Pressure on the U.S. Army to allow minority agencies to compete for its account intensified last week as U.S. Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick denounced the search before a House panel.
She said the Army's decision to require bidding agencies or consortiums of agencies to have at least $350 billion in billings violates a congressional directive to expand use of minority agencies and media. The Michigan Democrat, also charged by the Congressional Black Caucus to look into minority ad issues, promised to "make a lot of noise" both in her caucus and in Latino caucuses if the Army didn't act.
"I urge you to look at the ad contract," Rep. Kilpatrick told members of a House Appropriations Committee panel. "It does not meet the goals we set out."
Rep. Kilpatrick, who serves on the parent House Appropriations Committee, last year helped write a directive into the Defense Department's appropriation bill requiring the military services to use more minority agencies and media.
The public denunciation of the Army followed a private meeting between Rep. Kilpatrick and Army Secretary Louis Caldera in which Mr. Caldera defended the advertising contracting process. Rep. Kilpatrick told the House panel she left "very disillusioned."
"I was disappointed that he didn't believe that $350 million in billings was going to be problematic, in that he was going to rule out the very companies that the language in the law seeks to include."
Army officials did not return repeated requests for comment. They have said that one reason they are reviewing the account is to give the Army more flexibility. The lead agency is now Y&R Advertising, New York. The current contract requires any advertising greater than $10,000 to be done by Y&R. Under the contract being prepared, the Army would have more leeway to award contracts for projects to local agencies.
AGENCY PAY TIED TO RESULTS
The Army is also planning to tie some of its agency compensation to recruitment success. Y&R has withdrawn from the agency search.
When 40% of Army recruits are minorities and the Army has missed recruitment targets, it makes little sense for the Army to eliminate minority agencies from applying as prime contractors, Rep. Kilpatrick said.
"I don't think they will meet the targets unless [Army officials] do something different," she said. "There are several minority businesses who can do the work. We do not need the $350 million arbitrary floor."
Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.