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Joint Base San Antonio, Local Governments Can Contract Directly For Public Works Projects

Carson Frame / TPR News
Diane Rath (left), executive director of AACOG, signs an intergovernmental support agreement with Brig. Gen. Laura Lenderman (right), commander of Joint Base San Antonio.

The Air Force and the Alamo Area Council of Governments signed a 10-year intergovernmental support agreement Wednesday. It allows Joint Base San Antonio to go directly to local governments to negotiate public works contracts — instead of going through the federal acquisitions process. 

The agreement is an attempt to reduce red tape and save the base money.

AACOG and its member governments can now try to meet JBSA’s needs using their own capabilities and contractors.

Diane Rath, executive director of AACOG, said it lessens JBSA’s administrative workload while helping local governments recoup costs associated with supporting the military.

“They [JBSA] can really focus on our security and keeping us safe, and we can do the things that cities and counties do,” Rath said. "We can do garbage collection, we can cut grass, we can help them with paving. So our member governments will be able to support the military, and at the same time, expand their capacity.”

“The military is going to realize efficiencies in not having to go through the federal acquisitions process,” added Steve Bonner of Sonri Inc., a firm that consulted on the agreement. He said it would reduce JBSA’s costs “because local governments are generally able to drive better deals with small businesses [than the federal government].”

The agreement waives federal wage rates in favor of prevailing local ones. 

“It’s going to open the door for more local small businesses to serve the military at JBSA,” Bonner said. 

Brig. Gen. Laura Lenderman, commander of the 502d Air Base Wing at JBSA, said the agreement would help speed procurement. 

“Our processes aren't as fast as we wish they were,” Lenderman explained. “We're subject to a governmental bureaucratic process that takes time. This is one way that we can move around that timeline and take advantage of the city, which has fewer constraints in terms of contracts.”

According to Meg Reyes, JBSA’s Executive Director for Community Initiatives, the first local contracting priorities for JBSA involve bulk purchasing, elevator maintenance and well water maintenance.

The agreement does not restrict JBSA from bringing its service requirements to federal acquisitions if AACOG and its 70 member governments can’t provide them at a reasonable quality and cost.

Until now, local government entities like Bexar County, the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) have primarily engaged in public works projects outside of JBSA’s fence line.

In 2017, AACOG facilitated the first intergovernmental support agreement between the City of San Antonio and JBSA for a paving project on Fort Sam Houston. Wednesday’s agreement, however, is the first blanket intergovernmental agreement in the history of the Air Force.

The military service branches have entered into more than 45 intergovernmental support agreements installations around the country since 2013, when Congress authorized them to negotiate with local and state communities.

Those installations have obtained a wide range of services like waste removal, stray animal control, water treatment and testing, road maintenance, custodial services, computer-aided dispatch and snow removal.

In the House Armed Services Committee’s FY20 NDAA report, the panel voiced approval that many installations have entered into intergovernmental support agreements, and pointed out that such agreements had resulted in millions in savings to the Department of Defense.

Correction: An earlier version of this story used incorrect language to describe the name of a company. The correct name is Sonri, Inc. 

Carson Frame can be reached at Carson@TPR.org and on Twitter at @carson_frame.

Carson Frame was Texas Public Radio's military and veterans' issues reporter from July 2017 until March 2024.