Behind the Gates

U.S. Army Chief of Privatization Ivan Bolden was pleased with his tour of public works at the Presidio of Monterey: “In 39 years, it’s the best shop and warehouse I’ve ever seen.”

The fences that keep the public from cruising across the campus of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey used to also keep city officials out. But ever since 1998, city workers have moved freely on the U.S. Army installation, performing public works services like repaving roads, fixing leaky faucets and mowing lawns.

That might not sound like a big deal, but in the world of behind-the-scenes military contracts, what’s become known as the “Monterey Model” is viewed by some as the holy grail of military-municipality relations. And it’s likely going to be copied by dozens of communities nationwide.

“We’re at the beginning stage of what I think will be a very fruitful relationship between installations and civilian communities,” says Ivan Bolden, the Army’s chief of privatization.

Bolden visited Monterey in August, where he toured the Presidio and spoke at a conference of the Association of Defense Communities (ADC). About 20 city officials from across the county gathered at the Monterey Conference Center for two days of discussing tedious details of snow-removal plans and sharing fire departments.

These are the kinds of cost-cutting measures that cities hope can help them stay attractive as sites for military installations. “You don’t want to be the most expensive base out there to operate,” ADC CEO Tim Ford says. “The majority of defense communities are interested in this concept.”

The first term he served in Congress in 1994, Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, authored legislation allowing the city to contract with the Army on a trial basis. It wasn’t until 2012, when he got language added to the National Defense Authorization Act, that other communities gained the power to do the same thing without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops.

“This is smart,” Farr says. “The Monterey model has worked, and now national folks are taking note.”

But now the city of Monterey is facing obstacles to keeping up its own widely touted example.

A five-year contract expires this November and is up for renewal. There’s also a chance the Department of Defense will bid it out entirely, meaning the city would compete with military service providers like Halliburton.

City Council members Libby Downey and Alan Haffa traveled to Washington, D.C. last month to meet with DOD officials and urge them to keep Monterey in the mix. They offered to conduct an audit proving the financial benefit to the Army – an estimated 22-percent savings for the Presidio, thanks to economies of scale.

“There is an immediate concern about the contract,” Haffa says. “The city may or may not be able to compete.”

Even if the DOD renegotiates the contract, the city is likely to take a deep hit, considering the ongoing budget crisis. Already, the DOD slashed Monterey’s $6.5 million yearly contract by nearly 30 percent in March when sequestration took effect.

That got about a third of 22 city employees reassigned from the Presidio to other neighborhoods.

“We have reduced services,” Deputy City Manager Hans Uslar says. “We are not hanging pictures any more for them, or repainting.”

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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