“I love it when a plan comes together,” is an often-quoted line from the ‘80s television show The A-Team. However, for the Planning and Requirements team with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Transatlantic Division 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 (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR). 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 nine 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 years. Despite being a relatively new branch, it is 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, [including] 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 brings discipline to a process, and establishes a solid baseline condition to craft every conceivable alternative as well as gaining new information,” Martin said.
“Most planners are not subject-matter experts [SMEs] 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.”