Innovation, particularly in the realm of engineering, design, and construction programs, is more than just a buzzword—it's the key to the future in regions as diverse and dynamic as the U.S. Central Command’s area of operations across the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Levant.
For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division, innovation is the essential energy that drives success. From the initial development phase of a project, through the design and construction, and well into the operational phase, innovation drives the relentless pursuit of excellence, supporting sustainable strategies and fostering the development of long-lasting, reliable solutions.
Why is this important? Because the CENTCOM region is one of the most dynamic construction environments in the world, spanning more than 4 million square miles. This vast area is populated by more than 560 million people from 25 ethnic groups, speaking 20 languages with hundreds of dialects, and confessing multiple religions that transect national borders.
Factor in the extreme weather conditions that range from scorching desert heat to unpredictable flash floods, and it's evident that constructions here face unique challenges. Add to this the evolving security threats, and it becomes clear why there is an urgent need to stay agile and forward-thinking. Innovation isn't just an option; it's essential for success.
At USACE, 'Building Strong' means continuously embracing innovation. It ensures that infrastructures are not just built but are durable even in the harshest conditions. It's about fortifying military facilities for the utmost security and streamlining project timelines for cost-efficiency. The Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Divisions’ commitment to innovative solutions is instrumental in achieving strategic objectives for both the U.S. and its allied nations in these regions.
Edward “Ted” Upson, the Transatlantic Division’s Engineering and Construction chief, outlined the division's approach in meeting the unique challenges of the CENTCOM AOR.
"The Transatlantic Division has risen to the diverse geographical challenges of the CENTCOM AOR," stated Upson. "Given the dynamic landscapes of our AOR, innovation becomes even more crucial as we strive to maintain a strategic competitive edge and support CENTCOM’s mission to promote stability and protect U.S. national security interests.
By leveraging new technologies and innovative ideas, we stay ahead in the face of both environmental and security challenges."
One of the most compelling examples of this innovative drive is the Transatlantic Division’s partnership with the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center. This collaboration extends beyond immediate solutions, enabling strategic reach back to the home front for advanced research and development capabilities.
"The Army Corps of Engineers possesses significant research capabilities," said Upson. "They not only help us develop innovative solutions swiftly, but they also provide us with a deep well of knowledge and expertise, which is crucial in addressing the unique challenges of the CENTCOM AOR."
This partnership has resulted in key initiatives such as the development of a groundbreaking 3D modeling system.
"We use this system to map and model remote areas of the CENTCOM AOR," Upson said. "This technology allows us to develop projects or present the terrain to potential contractors who can't conduct site visits due to remoteness or security situations."
Another significant project Upson highlighted is in collaboration with ERDC, "The Distributed Low-Energy Wastewater Treatment System is a scalable, somewhat mobile solution that effectively bridges the gap between basic wastewater systems and full-scale wastewater treatment plants. It's tailored for bases transitioning from expeditionary to permanent status."
“Projects like the Falcon-3 Facilities and Infrastructure, as well as the Falcon-5/F-15QA beddown support facilities under construction in Qatar, showcase our commitment,” Upson said. These facilities, which support the Qatar Emiri Air Force, incorporate advanced construction techniques, state-of-the-art infrastructure design, and modular construction methods.
It's all about enhancing flexibility and expediting construction processes," Upson continued. "These projects also stand as a testament to our division’s legacy of strong partnerships, especially with component commands such as U.S. Air Forces Central and the Air Force Security Assistance & Cooperation Directorate."
Building on that foundation of collaboration, the division's impact extends even further.
"Our division is unique compared to the rest of the Army Corps of Engineers," stated Col. William C. Hannan, Jr., Transatlantic Division commander. "We provide engineering, design, and construction not just for our nation and military partners, but also for allied nation mission partners through Foreign Military Sales, Security Cooperation initiatives, and related facilities and infrastructure design and construction, increasing capacity and enhancing security throughout the entire region."
Emphasizing the division's critical role, Hannan explained how capacity-building enhances regional security. "With military construction, we are increasing readiness and modernization through projects supporting the warfighter, enabling steady-state military operations, and sustaining our nation’s ability to fight and win wars, while also addressing the operational, training and maintenance needs of our allied nation partner’s military efforts, increasing interoperability and enabling sustainable security and continued stability within the region."
As the Transatlantic Division looks to the future, it is steadfast in its commitment to reinforcing its legacy of strong partnerships, embracing innovation, and building strong for decades to come.
"Our mission partners are pushing innovation as much as we are, and we’re working together to expand our capabilities and explore new technologies," Upson concluded. "Our legacy of enduring commitment to the region ensures that we continue to deliver innovative, resilient, and sustainable engineering solutions for our partners and allies."
“I love it when a plan comes together,” is an often-quoted line from the 80’s television show “The A-Team.” However, for the Planning and Requirements team with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM), the quote might more accurately be “I love it when a master plan comes together.”
Comprised of professionals with backgrounds in engineering, planning, architecture, contracting and other disciplines, Planning and Requirements looks at the district’s U.S. and allied nation mission partners’ long-term infrastructure requirements and defines how to provide planning support for those requirements. Typically, requirements include a host of factors impacting construction or expansion of military bases in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Those bases are essentially small cities with the Planning and Requirements branch fulfilling the function of city planners.
Sean Martin, the head of TAM’s Planning and Requirements branch, said in order to be successful, his team needs to be able to do a bit of everything.
“Our efforts can include hydrology analysis, geospatial support for real estate validation, knowing and validating host nation environmental governing standards and everything in between. We recently had to do an archaeological and cultural analysis for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This type of project was a first for our District – even though many of us have supported similar work in previous positions.”
One of 9 specialized planning staffs in USACE, TAM’s Regional Planning Support Center is a relatively recent addition to the District having been stood up within the last five (5) years. Despite being a relatively new branch, they are already making a big impact having been recognized by the Federal Planning Division of the American Planning Association. The branch won an award for “Outstanding Federal Planning Project” on behalf of the U.S. Air Force in the CENTCOM AOR. The project involved developing a flexible execution strategy presented in clear, concise narratives, as well as two- and three-dimensional graphics, illustrations, and video to validate 210 projects valued at $1 billion.
Vanessa Francis Gray, a community planner for the branch said that working on the team and seeing their achievements as been rewarding to her.
“I’m near my three-year anniversary at TAM and it has been a great experience. The TAM Planning and Requirements branch is a laboratory on how to successfully apply planning concepts to complex, high stakes projects. Since my time at the branch, I have worked on a variety of projects including redevelopment plans for host nation critical infrastructure and installation master planning for joint U.S.-Host Nation missions.
One of the most rewarding projects I have worked on is a master planning effort for one of our allied nation partners for a National Defense University. The project combined several of my interests: urban planning and education. I come from a family of teachers and learned over many years about the specific needs of school facilities. This part of my background served me well while creating recommendations and short- to long-term development strategies.”
Martin said what his branch brings to the table is a comprehensive and deliberate approach to projects large and small.
“Planning bring discipline to a process and establishes a solid baseline condition to craft every conceivable alternative as well as gaining new information.
Most planners are not subject matter experts in a significantly wide range of topics, although all USACE planners gain a wide range of knowledge over time. Planners are SMEs in converting conversations to actionable tasks, in analyzing incomplete information to craft a way ahead to successful resolution to minimize impacts to direct, secondary, and even tertiary interactions.”