Federal initiative hurts many state businesses

Los Alamos National Laboratory currently has one ANC contract and is looking at another, said NNSA Contracting Officer Anthony Lovato in a telephone interview Monday.

Chugach Corp. currently holds a janitorial contract at the lab.

"I had heard there were rumors that Chugach was going to replace KSL but that's not true," Lovato said. "I spoke at a chamber breakfast a few weeks ago to dispel that rumor. KSL has a $150 million a year contract and we're not going to suddenly switch contractors."

LANL could take the contract away from KSL, Lavato said, and give it to Chugach to have its small business requirements met for a year, but said that is not what they want to do.

"We want to diversify the businesses and not just meet the numbers," he said. "We don't want every small business dependent on the lab. We want them to also contract with ANC's, NNSA, KSL and others."

He added that LANL is looking at replacing IBM as the integrator on the Enterprise Project. In 2002, the Lab selected IBM to provide hardware for central computing systems to help integrate, unify, modernize and streamline their administrative operations.

The initial contract was worth nearly $2 million and required IBM to provide computer hardware to replace the laboratory's entire administrative computing infrastructure. The Alaskan firm of ASRCAC will be the umbrella contractor taking over the contract, Lavato said.

"ASRCAC will team with several Northern New Mexico firms on the contract," he said.

Lovato said that unlike American Natives, the ANC's have corporations rather than tribes.

ASRCAC is one of 10 divisions of Arctic Slope Regional Corp. (ASRC), owned by the Inupiat Eskimos of Alaska's north slope.

In Los Alamos, one of the divisions of ASCG designed a facility to store and dispose of mixed wastes. The Mixed Waste Disposal Facility is part of LANL's Environmental Restoration Program.

ASCG's work under the contract consisted of designing a disposal facility, constructing three buildings and a disposal pit.

One of ASCG's divisions also designed a segment of the highway on U.S. 285 from the Lincoln/DeBaca County line north to the Junction of U.S. 60, according to the ASCG web site.

ASCG performed the study and design of the Paseo Del Norte/Coors Road Interchange in Albuquerque.

The firm performed Airport Design on several New Mexico facilities, including the Artesia Municipal Airport, Clayton Municipal Airport, Deming Runway Extension, Dona Ana County Airport, Grants/Milan Municipal Airport, Lea County-Hobbs Airport, Roswell Industrial Air Center, Sierra Blanca Airport in Ruidoso and the Truth or Consequences Airport.

The Alaskan firm also worked on an Albuquerque water and sewer infrastructure design, designed a Base Refueling Station at Holloman AFB, and together with Flintco West, was selected to design and build a new campus for the Santa Fe Indian School.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, inserted the controversial provision in the Act, which excludes Native Americans and Hawaiian Natives from the no bid, no ceiling advantage.

"We are going to be the morticians of this law," said Anna Muller, president of NEDA Business Consultants Inc.

The Minority Business Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce funds Muller's statewide minority business development company.

Her firm has assisted small and minority businesses for over three decades and Muller is fighting mad at the law that allows ANC's to enter New Mexico and take jobs away from local firms.

The history leading up to the creation of the ANC's began in the 1860s after the United States government purchased Alaska from the Russia government.

At that time, the Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts had been living in Alaska for thousands of years.

It was agreed that Alaska Natives had land rights to the lands they used. But for more than 100 years, it was not clear which land belonged to the Alaska Natives and which to the United States government.

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was finally passed in 1971. The intent of the law was to settle that 100-year-old question.

ANCSA created 13 regional corporations, which represent over 80,000 Alaska Native Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts.

The U.S. government paid $962.5 million to the Alaska Natives through those corporations.

Forty-three million acres of land also were set aside for the 13 regional corporations.

These corporations multiplied into some 200 subsidiaries all operating under the no bid, no ceiling provision.

Stevens says the law corrects an imbalance and helps a minority group that has had few job opportunities, according to the Indianz.com website.

He states the Native American exception is intended to advance the federal government's interest in promoting self-sufficiency and the economic development of Native American communities.

Stevens also insists it does so not on the basis of race, but rather, based upon the unique political and legal status of the aboriginal, indigenous, Native people.

The New Mexico 8(a) and Minority Business Association board is preparing a position paper voicing their opposition to the law, Muller said.

These Alaskan sole source contracts with unlimited ceilings can streamline the federal procurement process down to days rather than weeks or months.

The trend is steadily growing for government entities to bypass cumbersome bidding procedures and simply award contracts to the ANC's.

In a move by the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Arctic Slope Regional Development Corp. and Chenega were given a $2 billion contract - a public request for proposals was never placed on the table.

The American Federation of Government Employees appealed the award to the Supreme Court saying the contracting set-asides violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on race-based preferences.

The Supreme Court rejected their appeal.

A coalition of regional and national minority businesses and trade associations will hold a summit in Albuquerque on Friday to discuss a national agenda for public policy and regulatory matters relating to minority and small businesses. This is the first time the summit, sponsored by the New Mexico 8(a) Association, NEDA Business Consultants Inc. and the Minority Small Business Council will be held outside the Washington D.C. beltway, Muller said.

The summit takes place from 4-6 p.m. at the Sheraton Old Town in Albuquerque.

The summit agenda lists a number of issues for discussion including:
• Contract bundling.
• Small Business Administration annual budget.
• General Services Administration acquisition policy.

Summit coalition members include the National Minority Suppliers Development Council, Latin American Management Association, the Association for Small Business in Technology Inc., Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, President's Roundtable, and the Northern California and New Mexico 8(a) Minority Business Associations.


Meet and Confer
By David McGlinchey
[email protected]
Federal workers unions are preparing for a meeting Thursday with Defense Department and Office of Personnel Management officials to establish guidelines for the meet and confer process on the controversial National Security Personnel System.
In 2003, lawmakers gave the Pentagon permission to dramatically overhaul its personnel system. In proposed regulations that were released early this year, senior defense officials indicated that they wanted to scrap the General Schedule system, implement performance pay, reduce union bargaining powers and streamline the employee appeals process. Union officials have protested the sweeping changes and the process used to develop them. A coalition of unions is suing Defense and OPM to block the new system.
The United DoD Workers Coalition has been organizing opposition to NSPS. That organization claims that Defense and OPM overstepped their mandate and ignored congressional requirements to collect and include input from employees while developing the personnel system.
"Tomorrow we are meeting with management to discuss how the meet and confer process is going to take place," said Matt Biggs, a spokesman for the coalition. The meeting is to lay out the ground rules to the meet and confer process."
The public comment period on NSPS is scheduled to close on March 16, and the meet and confer period cannot begin before that.
"We're going to talk about the procedures we are going to be using from here forward. The best we can hope for is some type of agreement on what we are going to do and what we are going to get out of this," said Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. "Iron out any glitches that may come up with a group of 36 working as one. We're trying to work with DoD to make this seamless. We're trying to meet them in the middle of the street."
Union officials also touted a hearing next week on NSPS in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia. American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers President Greg Junemann are scheduled to testify.
"Let's face it, the Republicans control everything in Congress," said Biggs. "Now they are willing to take a second look at this."
Ault said union officials will try to educate congressional officials on their point of view.
"Mainly, it is to educate Congress," Ault said. "I think a lot of good can come out of this, but it depends how active Congress is."


Border, interior enforcement called severely lacking
By Chris Strohm
[email protected]
Current and former government officials told Congress Wednesday that the nation's border and immigration security suffers from the lack of a comprehensive mission, poor information sharing and coordination between agencies, inadequate resources, inept management and bureaucratic infighting.
They painted a picture of a border and immigration system overwhelmed with illegal, and possibly terrorist, activity, even though the government has pumped billions of dollars into making reforms since 9/11.
"We miss opportunities every day in the area of counterterrorism because of a lack of intelligence that we gather [and] because of a lack of intelligence that's passed on between the appropriate agencies," said David Venturella, former director of the Homeland Security Department's Office of Detention and Removal Operations. "We're missing opportunities to gather that intelligence, to determine the right strategies and the right initiatives, to tackle these problems."
Venturella, who left government service last year, citing frustration, testified with five other officials before a House subcommittee on whether the department should merge its bureaus of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.
Two of the panelists were union members and current DHS employees, three were former DHS employees and one works at a think tank. None supported maintaining the current structure, in which ICE handles interior enforcement and CBP is in charge of borders. They all generally agreed that interior and border enforcement should be combined.
"The dual enforcement structure of CBP and ICE has proven to be a major barrier to the accomplishment of the extremely vital mission of the Department of Homeland Security to stop a terrorist from entering our country and carrying out their dastardly deeds," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
Bonner charged that coordination and cooperation among homeland security agencies has worsened since the creation of DHS. For example, he said, the government is not as effective as before in stopping border smuggling activities.
"A wall has truly been erected between the people at CBP and the people at ICE," said Michael Cutler, former senior special agent at the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, which was merged into ICE. "They have separate chains of command, so everyone now has to maintain a sense of competition. ... We can't afford that if we're fighting a war on terror and we're fighting a war on drugs."
Cutler said traditional immigration work, such as sanctioning employers who hire illegal aliens or investigating immigration benefits fraud, is being shortchanged. He added that people who should be picked up for violations are getting away because agencies are not effectively sharing information.
DHS spokeswoman Suzanne Luber disputed the notion that the country is less secure today than when the department was created.
"Every day we look at making sure this country is safe at Homeland Security ... If it means we need to shift resources, that's what we're going to do," she said. "DHS is confident that we are safer today due to additional manpower, technologies and resources than we were two years ago."
Luber said the department is not going to take a stand on the proposed merger of ICE and CBP until the issue is examined as part of a total review of operations and polices, and until the DHS inspector general completes a report on the subject. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced last week that he is undertaking the review, while Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked the IG to do the report.
Luber could not provide a timeline, saying only that the IG report is expected this summer.
Those who testified had differing opinions on exactly what changes should be made.
James Carafano, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said the department needs a long-term integrated strategy for interior and border enforcement in order to make a merger effective.
Kenneth Klug, former associate special agent in charge at ICE, advocated for immediate change, including the merger.
"To continue under the current configuration would mean maintaining inefficient tasks, wasting tax dollars and the perpetual downslide of the employees and [their] morale," he said. "Simply stated, a house divided cannot stand."


By Jerry Seper
Published March 10, 2005
A House subcommittee is investigating the possibility of merging two of the country's front-line agencies in the war on terrorism, amid concerns that ongoing turf battles, financing problems and low morale threaten national security.
The inquiry targets U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), two agencies within the Department of Homeland Security assigned the task of preventing new terrorist attacks.
"We are engaged in a war on terror where control of our nation's borders is critical," Michael W. Cutler, former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) senior agent, told the subcommittee yesterday.
"But a wall has been truly erected between the people at CBP and the people at ICE. They have separate chains of command that, at this point, you can't have if you are trying to fight a war on terrorism and a war on drugs."
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 11,000 of the Border Patrol's non-supervisory agents, said although the reason for creating the agencies was to give enforcement authority to CBP at the border and ICE in the nation's interior, "it's obvious to even the most casual observer that this distinction is almost artificial."
Rep. Mike D. Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on management, integration and oversight, said the panel wants to know whether a merger would allow the agencies to better meet the threat of potential attacks and enhance immigration enforcement.
Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, attended the hearing, saying questions remain two years after the department's creation whether it is managing its immigration enforcement and border security resources "in the most efficient, sensible and effective manner."
Much of the criticism over the past several months has targeted ICE, with supervisors and field agents saying the agency lacks a defined mission and has fallen victim to poor management.
"ICE's accomplishments in two short years speak volumes about the quality of work being done here every single day," ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said yesterday. "We are achieving record results."
Last month, Homeland Security acting Inspector General Richard L. Skinner also said he was examining a merger of ICE and CBP at the request of Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Also testifying yesterday was David Venturella, former director of detention and removal operations at ICE, who called a merger of the two agencies "unnecessary at this time," but warned that efforts had to be made to "redistribute programs to provide a logical alignment" of operations, assets and resources.
"The experiment of forcing square pegs into round holes and jumbling numerous programs under one roof has served only to diminish ICE's focus on enforcement," he said.

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