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Author Topic: Contractor Operation of Army MARS  (Read 46077 times)
W6EM
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Posts: 710




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« on: October 10, 2013, 07:25:15 PM »

In the search for awards thread, I recalled that Army MARS used to be largely run by a contractor, not by Army active duty or volunteer personnel.

I checked, and apparently, that still is the case, except for the MARS Director.

The contractor is Akima Infrastructure, LLC, and here is their website: http://www.akimainfrasvcs.com/u-s-army-network-enterprise-technology-command/

The description of what they do from the website:

Akima Infrastructure Services, LLC (AIS) operates and maintains the Army MARS Eastern and Western Area Gateway stations located at Fort Detrick (closed) and Fort Huachuca, respectively. Duties include providing administrative support for the Army MARS membership program to include maintaining membership file folders and government-provided database; operational management oversight for the Area Gateways and volunteer Army MARS membership located within the 50 states, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico; providing  CONUS-wide nonpersonal hand-receipt management for the Army MARS Program to include the surplus property program; and providing frequency coordination for the Army MARS networks.

We manage the high-frequency (HF) radio network 24/7 and process communications used by the Army and in support of disaster response throughout the country. Daily message traffic is typically 50 to 200 messages, and during training exercises, the volume increases up to as many as 600 messages. We maintain daily radio contact (voice and digital) and weekly contact with Homeland Security SHARES program and manage up to 2500 volunteer certified HF radio operators in all 50 states. AIS coordinates with emergency organizations in all 50 states to ensure training of radio operators and participates in training exercises. We interface with Department of Defense Northern Command, Homeland Security, and Transportation Security Administration for emergency communications between disaster areas and the responding personnel and agencies. We also work with the group in testing new equipment. In addition, we provide a means for urgent and emergency communications with Army personnel outside the country.



So, the next time I read a story about Army MARS, written by staff, I will do so with the understanding that someone was likely paid to write (and hype) the story. Not quite the same as what a volunteer might have written.....
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 07:50:49 PM by W6EM » Logged
W6EM
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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2013, 12:03:31 PM »

I'd like to suggest, in the interest of reducing federal expenditures and overall fairness, that a "cost per volunteer MARS member metric" be developed to compare the baseline cost of what a MARS member costs the taxpayers in each of the 3 service programs.

One number for Army.  One number for Air Force.  One number for Navy_Marine Corps.

My understanding is, (I might be wrong) [that] Army is the only service MARS using contractor staff personnel.  If true, based on my experience as a DOE contractor myself, contractor FTEs cost significantly more than do federal civil service or active duty military for the same effort.

In the interest of fairness, the most economical MARS organization ought to be the standard by which the others are judged.  Off hand, my speculation would be that either Air Force or Navy-Marine Corps would be the most economic and should be the model for all.


I'm willing to send the numbers to Eric Cantor and Ted Cruz when they're ready. :-)



73
Lee
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AA4PB
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2013, 03:20:52 PM »

"contractor FTEs cost significantly more than do federal civil service or active duty military for the same effort."

I'm not sure that is true if you include the cost of all of the benefits, insurance, retirement, supervision, and HR personnel required for a federal agency to have employees. It does not give a true picture of the cost comparison if you are comparing simple civil service salary to what the contractor must bill the government for his employees. I'll bet the real costs are a lot closer than you think.

In addition, if the work requirements change the government can simply not renew the contract. If the agency has employees then they have all the civil service regulations to abide by in order to lay off employees who are no longer needed. It's also a whole lot easier for a contractor to hire people than it is for the government who must abide by all of the regulations.



« Last Edit: October 11, 2013, 03:25:48 PM by AA4PB » Logged
W6EM
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« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2013, 08:26:32 PM »

Unfortunately, you and I aren't on the same page.  Contractor labor includes benefits and all of the same overheads and it also includes profit for the contract manager.  Agree that contract labor should be for short term, project-focused assignments.  Not for what amounts to permanent workload.

And now, the follow-on comment or two......  We don't hear "newpaper ad quality" hype stories on the amateur radio news sites about any other than Army MARS activities.  Now, why is that?  Probably because there aren't volunteers in the other two branches assigned as publicity authors.  And, Army probably pays its publicity person to compose such stuff.

Why should Army MARS be paying for effort while the other two branches depend on volunteers below their Chiefs?





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AA4PB
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2013, 08:30:48 AM »

I've worked both as a federal employee and as a contractor. Federal managers have a habit of looking at what they are billed for a contract employee (which includes all the overhead) and comparing it to the published salary for a federal employee (which doesn't include any of the overhead) and declaring that the contractor is much more expensive. All I'm saying is that if you compare the **total** cost for each I think you'll find that they are not that much different.
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WA1OEZ
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2013, 08:51:15 AM »

Just as a point of clarification:  The gentleman who does the PR work for Army MARS and puts together those   "newpaper ad quality" hype stories is just another one of the volunteers, not one of the contractors.
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W6EM
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2013, 07:17:04 PM »

Just as a point of clarification:  The gentleman who does the PR work for Army MARS and puts together those   "newpaper ad quality" hype stories is just another one of the volunteers, not one of the contractors.

Good.  Perhaps you might know how many paid MARS staffers there are and what the paid positions actually do for their pay....
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KB4QAA
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2013, 07:13:38 PM »

Just as a point of clarification:  The gentleman who does the PR work for Army MARS and puts together those   "newpaper ad quality" hype stories is just another one of the volunteers, not one of the contractors.
Volunteer Hype?  Oh well that's perfectly fine.  Just so long a contractor didn't write the hype.  Smiley
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W1MSG
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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2013, 10:05:39 PM »

Ok just looked Stephen Klinefelter up on AKO ( Army Knowledge Online ) one of my perks being Retired Army. He is a Retired Colonel and is a GS-15 as the Chief of Army MARS. NETCOM DEP G3 for Operations DA Civilian / Army Retired.

Pretty nice Paycheck, but he is most likely Furloughed at the moment.

73,   Craig W1MSG
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W6EM
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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2013, 05:31:51 PM »

Thanks for researching, Craig.  I wonder if the other two chiefs are GS-15s.  Although, probably not, since they don't administer big supplemental labor contracts.

Sure would be interesting to do a Value Engineering study across the tri-service program.  The DoD cost per volunteer MARS member for each would probably be quite telling.

Lee
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W5TTW
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« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2013, 02:42:37 PM »

It is amazing to me that MARS still exists.  For over a decade the US has been fighting two wars, while MARS members train and wait to be needed.  I hate seeing my tax dollars wasted.
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N9AOP
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« Reply #11 on: December 25, 2013, 09:37:21 AM »

I wouldn't worry.  Compared to the farm subsidy, what MARS gets is like one grain of sand on Miami beach.
Art
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NX5MK
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Posts: 65




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« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2013, 10:39:16 AM »

It is amazing to me that MARS still exists.  For over a decade the US has been fighting two wars, while MARS members train and wait to be needed.  I hate seeing my tax dollars wasted.

It is amazing to me that it's not obvious to some why MARS exists.

That MARS members have not been deployed to war zones should be obvious.

That MARS members have rendered EmComm services is documented extensively, just scavenge this forum and the internet. That will also alleviate the ill motion of "not having being needed". That stems from the false security conveyed by todays connectivity of telecommunication systems. Wait for a super-virus to take out most computers (at least for a while), another Hurricane Katrina - or similar - and trained radio communicators will be sorely needed. Even if such an event should never happen in our lifetime (how lucky we would be!), why steal our fun in following The Amateur's Code?

Regarding wasting tax dollars: I do not know of a better investment than in the MARS personnel. Think of it: having just a few military personnel on the payroll to organize MARS, but thousands of unpaid volunteer Amateur Radio operators providing a second line radio communications backbone, training countless hours without pay. A truly fantastic return on investment! Other countries would count themselves lucky if they had such a radio network.

73 de Marcus NX5MK
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KB4QAA
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2013, 12:35:36 PM »

The Army MARS probably doesn't have six (6) contract employees.  There are probably more than 6,000 people working in Army MWR Bowling Alleys around the world. 
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HURRICAINE
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« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2014, 12:35:39 PM »

If you read the rules for MARS operation, all it takes is for a commanding officer to apply for a license, no amateur radio license required.  can be done through the mail.

Then set up the station and most anyone can operate it.

I would think that it would be operated by anyone that was not On Duty.  Hence if they were able to communicate from their place in the world back to the USA that it would be of great benefit to anyone that had access to the station.

Since most average hams do not maintain a phone patch anymore and most phone conversations has been taken over by private cell phones and the internet - why even worry about the cost or the benefit of MARS.

Eventually all this Army stuff will fall by the wayside as the newer generations don't even know that it exists.
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