How Did a Marine Corps Food Contract Grow to $1.2 Billion?

Saturday, January 15, 2011
The Department of Defense is on the hook for paying more than $1 billion just to feed the U.S. Marine Corps, now that a contract with a France-based company has swelled with added costs.
What was supposed to cost $881 million is now looking like $1.2 billion, making the deal with catering company Sodexo the largest-ever domestic military food service contract in procurement history.
Again and again modifications were made to the Sodexo arrangement, causing a 36% increase in costs. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has questioned whether all the changes were necessary.
Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by SEIU show that mess hall services at Marine bases on the West Coast were modified at least 36 times between 2003 and 2009.
The deal also contains several “undefinitized provisions” which allowed Sodexo to begin work before the government decided on a final dollar amount.
The government’s top watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, has stated that undefinitized provisions give companies insufficient incentives to control costs, creating the potential for overruns.
Sodexo claims that the increased costs were caused not by them, but by the Marine Corps, and that SEIU is criticizing the company as part of a campaign to gain representation of its employees.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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