Committee Spotlight: Corps of Engineers
In late 2020, Hensel Phelps Director of Operations Ron Mitchell stepped up to the plate to co-chair GCA’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Committee in midst of the pandemic.
Ron and USACE Construction Branch Chief Phat (Pat) Phung utilized GCA’s COVID Committee protocols and guidance to help contractors proceed safely on USACE projects throughout the pandemic and keep employees working.
The spirit of perseverance set the tone for the committee’s 2022 outlook. The committee, which averages about 20 participants, has consistently and confidently tackled obstacles in procurement or construction policies and practices to foster better communication and a more productive relationships between the USACE, GCA members, and others involved in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
Ron credits Pat for establishing a solid rapport between the USACE and the AEC community that allows open communication between both sides of the relationship.
Ron credits Pat for establishing a solid rapport between the USACE and the AEC community that allows open communication between both sides of the relationship. Part of the process involved getting the right people to the table. Pat encouraged transparency between USACE and the AEC community, creating an environment where no topic is off limits. Even difficult, potentially contentious issues are brought front and center for discussion.
For example, contractors and USACE personnel collaborated to find future solutions to price escalation, so that risk does not solely fall on the shoulders of contractors.
“In fact, one of our entire committee meetings was focused on determining areas of future price escalation and what we can do to mitigate risks before this actually occurs,” said Mitchell.
During a separate discussion, USACE agreed that contractors can start billing for certain materials when they arrive on the project, rather than having to wait until the materials shipped to Hawaii are actually incorporated into the construction project. This is a lag that can negatively impact a contractor’s cash flow.
This kind of openness is based on the recognition that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship: USACE needs the AEC community to execute projects, and the AEC community recognize the value of USACE projects.
“Pat is a huge baseball fan and understands the importance of metrics,” said Ron, noting that Pat is, unfortunately, a Seattle Mariners fan. “The health of a project depends on key performance indicators (KPIs), and these are monitored throughout the project.”
To show their commitment to the success of contractors, Pat recently led an open discussion on the USACE’s grading system (CPARS), which evaluates past performance of contractors to determine if they are suitable for future projects.
These types of sessions have yielded ample insights and allowed GCA members to gain a better understanding when bidding on federal work, regardless of whether these projects are for USACE or other contracting entities.