CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Marines in Iraq recently signed almost $10 million in contracts helping to employ local workers while reducing their own footprint in a country they hope to one day return to its feet.
The contracts, including the more than 30 valued at $2 million picked up by the 1st Force Service Support Group here, pay for Iraqis and third-country nationals to perform various jobs such as construction, trucking, food service, fuel and water delivery and even filling sandbags.
The agreements, which were passed on to the Marines from the Army on March 1, 2004, are set up to alleviate the workload of troops here, said Maj. Kenneth L. Crabtree, 33, the 1st FSSG's comptroller. The Group only deployed as many Marines as were required to perform its mission of providing supplies and support to the I Marine Expeditionary Force, leaving enough Marines at its home base, Camp Pendleton, Calif., to relieve them after seven months.
Once the contracts were handed over, the Marine Corps reviewed them and identified some room for improvement, including establishing longer deals.
The Marines did away with the Army's practice of signing agreements that required renegotiation at the end of every month. Instead, the Marine Corps is signing contracts lasting up to six months, said Crabtree.
The guaranteed work helps foster a good relationship between the local workers and the military, he said.
Additionally, several vendors have lowered their prices due to the lengthy deals.
The Aimidmak Company, which signed on to perform carpentry work on the run-down buildings here, has cut its rate from $64,000 a month under the short-term Army contracts to $32,500 a month under the newer agreements.
In an effort to ensure money and work brought to the Iraqi economy are distributed evenly, the Marine Corps is also attempting to use a contractor only once. Spreading the work between multiple companies allows more Iraqi people the opportunity for employment and discourages one company from dominating the market, said Crabtree.
"Over time, the trucking company has raised its prices," he said, offering one of the Group's biggest contracts -- at more than $250,000 -- as an example. "Without competitive bidding out there they've got this monopoly going."
The I MEF's contracting officers have put together a list of vendors to ask for bids from the various companies when work is requested by the Marines.
One incentive for competitive bidding is an end-of-contract award. The award gives the contracted company up to ten percent more money if the project supervisor is completely satisfied with the end product.
"For most of the contracts here that we've fallen on top of, the vendors know that (the award) is out there, and they know that it's a great incentive," Crabtree said. "They want to bend over backwards to make sure you're totally happy with their service."
The 1st FSSG represents one-fifth of the I MEF's 25,000 Marines deployed to the Al Anbar province of Iraq who are providing security and stability for the region.