Serco Inc. will begin in July to lay the groundwork for the dismantling of hundreds of U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.
In June, the Reston, Va.-based company won a three-year contract with a one-year base period and two one-year options and a total value of $57 million to perform analyses and coordinate the logistics of base deconstruction.
Serco expects to deploy a dozen six-person Base Closure Assistance Teams (BCATs) at various locations throughout Afghanistan.
“Our job is to work with the base operating support integrator, the ‘mayor,’ to do the analysis for what contracts should end and when, and how the property should be disposed of,” said Serco Vice President of Logistics Bob Wood. “Some properties will be turned over to the Afghanistan government — the land, for instance, and maybe some of the buildings. Some property, such as vehicles, equipment and so forth, will come back to the states to be refurbished.”
Serco anticipates bringing a variety of subject-matter expertise to the project to handle a range of niche specialties.
“Look at the land under and around a base,” Wood said. “One of the big things the government wants to do is to turn that land back in the same environmental conditions that we got it in, and there are all kinds of concerns there. For example, is there any hazardous material present? There are huge checklists of what to look for.”
Property accountability will be among the primary considerations as the BCATs put in place systems for an eventual shutdown of bases.
“We will be helping the Army with all the documentation for massive amounts of vehicles and equipment and property,” Wood said. “We want to make sure the Army knows where all of its property is at all times.”
Serco performed similar work for the Army during the Iraq drawdown, where it learned the value of keeping up strong ties to the local leadership.
“We found that if we did not develop a great relationship with the mayor, it was difficult for us to execute the mission in the way we felt it should be executed. They’ve got to have confidence that they really know what we are doing,” Wood said.
Serco won the contract under a tight timeline, meeting the Army’s request to submit a proposal in a week, rather than in the more customary 30 days.
“They were very clear about the operational urgency of the mission,” Wood said, citing the weather as a likely driver in that sense of urgency.
“The Afghanistan winter is very rugged and there is a tremendous amount of work that has to be done this year before the winter sets in,” he said. “It’s not a quick process.”
Internally, Serco expects its biggest challenge will be in keeping up morale among its teams in the field. “They are geographically remote, they are moving constantly, they may or may not have access to the Internet. They will have cellphones but they may not have the service for them to be effective,” Wood said. “We’ve got to demonstrate to our folks that we are going to take care of them.”