not to mention the first new major building since the 80s, the triangular Terralab, International Monitoring Station (IMS), (or T-6) as it were (above left, August 2005 construction photo by James Slaughter). And of course we have the crown jewel (well, I'm prejudiced), the new elevated South Pole Station that was officially dedicated on 12 January 2008. At right, the topping out of the last wing (B4) of the elevated station on 19 January 2005 (Carlton Walker photo).

Some months before the official dedication of the new South Pole Station, speculation started to emerge about the next contract rebid. Of course, based on history (such as what you've seen on this page) it was not unexpected. The rumors started to fly in 2007, and the prospective bidders started to position and posture. Finally, early in 2008 some official news started to come out....

There are two official sites of interest...the first is NSF's announcement of what was happening (archived page)...first posted in April 2008 and updated quite a bit since then. Currently this page includes the latest and greatest general schedule for the bidding and award. The "historical information" link includes a redacted summary of the current RPSC contract. and there are other "reading room" links to general (and not so general) USAP program information of interest to bidders as well as the rest of us. And there are other links...including the one to FBO.gov, the official US Government procurement site for this contract. The fbo.gov site continues to be updated as the contracting effort proceeds and continually gets extended...as of July 2008 it included a fairly extensive preliminary RFP (request for proposals) as well a general summary of the contract scope of work and an ever-lengthening list of potential bidders. An interesting resource. Note that ANYONE can access this site, no logins or secret passwords are needed. Watch this space....

Okay...sorry, I'm an old Polie construction guy, and not a bean counter or contract administrator. So what you get from me is the historical take on this interesting ongoing event, rather than number crunching secrets and inside info. That certainly isn't the only viewpoint...if you're looking for another one I would highly recommend that of fellow Polie (2004) winterover and friend, the late Nick Johnson, who had a unique take on the 2000 contract changeover at http://bigdeadplace.org/the-contract-changeover-1999-00/index.html...not available now, perhaps that may yet change someday.