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9 Bizarre (and Curious) Government Contract Jobs

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The US government is constantly posting calls for products and specialized jobs on its Federal Business Opportunities site. Here are some of the most intriguing openings and requests.

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Government spending has received more public focus over the past months as Congress decides where to cut spending and how to slow the growth of the country's large national debt. Certain expenditures have caused larger uproars than others. Lawmakers, for example, have scrutinized the reasons for the Department of Homeland Security's ammunition purchases over past months, purportedly numbering billions of rounds. The original claims against the DHS may have been exaggerated, though, as solicitations for ammunition posted on government websites show much lower numbers.

Though most people may not be aware of it, the federal government posts dozens of bizarre and interesting contractor jobs and purchase requests on its Federal Business Opportunities website daily. Anyone can peruse the list of contracts and check out how the government uses his or her tax dollars; however, the details may be vague.
Listed below are other strange and interesting posts found on the website over the past weeks.

Cocaine-Addicted Rhesus Monkeys

The National Institute for Drug Abuse, or NIDA, posted a request on April 11, searching for an organization to conduct tests on Rhesus monkeys to determine the efficacy of experimental addiction treatments on non-human primates. To secure the right to conduct the experiment, the researchers must have a laboratory capable of turning the unfortunate experimental group into cocaine addicts and housing them. The control group will be taught to discriminate against drugs while the experimental will learn how to self-administer cocaine.

When administering the potential treatment, researchers will monitor whether it acts as a substitute for cocaine or is ineffective, or even exacerbates the effects of drug addiction. Minyanville called the contracting officer for more details, but he would not divulge information regarding the motives of the experiment idea. He stated that more details would be published in a Request For Proposal, or RFP, on the Federal Business Opportunity website two weeks ago, however, the solicitation page does not contain updates.

Source: Indiana Public Media
This isn't the first time that taxpayer money has been used to force primates to become cocaine addicts. In 2010, $71,623 in federal stimulus funds went to Wake Forest University for testing the impact of cocaine on neurotransmitters in monkeys' brains.

Any Inns at Daytona Beach?

The Air Force had hoped a hotel in the Daytona Beach, Florida, area would respond to a solicitation for a retreat center by April 19. Unfortunately for single Airmen, it appears that no business will provide lodging for a three-day singles retreat from June 28 to June 30. During their stay, the 45 Airmen would have learned how to "enhance [their] personal and spiritual development," specifically learning how "giving proper care and attention to [their] spiritual dimension can also enhance [their] physical, mental, and social aspects."

What type of facility would have been used to help them encounter their spiritual side? Not an ascetic retreat house, but rather one rated no less than "Four Diamonds," according to the AAA standard (five is the highest). Hotels that meet this requirement near Daytona Beach are the Wyndham (NYSE:WYN) Ocean Walk Resort, the Sea Shells Beach Club, and the Shores Resort and Spa.

At the end of April, however, the contract morphed into a request for lodging for an active duty military couples retreat. The 32 couples stayed at a hotel in Daytona Beach from May 3 to May 5 provided by RB Daytona LLC & Hospitality Ventures MA, which received almost $35,000 for the contract.(Added-Chris)

Social Work in Ghana

The US Government Millennium Challenge Corporation posted on April 17 that it seeks an independent consultant to help lead a social and gender assessment in Ghana. The consultant, who must have at least 10 years of experience working on "social and gender issues in the international development context," will provide "technical support integrating gender to large-scale development projects in Ghana."

The Ghana Statistical Service's most recent statistical data from 2010 states that of the 7.98 million Ghanaian women older than age 15, 5.23 million held jobs while 349,648 did not. Including the women "not economically active" raised the unemployment rate among women to 34.33%. In comparison, the total male population over the age of 15 totaled 7.22 million, and 5 million held a job. Last June, the Ghana Statistical Service also released a report which provides a glimpse into the discrepancy between jobs and wages in paid rural work for men and women. It found that five times more men take part in paid employment.

The listing does not specify the nature of the projects in Ghana; it only mentions that possessing experience "working on social integration and gender integration into energy projects" is a plus. Also, the consultant will help with input on environmental and social impact plans, resettlement action plans, HIV/AIDS risk management plans, and human trafficking risk management plans. As for education requirements, candidates must have a master's degree in the social sciences or a field related to sociology. Interested individuals can quote their desired pay for the job.

Robot Surgeons

To operate on a patient at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, the US Army Medical Command awarded a contract last month to Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) for da Vinci surgical instruments. The da Vinci robotic system is a machine that performs minimally invasive surgeries for several types of cancers and diseases. In this case, the government is looking for da Vinci robot systems for surgeries that "human hands would not be able to perform" and for which a patient needs a "robotic prostatectomy" because of his "tough anatomy."


Microsoft Certified Partners

Yesterday, the US Railroad Retirement Board, or RRB, extended the date by four days to May 10 to recieve price quotes from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Certified Partners to enter into a license agreement for Microsoft Enterprise, which helps organizations standardize its IT while remaining flexible. An independent agency in the executive branch formed in 1935, the RRB administers retirement/survivor and unemployment/sickness insurance benefit programs for railroad workers and their families. Last year, the RRB distributed $11.3 billion retirement/survivor benefits to 573,000 beneficiaries and unemployment/sickness benefits of $89 million.

Next month, a Microsoft Enterprise License agreement with a Microsoft Business Partner will expire, and the RRB needs a new parnter by June 30.

Maintaining Old Books and Documents

The Library of Congress, one of the two largest libraries in the world, posted a request on April 15 for help in preserving part of its collection. The solicitation requires a business with de-acidification treatment capabilities on "a mass production level" for the library's collection of hardbound and softbound volumes along with single-sheet materials. (The last category refers to a wide range of texts, including manuscripts, archives, personal papers, maps, drawings, music scores, artworks, posters, newspapers, clippings, scrolls, piano rolls, brochures, and pamphlets.)

Book printers began using acidic paper in larger quantities in the 1850s when wood-grinding machines became available for commercial use. Before the use of wood pulp, paper producers used fibers from used textiles, called rags, in paper making. Acidic paper acquired its name from the use of the acidic compound alum, and it become popular because of its lower costs and ease of use. With the passing of time, however, acidic paper yellows and becomes brittle, especially when exposed to light, air pollution, and high humidity.

Potential contractors had until April 23 to place a bid for the job.

Maintaining Old Light Fixtures

The Secretary of the United States Senate wants to turn back the clock to 1857 and restore and electrify a 6-armed Cornelius & Baker armorial fixture acquired for the Senate collection in 2005. Contractors have until May 29 to place a bid to work with the Office of Senate Curator to restore the 19th century fixture to working condition.

A nearly identical fixture once hung in the second floor corridor of the Senate Wing of the US Capitol. Cornelius & Baker provided many fixtures for the Capitol extension, but all of the chandeliers, except for the one in the President's Room, were removed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when electricity came into use, replacing gas-powered lighting. The fixture currently in storage displays embellished figures wearing suits of armor and holding weapons; contractors will need to provide or recreate globes that once rested on the six arms of the fixture.

The winning contractor will work on the project from June 1 to December 31 of this year.

Air Force Amenities

The military does seem to treat Airmen and Airwomen well, compared to other branches of the armed service. For the past several weeks, business solicitations for amenities for pilots appear more frequently than similar requests for other soldiers.

One such solicitation posted last week seeks a juice bar concessionaire for the fitness center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska. For having the privilege of operating a drink stand similar to Jamba Juice (NASDAQ:JMBA) and selling "fruit smoothies, protein shakes, and other healthy nutritional products" for a year beginning on June 1, the smoothie bar operator will have to pay the Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentality of the United States government, or NAFI, 12% of its gross revenue. This drink stand owner will be unable to sell alcoholic beverages.

Bids will be accepted until May 10.

Photography on the Borders

Last month, the government revealed which types of cameras the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, uses for immigration security purposes when it posted a request for Nikon (TYO:7731) cameras and accessories. ICE has utilized Nikon camera systems in the past; a supporting document states, "ICE training has been customized for the Nikon camera system kits currently in use." The solicitation did not state the award amount, but it did provide the 16 item models and the quantities needed, such as 15 Nikon D3100 Digital SLR Cameras and 15 Nikon 18-55MM 3.5-5.6G VR AF-S DX Nikkor Lenses.

Bids were accepted until May 1.

Looking to Buy Some Used Bullet Casings?

This final item posted last week differs from the others on this list in that the Virginia Army National Guard, or VaARNG, looks to sell rather than buy: The VaARNG wants to find a buyer for "42,000 pounds of deformed brass munitions stored in 96 drums" from Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Virginia.

Contractors interested in turning a profit from the scrap bullet casings will have until May 9 to bid for the "US Government Property," and the winning contractor must put up an initial 20% as an "earnest money deposit," which will be reimbursed once the business removes the drums in seven calendar days.

Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
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