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COMMITTEE ON NAVAL AFFAIRS
DAVID I. WALSH, Massachusetts, Chairman MILLARD E. TYDINGS, Maryland
JAMES J. DAVIS, Pennsylvania ELLISON D. SMITH, South Carolina
HIRAM W.JOHNSON, California RICHARD B. RUSSELL, Georgia
W. WARREN BARBOUR, New Jersey HOMER T. BONE, Washington
ALEXANDER WILEY, Wisconsin HARRY FLOOD BYRD, Virginia
RALPH 0. BREWSTER, Maine
JOSEPH W. MCINTYRE, Clerk
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
MONDAY, JUNE 30, 1941
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:30 a. m. in room 212, Senate Office Building, Senator David I. Walsh (chairman) presiding.
Present: Senators Walsh (chairman), Davis, Bone, Ellender, Andrews, Lucas, Brewster, and Byrd.
STATEMENT OF REAR ADMIRAL BEN MOREELL (CIVIL ENGINEER
CORPS), UNITED STATES NAVY
The CHAIRMAN. Admiral Moreell, the committee have asked' you to appear before us this morning for the purpose of discussing your experience in dealing with cost-plus contracts and cost-plus fixed-fee contracts in the Navy public-works program.
Will you please present to us just what the difference is between these two forms of contracts and what your experience has been in dealing with either or both of them?
Admiral MOREELL. Yes, sir.
The so-called cost-plus-a-fixed-fee contract was revived by me in the winter of 1939, when I presented to this committee certain recommendations in favor of fixed-fee contracts in connection with the construction of the extra-continental air stations recommended by the Hepburn Board.
The objective, as stated by me at that time, was to construct these extra-continental air stations with certainty, speed, and economy.
The speed factor was important because we knew so little about many of the localities at which these stations were to be built. In order to make complete plans and specifications, which would have been necessary for competitive bidding contracts, it would have taken us at least a year.
The economy of a fixed-fee contract for these works arose from the fact that a prudent contractor bidding on work which was to be conducted under conditions so little known, would have had to include in his bid a contingent item of very large proportions.
A prudent contractor is the only one who could offer a sufficient guarantee of acceptable completion and, obviously, he is the only type of contractor that we would want for those particular works, especially since they were to be built under most difficult conditions in Alaska, in the Western Pacific, and, to a lesser extent, in Puerto Rico.
I therefore obtained the approval of this committee for the revival of the cost-plus-a-fixed-fee contract. That type of contract had been used to a limited extent during the World War. However, the type
of so-called cost-plus contract which was favored during the World War was the cost-plus-percentage contract. Under that type of contract, for every dollar that the contractor spends on the work, he receives a certain percentage. During the World War it was usually 10 percent.
That type of contract-pardon-me, sir.. The CHAIRMAN. Does the Government supervise the expenditures of the contractor?
Admiral MOREELL. Yes, șir. Very rigidly.
The CHAIRMAN. He cannot buy supplies and he cannot pay wages and employ particular men without their approval?
Admiral MOREELL. No, sir. That is correct.
Senator BONE. Have you checked their pay rolls to see what sort. of salaries are being paid to executives?
Admiral MOREELL. Yes, sir. The salaries are all approved in advance on our type of contract.
Senator BONE. Is that a continuing supervision, Admiral?
Admiral MOREELL. Yes, sir. I didn't bring with me, but I have since sent for our accounting manual on cost-plus-fixed fee contracts which I will show to the committee in a few minutes. It will be here and you will see from that the completenesss of the control which we exercise over this type of contract. Nothing is done without auditing by Gɔvernment representatives before payment is made.
Senator BONE. I asked that question because during the World War under these cost-plus contracts, the holder of the contract would rụn in all his relatives and pad his pay rolls excessively and it appeared on the face of it to be a legitimate expenditure, but it was an outrageous affair and resulted in excessively high cost.
Admiral MOREELL. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. You are speaking about the contracts in the World War?
Admiral MOREELL. Yes, sir.
The cost-plus-percentage type of contract which was favored during the World War constituted, in effect, an invitation to a contractor to spend money freely because for every dollar he spent he received a certain amount in profit.
The degree of control and supervision of those contracts was undoubtedly the best that could be afforded at that time.
When I presented the recommendation to this committee that we be permitted to make cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts, I pointed out that in this type of contract, the fixed-fee type, there is no incentive on the part of the contractor to spend a lot of money because he gets no more fee for it. Now, on the other hand, there is an incentive to do the work economically.
In this commentary which I have passed along to the committee members, that matter is discussed in some detail. This commentary was prepared by Mr. William M. Smith, who was my special assistant, and who has recently died after some 48 years of service in the Navy Department.
Mr. Smith wrote the original fee contract--that is, the fee contract which we first used in 1939, and I asked him to prepare these commentaries which would describe in complete detail the reasons why we adopted and recommended that form of contract.
In this booklet you will find a complete contract with accompanying documents to explain the matter of plant rentals.
On page 1 of this Commentary Mr. Smith makes this statement:
Under the second class of contractspeaking of the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract the fee is not affected by variations in costs, but only by changes in the scope of the work. From this it follows that it is to the advantage of the contractor to accomplish the work at as low costs as possible.
First, there is the human factor. The honest and conscientious fixed-fee contractor, and a fixed-fee contract should be given to no other, is personally elated when he succeeds in accomplishing a job for less money than others thought possible.
He “points with pride” and says “I told you so."
Second, the contractor enhances his reputation for doing work at low cost and thus increases his chances for securing future contracts on favorable terms.
Third, if a sufficient amount of money is accumulated by savings in costs it makes possible an extension of the scope of the work, which in turn entitles the contractor to an increase in the amount of his fee.
Now, I would like to read
The CHAIRMAN (interposing). When does he get an increase in the amount of his fee?
Admiral MOREELL. When the scope of the work is increased, Senator.
The CHAIRMAN. I see.
Admiral MOREELL. You see, we have a certain number of projects in each contract.
The CHAIRMAN. That is right.
Admiral MOREELL. And when we add new projects to the contract it increases the scope, and justifies an increase in the fee.
The next paragraph I think is very pertinent.
The proposition that the public should have a chance to secure contracts for public works constructed by the Federal Government with funds collected from the public, represents a sound public policy. This means, of course, competitive bidding.
In normal times and under normal conditions, it is unquestionably the more expedient procedure. It allays the ever-present suspicion of favoritism and graft and thus tends to sustain the confidence of the people in their Government.
It also tends to keep prices low, but, where the contract price is too low to primise any profit for the contractor or indicates a certain loss, this seeming advantage is often turned into a disadvantage on account of skimping by the contractor on the work in an effort to prevent a loss or to make a profit.
Work taken at a low price must be given rigid inspection and the Government representatives on the work must be constantly vigilant; this often leads to disputes and appeals. The accomplishment of the work is thus often delayed and the indirect costs increased.
Senator Davis. When there is a dispute, to whom are the appeals made?
Admiral MOREELL. The appeals are made first to the Chief of the Bureau and then to the Secretary of the Navy.
Now, I would like to mention to the committee that I have repeatedly gone on record as stating that I favored the competitivebidding method of doing business under normal conditions.
The reason I have favored the fixed-fee contract for our present abnormal conditions is becuase I am thoroughly convinced that this is the only way we can accomplish this national defense program with the speed that
Congress and the public expects of us. To illustrate just what that means in actual figures, I have brought with me a statement which was published in the May-June 1941 issue