How to keep tabs on Corps contracts around town
This site shows all the contracts out for bidding currently, and many of the ones whose bidding preiods have passed. Click on the link with "Today" in it to see that day's activities. Other links show you activities in past days. The typical progression is issuance of a "Synopsis," which is available publicly. Usually a day later the actual bid solicitation will be issued, along with a Technical Data Package (TDP) if necessary. The Solicitation and TDP, along with any amendments which might be issued, are not available publicly, since they are behind a firewall called FedTeDS.
FedTeDS is a contracting application that is only available to companies which have registered with the government. To register, you must have a Dunn and Bradstreet number and a bunch of other information proving you're a company and not some pesky citizen. This was changed for the New Orleans District and the Mississippi Valley District (which is above New Orleans in the Corps command chain) just this past February 15 (as seen here), right in the middle of the biggest contracting bonanza since the Reagan Administration. It is all part of the Bush administration's broad-based effort to control information to keep it from falling into the hands of terrorists, though I have a hard time understanding what the terrorists would do with a bid solicitation for dirt.
Before February 15, everything was available to the public, which is how it should be. How in the world are we supposed to trust an organization with our tax dollars if it doesnt let us know how they are being spent?
Another wrinkle is the archiving of solicitations after a certain period. When they're archived, they're gone. But not really. You can go to http://www.fbodaily.com and find solicitations dating back years. The archive interface is a little clunky, but I've pulled stuff out of fbodaily that has been long gone from the Corps' own website.
If you're really interested, you can poke around both of these sites to get a flavor for all the post-Katrina work.
Finally, there is this file that I came across a couple of weeks ago. It seems to have disappeared since then, and I can't find where I got it. In any case, it is an Excel file listing of all the Corps contracts issued for Katrina, Rita, and Wilma through August 24 of this year. It shows over $3 billion spent by the Corps on Katrina alone, some of it a little suspect. I recommend checking out rows 1035, 1048, and 1259 on the Katrina sheet.
In any case, sometimes it's possible to get a peek at a bid solicitation. Here's the one for the rewinding of the pump motors in six stations in Orleans Parish. I got it through a FOIA request. This is the type of document that is essential to understanding how the Corps operates. It shows the exact schedule of rewindings and also the timescale expected of the contractor. This is information that should be available to all citizens.
For reference, rewinding is complete at stations 1, 6, and 7, and remains underway at stations 2, 3, and 5.