For the past six years (fiscal years 2006-2011), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been executing the facilities portion of Base Realignment and Closure 2005 (BRAC). Along with force structure changes due to Army modularity, the implementation of the Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy, which returned troops home, and the Army’s initiative to grow the force, BRAC was the centerpiece of the largest transformation effort undertaken by the Army since World War II and its No. 1 stationing priority. As part of that effort, USACE is proud to have designed and constructed $18 billion of facilities for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Reserve, and Department of Defense activities utilizing the military construction (MILCON) Business Process. It’s been quite the journey with the challenge further amplified by having to complete by a date-certain requirement of Sept. 15, 2011.
MILCON Business Process
The MILCON Business Process, formally known as MILCON Transformation, was the project delivery process USACE developed and used to provide quality, adaptable, and sustainable facilities in less time and at lower cost for the Army and other MILCON customers. Key to this effort was the standardization of processes and facilities, establishment of standard requirements, as well as the adoption of private-sector best practices. USACE has moved away from overly prescriptive requirements to performance-based criteria, as well as augmenting design-build acquisition with site-adapt facilities.
Under the MILCON Business Process:
- Designs for Army standard facility types are developed and managed through the USACE Centers of Standardization (CoS) to ensure standardization of facility requirements. Execution of these designs is done through CoS-established regional product-line acquisition tools. Delivery schedules are established by the project managers in the geographic districts after close coordination with all stakeholders to form an Army-wide delivery team comprised of the assistant chief of staff for Installation Management (ACSIM), Installation Management Command (IMCOM) garrisons, users, and industry in order to turn military requirements into facilities and infrastructure necessary to achieve strategic national defense objectives.
- There is a shift from the legacy practice of defining prescriptive requirements to performance-based requirements and criteria allow the market to drive the solution that provides the most efficient and cost-effective means to comply with the facility requirements and criteria. This paradigm shift allows a broad range of construction types and gives contractors the flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions and materials costs by proposing the systems that they can deliver most efficiently.
- The potential pool of contractors capable of providing the needed facilities increases with the inclusion of Type I (noncombustible) through Type V (composite) construction and the expanded use of manufactured building (permanent) solutions. Generally, more competition fosters better pricing for the government.
- USACE solicits for facilities with a 50-year structure life. When properly designed and maintained, all types of construction (wood, steel, concrete, or masonry) can achieve or exceed the 50-year target facility service life. The use of alternative construction types does not compromise the durability of the facility, but does permit facility designs to be as cost effective and efficient as possible while complying with all applicable codes, life safety standards, and other requirements.
- There is a 25-year major repair/renovation cycle that recognizes that the Army uses its facilities and reflects wear and tear or repurposing of interior layout and/or finishes. It also recognizes the reality that Army facility use and standards will likely change.
- Facilities are more efficient and will meet Army sustainability goals to include the mandated energy savings requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Energy Independence and Security Act 2007, Executive Order 13514, Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance 2009, ASA (IE&E) Sustainable Design and Policy Update 2010, and compliance with the International Building Code. USACE will continue to implement improved energy standards and sustainability objectives that are cost effective to meet energy security and independence goals.
- Greater emphasis placed on cost engineering will ensure the Army has in-depth knowledge of market conditions in order to provide sustainable facilities at the best value possible.
Improved Delivery Schedules
The process for delivering Soldier ready MILCON facilities has historically been very sequential. Under notional MILCON, USACE designs and constructs a project in accordance with what’s been authorized and appropriated by Congress. USACE transfers the facility, i.e., beneficial occupancy date, when the MILCON portion is complete. At this time, the facility is ready for fit-out of the Operations & Maintenance (O&M) tails such as furnishings, information technology, and collateral equipment, and therefore is not yet Soldier ready (aka mission ready and troop ready). With some BRAC projects (especially those with completion dates that occurred in fiscal year 2011), USACE in concert with ACSIM, IMCOM, ISEC, and the users purposely accepted greater construction management risk to move schedules left by way of 1) joint occupancy, which allows government personnel to have access to spaces/systems in advance of the entire building being complete to enable early start of fit-out activities, and/or 2) phased occupancy, which is occupying portions of the building with intent to perform objective mission functions in advance of the entire project being complete. An example of the former is to allow government furniture installation to occur in finished spaces prior to transfer of the building. An example of the latter is having a fully functional “BRAC Wing” or bottom floors of a multi-story facility Soldier ready in advance of the entire facility being ready. In either case, what is possible is constrained by construction schedule, life safety, security, and other user operational requirements. This was done only where necessary to best meet carefully synchronized date-certain movement schedules necessary or lease expiration dates to ensure implementation of BRAC recommendations in accordance with BRAC law.
These integrated delivery methods that provide for concurrent construction and fit-out activities require sustained partnership to ensure detailed synchronization with industry, garrisons, and users to develop highly integrated fit-out schedules that overlay O&M tail activities with ongoing construction activities. The combined effect of MILCON Business Process and utilizing joint and phased occupancy: Facilities that have taken two years to construct and another three months to fit-out before being Soldier ready are now Soldier ready in 18 to 24 months. Two perfect examples of such successful efforts is a $67 million project at Fort Belvoir (USALSA and OCAR facilities) awarded in September 2010 and completed September 2011.
Looking Toward the Future
USACE was uniquely postured to execute this multibillion-dollar program via our MILCON Business Process (MBP) that spans the full spectrum of technical and management capabilities of the organization and is focused on delivery of large and mega projects that range in the hundreds of millions of dollars on extraordinarily tight delivery timelines. Planning began in fiscal year 2004-2005 when USACE developed the implementation strategy. Then in fiscal years 2006-2008, USACE created the standard designs and created the regional product-line contract vehicles to facilitate repetitive delivery of standard facilities. An excellent example of this product-line implementation is the $4.5 billion Fort Bliss expansion program. Refining the acquisition process, USACE created adapt-build models providing standard facilities designs that represent the Army’s functional needs and the best industry design solutions obtained through design-build acquisitions in fiscal year 2009-2010. In fiscal year 2010-2011, USACE employed more sophisticated methods to improve and track delivery schedules. Post BRAC, USACE has successfully completed the BRAC MILCON workload necessary to implement BRAC. Ultimately, the BRAC program has been a fantastic learning experience for USACE and provided a test bed for improvements in facilities delivery processes that will be institutionalized for the long-term MILCON program.
In fiscal year 2012, USACE is adapting these standard designs to support energy consumption reduction and sustainable design goals, to improve the understanding and acceptance of the facilities delivery process, and to adapt the process to the Army’s emerging and future requirements, i.e., 189.1 and renewable energy. Presently, since planning and programming occurs two to four years prior, USACE is refining projects at Fort Carson to dovetail with current net zero initiatives.
BRAC has been a causal factor in maturing USACE’s MILCON Business Process, reducing cost and delivery times, and providing a sound foundation from which USACE can execute future facilities and infrastructure for the Army. The MILCON Business Process will ensure the Army has facilities and infrastructure necessary to provide users with the capabilities to achieve national defense strategy objectives. An enduring trait is that USACE will be postured to meet the challenges of future missions in what is expected to be a budget-challenged environment.
This article first appeared in the 2011-2012 edition of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Building Strong®, Serving the Nation and the Armed Forces publication.