A recent contract awarded to Thomas Solutions to run the Special Forces Qualification Course’s (SFQC) Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) might cause a shortage of instructors. Thomas Solutions won the contract with the lowest bid technically acceptable (LBTA), which is so far below the existing contract, the vast majority of trainers, on August 1st, are walking away from the program due to drastic pay cuts. The other bids on the contract were all within one million dollars of one another, but Thomas Solutions was five million dollars lower than the rest of the pack. Because of that low number, they won the contract and might lose the instructors.
The instructors are the bedrock of the program. Many in go complete the Qualification course say SERE school was the best training they received. Some say it’s the best training they’ve ever received after a career in the military. It would be difficult to imagine the course without the instructors. The entire time spent in the resistance training lab (RTL), the culminating event where we were given “hands-on” experience, is a singular and unique experience. It’s wholly reliant on the professionalism and competence of the instructors.
It’s even surprising that a SERE bid went to the LBTA. SERE is a hallmark of the SFQC. It’s not every time that the LBTA is literal. Often, the LBTA is not reasonable, as the other contracts, more expensive ones, are often selected. However, in a departure from the usual protocol, someone in the contract system decided to save the Army some money. It’s likely these marginal savings pale when compared to the Army’s vast sums of expenditures. It’s not just that SERE was the best part of the Q course I remember, it’s arguably as important as any other portion, because if you’re captured and become a prisoner of war, that’s the only training that might save your life.
Unknown to many, there is a SERE community, and there are many SERE schools and courses. This LBTA move is unheard of in the community. There is a high level of risk and a need for well-trained instructors who must have prerequisite, niche training and exposure before they can even apply for the job. The SFQC could end up with unknowns delivering some of the most sensitive and carefully executed training available in the U.S. government.
This is an alarming development, and the implications and potential damage to the flow of the Q-Course are unknown. This is necessary training; it needs to be run as efficiently and as well as possible.