Sep 3rd, 2012 by Nick
NSF’s Antarctic Support Contract Reading Room is a collection of workaday documents, including payments and terms of service with subcontractors such as Best Recycling, the University of Arizona (for the South Pole Food Growth Chamber), the US Postal Service, and the Pacific Regional Veterinary Command (for sanitation inspection services).
Within these documents one can learn that Otter Pop sales at the South Pole declined over the course of Winter ’08 while sales of Ballistic Berry Bubble Yum increased, that in FY09 RPSC spent $98,000 on criminal background checks, and that the costs associated with “Performance Excellence” have been redacted.
The Reading Room also includes various station guides and the USAP Photo Library.
Also, the Antarctic Treaty Information Exchange lists NGO expeditions.
Just like the Constitution, there’s a lot of talk about the Antarctic Support Contract but it’s not high on most reading lists. For one thing, it’s unclear exactly how the information therein applies to daily life. For another, it’s presented in a dry technical format less inviting than cartoons. But nothing perks up a narrative like money so, at the very least, the Antarctic Support Contract starts with a bang:
Q: How much is the award for the Antarctic Support Contract?
To see roughly how that money is supposed to trickle down, there’s the Centennial/Arapahoe Wage Determination Information.
Why should you care when are the “Award Fee Periods”? Because that’s when NSF spits out a chunk of money to the contractor. Just before that happens, you may find the atmosphere on the ice particularly uptight and jumpy.
Particularly informative are the Q&A sessions, where NSF gives the bidding contractors rare answers to touchy questions, such as:
Q: Will contracts awarded to private companies for the Antarctic Support Contract be subject to the Defense Base Act?
A: No, the contract will not be subject to the Defense Base Act.
Not a life-or-death question, exactly. Unless you have a life-or-death injury while working in Antarctica. Or any injury, really. But there’s no point quibbling over details.
As from all federal documents, there’s a sort of poetry that can’t help but emerge from the rigid milieu of euphemism and unreal tidiness. For example, in the aptly-titled “McMurdo Operations”, we learn that the products born of the waste water treatment plant are “benign cakes”.
For all this and much more, the Antarctic Support Contract is good reading on a snow day.