DURANT, Okla. - The Pentagon has announced that Choctaw Management/Services Enterprise has been awarded a sole-source contract to provide personnel and staff for the overseas WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) program.
The Choctaw Nation of southeastern Oklahoma owns the three-year-old enterprise.
Final details are being worked out as to the size and scope of the contract that will run for one year with options for four, one-year renewal options, its managing officer Mathew Novick said. The enterprise will furnish physician assistants, nurses, social workers, dental personnel and other medical support personnel at U.S. military facilities around the world, where WIC programs are available to military personnel.
In an article in Stars & Stripes, the Department of Defense estimated the number of U.S. personnel who may qualify for the program at more than 40, 000 women and children in military families stationed overseas and includes civilian federal employees and government contractors as well.
Defense's WIC authorization by Congress follows years of disputes between the department and the Department of Agriculture, which currently runs WIC programs within the United States.
Previously military families transferred overseas lost WIC benefits unless they were stationed on U.S. Territorial areas like Puerto Rico or Guam. It is estimated that one in four families (civilian and military) currently uses the WIC program.
It may not all be smooth sailing for military personnel, Defense sources said, only overseas commissaries and the Navy's 10 overseas NEXMarts accept the food vouchers. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service doesn't as yet. Novick said he expects to be able to serve all of those eligible for WIC within a short time.
Novick said that since this is not the first Defense contract CM/SE has held, the organization has the knowledge and personnel to put the programs into action in a fairly short amount of time and fully expects WIC services will be available to those who qualify very quickly.
The Choctaw enterprise will hire staff locally to man WIC offices, rather than sending staff from the United States. Novick believes that although the task sounds overwhelming, his organization is more than up to it. The first WIC offices, in Baumholder, Germany, and RAF Lakenheath, England, have to be running and open for business in January. Novick said this has kept his staff working around the clock to accomplish.
Defense awarded the sole-source contract to the CM/SE after advertising for bids in the Commerce Business Daily and failing to get even one return. Officials came to the nation and asked it to take on the contract. Since CM/SE had competed several times and successfully received contracts, its reputation for excellence brought Defense to their front door with this most recent contract, he said.
Requirements asked for a management company which could not only set up offices and hire and train personnel, but had enough money to pay wages of personnel hired and all office expenses.
CM/SE has been doing that with medical personnel throughout the United States for some time through other government contracts.
"We have been contracted by the Department of Defense to staff and operate the WIC offices which are located at over 100 Army, Navy and Marine Corps bases throughout the world," Novick said. He estimated conservatively, that by July 2001 more than 200 people would be hired for the WIC positions.
More staff will have to be hired to operate the contract and it is expected that 15 more people would have to be hired for the Durant headquarters. CM/SE is a Native American-owned company with an 8A rating through the Small Business Administration which has enabled the company to continue growing, Novick said, adding he expects to bring in more than $80 million to the tribe this next year, once the WIC contract is up and running.
"All the profits go to the tribe," Novick said. "They utilize it. They earmark it. They are going to buy 12 buses for the seniors of the tribe. They have about $3 million set aside for scholarships. It has also helped with the new hospital project."
The firm holds 10 major contracts with the government at this time, Novick said, two of them already with the Department of Defense. It also has contracts with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Novick credits the inception and success of the program to the foresight of Chief Greg Pyle who saw a need and found a way for the tribe to fill it for government offices.
"It's a wonderful idea, the niche that Greg Pyle created was an amazing niche," Novick said. "The contracting officers look upon us as a godsend."
By contracting with CM/SE, the federal government has been able to downsize and actually spends less money for more and better services, Novick said. The company takes care of all benefits, payroll and training of employees who work in contract positions. Pyle's philosophy has paid off because CM/SE has continued the initiative of hiring only "the best and the brightest," Novick said.
"They find it much more lucrative than if they were to employ people themselves. Out sourcing has become a way for the federal government to downsize their federal force and at the same time provide adequate service as a much cheaper cost."
The original idea for CM/SE has grown to 1,200 employees hired by the company to work in positions throughout the country. It is just one of the Choctaw enterprises making money for the tribe and Novick estimated that all the enterprises bring in close to $300 million a year.
"This has nothing to do with federal grants or casinos, it is pure economic development through their own enterprises," Novick said " It belongs to the tribe. It is theirs, completely, 100 percent owned by them."