An Introduction to Pentagon Contracts

A Guide to Breaking Down & Deciphering DOD Contracts

Hundreds of corporations profit directly from the Pentagon’s global wars. Understanding information about the Pentagon’s acquisition process is crucial to establishing and maintaining an informed citizenry. Using this guide, citizens can break down and decipher Department of Defense (DOD) contracts as an act of education, empowerment, or resistance.

The general format of a DOD contract involves:

NAME OF CORPORATION, City, State, has been awarded a $---,---,--- [TYPE of] contract for PRODUCT. Contractor will provide … [further details, often quite obscure, esoteric, or cloudy]. Work will be performed in City, State. Work is expected to be completed by Month, Day, Year. These types of funds are being allocated. This unit is the contracting activity [a.k.a. what DOD authority arranged for the purchase].

The main corporations supporting DOD are: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Textron, and United Technologies. Other frequent contributors include: BAE Systems, CACI, Exelis, General Atomics, General Dynamics, General Electric, Honeywell, Huntington Ingalls, Jacobs Engineering, L3, Orbital ATK, Rockwell Collins, Rolls Royce, and SAIC. Hundreds of other corporations, big and small, cover the landscape.

DOD employs many different contract types. They have fancy names, which vary depending on: whether or how they can be adjusted at a later date; the quantity of the product involved; the product’s delivery schedule; and anticipated price fluctuations. Examples of contract types include: firm-fixed-price; firm-fixed-price with economic adjustment; firm-fixed-fee; cost-plus-fixed-fee; and indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity. For thorough elaboration, consult the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

Exorbitant initial costs worry the taxpayer. Subsequent costs are tacked on later in the form of modifications. Modifications are adjustments and additions to existing contracts. Corporations make a lot of money from modifications. Corporations justify modifications by claiming need for frequent maintenance, upkeep, tweaking, and upgrading.

The product varies. The product can involve: so-called unmanned vehicles; advertising and recruitment; weaponry and materiel; aircraft and maintenance; payment to universities for academic collusion; extortionate weapons platforms, like Aegis, Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), or the X-Band radar; clothing and gear; fuel and energy; medical and dental services; environmental remediation; food services; base administration and logistics; domestic and overseas construction projects; river dredging; or many other goods and services.

Look at this example, which has been revised to highlight the important parts:

Airtec Inc.,* California, Maryland, is being awarded an $80,661,914 modification against a previously issued firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N68335-14-D-0030) for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) services in support of the U.S. Southern Command. The contractor will provide ISR services utilizing a contractor-owned, contractor-operated Bombardier DHC-8/200 multi-sensor aircraft, with government-furnished property previously installed on the aircraft. Work will be performed in Bogota, Columbia (90 percent); and California, Maryland (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2018. No funds will be obligated at time of award. Funds will be obligated on individual delivery orders as they are issued. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, New Jersey, is the contracting activity.

The aforementioned contract now becomes:

Airtec Inc. received $80,661,914 to provide ISR services in support of USSOUTHCOM utilizing an Airtec owned/operated Bombardier DHC-8/200 multi-sensor aircraft, with government-furnished property previously installed. Work will be in Bogota, Colombia (90%); and California, MD (10%).

Those who compile DOD contracts often misspell the names of sovereign nations. In this case, they misspelled Colombia. We can begin to see the value of distilling these contracts. From this contract alone, we learn much regarding DOD’s overseas posture and bureaucratic competence.

Now analyze this concrete example:

Raytheon Missile Systems Co., Tucson, Arizona, has been awarded a $10,647,581 not-to-exceed letter contract for Small Diameter Bomb II. Contractor will provide Small Diameter Bomb II aircraft integration test assets, to include jettison test vehicles, and instrumented measurement vehicles on the F/A-18E/F aircraft. Work will be performed at Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be complete by Aug. 10, 2016. This award is the result of a sole source acquisition. Fiscal 2015 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $5,000,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity.

Compare that contract to previous templates. Knowing what you’ve learned so far, try to distill the essential information.

Links help the public understand information clearly. Links can be provided regarding: type of weapons platform; corporate history; Combatant Command (UCC); and any other pertinent information one deems valuable. Over time, one will become acclimated to what is essential information and what is chaff. One also may decide to keep the chaff for personal notes, along with, of course, the meat of the contract. In one’s own notes, track the corporation’s branch location, the good or service they provide, where that good/service is provisioned, and any additional information that will help understand DOD’s domestic industrial base. After a few months of this hobby, a solid picture of DOD’s industrial footprint materializes.

A modification, as mentioned briefly before, is basically an extension of a contract. A contract is inked, and later a modification adds funding to the original contract, which permits more work to be done. Take the following Lockheed Martin contract from 8 August 2014, which involves an Aegis product:

Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, Moorestown, New Jersey, has been awarded a $193,610,317 modification to previously awarded contract number HQ0276-10-C-0001 for procurement of necessary material, equipment, and supplies to conduct the technical engineering to define, develop, integrate and test Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense 4.1 and 5.0 Capability Upgrade baselines through their respective certifications. This modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $2,002,542,722 from $1,808,932,405. Work will be performed at Moorestown, New Jersey, with an expected completion date of May 31, 2016. Fiscal 2014 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $19,500,000 are being obligated at time of award. The Missile Defense Agency, Dahlgren, Virginia, is the contracting activity.

What have we learned? We know that this modification adds almost $200 million to a previous contract involving the Aegis weapon system. We know where the product is crafted. We know the end user, in this case MDA. Googling the previously awarded contract number often yields relevant background information. Much can also be learned about this weapon platform from Lockheed Martin’s own website.

There is a surprising amount of public data available on the Internet. After all, war corporations have products they want to market and sell. Often their corporate websites display piecemeal information. When searching those locations fails, the public domain contains more information elsewhere, especially if the contract was bid on in a relatively open manner. Try consulting fbo.gov, clearancejobs.com, and LinkedIn.

Organization is key. Major corporations (Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, etc.) are large enough to each require their own word processing document. Other players can be grouped in a document based on function. For example: AM General, Caterpillar, Navistar and Oshkosh all provide vehicles to the U.S. military. Therefore, one might want to consider grouping them in a single word processing document. Other function-based groupings may include: A) major cyber-related contracts; B) space and satellite corporations; C) U.S. telecommunications providers; D) overseas base support; E) helicopter accessories; and F) Afghanistan profiteering, etc. Over time, experimentation is encouraged for arranging notes to best suite one’s personal organizational strengths.

Sometimes war corporations deliberately phrase contracts in a vague manner. Elusive phrasing results in contracts being awarded for “knowledge based service-type requirements”; “equipment related services”; and “R&D services for the purpose of creating and developing new processes or products.” While this lack of clarity can be frustrating, creative Google searches using combinations of corporate names and contract numbers often yield more information.

This guide is by no means exhaustive. Curators of the military-industrial complex (MIC) will inevitably develop individualized approaches to cataloguing MIC activities. This is both expected and encouraged. As long as citizens are engaged and diving into DOD contracts, then the public good is being served.

Concerted pursuit of this pastime requires a daily commitment of less than an hour. This includes research, organization, distillation, and frequent revision. Polishing the little pieces matters, like changing “and” to “&” when it is part of a single company’s name. That way, your reader isn’t confused as to whether the corporation in question is one entity or two.

For public consumption, attention to detail can distill this:

Parsons Government Services Inc., Huntsville, Alabama, is being awarded a ceiling $68,845,081 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a five-year ordering period. The contract provides scientific and technical support to the Defense Intelligence Agency's Missile and Space Intelligence Center. Work will be performed at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, with an expected completion date of June 25, 2020. The acquisition was solicited on the basis of full and open competition, and two bids were received. Funding will be obligated on individual task orders with the initial task order scheduled to be awarded July 7, 2015, at an estimated ceiling price of $1,300,000. Virginia Contracting Activity, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity (HHM402-15-D-0007).

… into this:

Parsons Government Services received $68,845,081 to provide scientific and technical support to DIA’s Missile & Space Intelligence Center (MSIC) at Redstone Arsenal.

Good luck, and keep digging!

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Christian Sorensen, a BFP Contributing Author & Analyst, is a U.S. military veteran. His writing has been featured in CounterPunch and Media Roots.

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