January 28, 2005

Idaho Congressional Delegation Members React To Release Of Doe Draft Requests For Proposals

Changes will be needed

WASHINGTON, DC - Idaho's Congressional delegation today made public a letter sent to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Spencer Abraham on January 30, 2004. In the letter, the delegation members laid out principles they believe should guide the DOE approach to its solicitation for management and operating contractors at the new Idaho National Laboratory. Yesterday, DOE released for public comment two draft requests for proposals - one for the environmental clean up mission and one for laboratory operations. The delegation members are now reviewing these drafts, but preliminary indications are that changes will be needed in order for the drafts to align more closely with the principles advocated by the Idaho delegation.A copy of the delegation's letter to Secretary Abraham is attached.January 30, 2004The Honorable Spencer AbrahamU.S. Department of Energy1000 Independence Ave SWWashington, DC 20585Dear Secretary Abraham,Thank you for soliciting our feedback regarding the principles that should guide the solicitations for both the research and clean up missions at the new Idaho National Laboratory. We have appreciated the opportunity to meet with Undersecretary Card, Assistant Secretary Roberson and Director Magwood over the past year and the chance to express this feedback verbally. We also look forward to providing additional, detailed comments on the draft Requests for Proposals when they are available for review, upon their public release.Our vision is that the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will be a strong and enduring multi-disciplinary research center, contributing to national goals in the areas of nuclear power, space power, hydrogen, national security and homeland defense, and other environmental technologies. Further, we share a goal that the INL define its final clean up objectives in a collaborative fashion with both the State of Idaho and its citizen stakeholders, and that it complete the clean up in a timely, safe and cost-effective manner, while ensuring the long term protection of the Snake River Plain Aquifer.To these ends, we believe the following, specific actions will help achieve this vision.To achieve stability and enable the recruitment of top tier researchers and management, the laboratory contract must have a minimum base term of ten years. The federal government always reserves the right to terminate, or cut short, a contract in extraordinary circumstances. Given this existing protection of the governmentâ??s interests, a longer contract term will permit the new INL to stabilize and grow strong during its first operating contract period - while attracting top notch talent. The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory has been hobbled over its recent history by the introduction of a new operating contractor every five years. In fact, this perennial rebidding in Idaho has inflated the DOE-wide performance metric regarding competition, while other laboratories have gone decades without competition. We view this as a failure of the Department, not the INEEL. DOE has the opportunity to remedy this failure, by providing the INL with a longer contract term, now, in its infancy.We further believe that in order to create the strongest research institution possible, it is essential that the INL have full and integrated participation by universities - a true linkage between the lab and universities which would allow for university faculty and student researchers to have postings and do research at the INL under a dual-affiliation. To see the benefits of such a relationship, DOE need look no further than the university participation in laboratory operations contracts at most of its national labs. The many successes of this key university - national lab relationship have been documented throughout the history of the DOE and its predecessor agencies. University participation in bid teams should be encouraged and rewarded numerically in the bid evaluation process.Another essential element in creating a strong lab is the availability of laboratory-directed research and development funding. It is critical that some portion of environmental management funding be made available for laboratory-directed research and development, both to support the lab as a sister institution to the clean up project, and to support the research needs associated with the clean up itself. Efforts to provide a diversified base of support for the INL will also be helped if the lab contractor is encouraged by DOE to seek Work for Others research. DOE must create an environment at the INL which nurtures and attracts non-DOE research to the INL. To create the kind of environment where people want to come and work, the lab RFP should also include a requirement for the new contractor to prepare a list of maintenance backlog and needed infrastructure investments, and to develop a plan for addressing these items over a three to five year time frame. Another attractive recruitment tool, used at other national labs, has been the liberty for top researchers to dedicate a percentage of their time to the pursuit of research of their own choosing. INL contractors should, in our view, be encouraged to utilize these types of creative retention strategies. In the lab work scope, DOE must also decisively address the interconnection and interdependencies between the nuclear energy research programs being done at labs across the DOE complex. Although we have worked hard to increase appropriations for DOEâ??s nuclear energy program over the years, this budget is not at a level to support the entire INL infrastructure. It is even less sufficient for that purpose when diluted and dispersed across the DOE complex. If DOE is to make good on your personal commitment to create a nuclear energy center of excellence at this new lab, DOE must re-define the goals of its nuclear energy program and target the expenditure of funds towards its nuclear energy lab, in Idaho.On the important issue of workforce, bidders must be rewarded for proposing workforce compensation structures that provide maximum incentive for maximum work. This would include hazard premiums, when DOE gets to its greatest clean-up challenges, such as the dismantlement of highly contaminated facilities. This is a workforce that must have incentives for its most skilled and experienced employees to stay with the environmental management work through completion - essentially working themselves out of a job in the process. Bidders should be encouraged to acknowledge this challenge and propose creative solutions, such as appropriate job retraining opportunities. The Cold War contributions of the established workforce should be recognized by providing the ability to move between contracts with maximum flexibility and with portable seniority and benefits. Furthermore, the clean up contractor should be encouraged to propose for itself, performance goals related to workforce mobility, worker retraining, local job creation and regional economic development.Finally, DOE should look carefully at how it will approach the issue of small business set asides. DOE is unique as an agency, in expending the bulk of its funding through massive management and operating contracts. These M&O contractors meet (and frequently exceed) contractual goals for utilization of small businesses. Additionally, many DOE contractors engage in mentoring relationships with small business, creating significant additional opportunity. We know that the Office of Management and Budget guidelines - by their nature - do not allow DOE to reflect accurately its considerable efforts on behalf of small business. Fixing that formula is an exercise outside the scope of these comments, but in the case of the INL, we ask DOE to define small business set asides carefully and in a manner that will truly strengthen the lab and the community.Thank you again for this opportunity to provide preliminary comments. We will provide additional, detailed comments as appropriate, when the draft documents are provided to us. We look forward to supporting your efforts to conduct a successful procurement.Sincerely,Larry E. CraigMike CrapoUnited States SenatorUnited States SenatorMike SimpsonC. L. â??Butchâ?? OtterMember of Congress Member of Congress[30]