2020 NSF Arctic program contract award to Battelle

Summit Camp from the air
Above, a 2016 aerial photo of Summit Camp, one of the major facilities operated by NSF's Arctic support contractor...along with Toolik Field Station in Alaska....also there is support for other Arctic researchers in North America, Asia, and Europe (photo credit below).

Battelle announced the award in this 25 June 2020 press release. But this has been a long slog.

First, a bit of history. Polar Field Services (PFS) (the incumbent and other bidder) first started supporting NSF's Arctic program in December 1999 per this 2009 PFS blog post. The leader in the establishment of PFS was Jill Ferris, who worked in McMurdo beginning in 1984 as a shuttle driver...she would winter as the BFC manager and eventually became the Field Operations Manager for ASA in the 1990's. In 1999 she formed the company Polar Field Services, which submitted the successful proposal that year to win NSF's Arctic support contract. Two references to this...first, this 2019 OSU Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center article about her, as she spoke at the Women in Antarctica symposium which I attended in October 2019...and also this March 2019 Arctic Institute article by friend Morgan Seag who briefly mentions Jill's leadership in establishing PFS.

Polar Field Services was a subcontractor to (NOT a part of as I once thought) VECO, the Anchorage oilfield service and construction company. PFS was subcontracted to what was VECO Polar Resources, which was created after VECO was selected as the NSF Arctic logistics provider in 2000 per this ARCUS 11 January 2000 news article. [I was working in Alaska (for Fluor, farmed out to Alyeska for construction projects mostly in Valdez) in 1990-92 I saw and heard about a bunch of VECO history...I'll spare you most of the sordid details about the VECO corruption scandals here (which involved Sarah Palin and Senator Ted Stevens) except to mention that VECO had acquired the former Anchorage Times newspaper, which I saw the demise of while I was there. Have a look at the VECO Wikipedia page for details.]

In September 2007, CH2M Hill acquired most of the remaining assets of VECO, including the subcontractor relationship with PFS, per this October 2007 ARCUS article. PFS would continue to win involvement in the NSF Arctic support contracts. In 2015 CH2M removed the word "Hill" from their branding. And in December 2017, Jacobs Engineering Group acquired CH2M.

On 1 February 2012, PFS started their third Arctic support contract...four years with two potential 2-year extensions. One thing I did not know until later was that in this contract, PFS was a subcontractor to CH2M (and later to Jacobs) per this page archive (which was originally posted in 2014, this update has the Jacobs reference added).

NSF first announced a presolicitation for rebidding this contract in September of 2017...the actual solicitation was first issued in February 2019, and the eventual bid due date after an extension was 7 June 2019. The award to Battelle was officially announced on 20 December 2019, but CH2M (Jacobs Polar Services-CH2M Facility Support Services of Englewood, Colorado) immediately protested. According to this GAO report from 12 June 2020, the "Jacobs Polar Services" appeal was denied. I don't understand all of the legalese in this report, although I've read the detailed explanation.

But...there's more. PFS was NOT a subcontractor to "Jacobs Polar Services" during the bid process mentioned above--they'd split off. Hence, Polar Field Services is STILL running NSF's Arctic support as an independent subcontractor to Battelle. PFS was 49% employee owned, with Jill Ferris still owning the majority of the company until she retired in the spring of 2021. Now PFS is 100% employee owned.

The 2016 aerial photo of Summit Camp at the top of this page is from the Wikimedia Commons and is to be credited to Lino Schmid and Moira Prati. And...some of the most recent information here was shared by Jessica Jenkins, Chief Operating Officer at Polar Field Services, Inc.