Academic journal article Military Review

Ten Lessons Learned about Host-Nation Construction in Afghanistan

Academic journal article Military Review

Ten Lessons Learned about Host-Nation Construction in Afghanistan

Article excerpt

The 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade notified me in January 2011 that I was to serve as a design engineer for our bases in Kabul, Afghanistan. That year, Money as a Weapon System--Afghanistan (MAAWS-A) was in full effect, and U.S. Army vertical engineers were in short supply. (1) Therefore, the Army relied heavily on Afghan companies for new construction. During the deployment, I was responsible for designing this new construction in the Kabul Base Cluster, projects totaling $170 million. My responsibilities expanded midway through the tour when I assumed the additional role of overseeing all construction operations in the region.

Having no prior experience as a civil engineer, these jobs were well above my expertise. Prior to deployment, my engineering experience focused on vehicles and robotics, with my only civil engineering training being in the Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC). So, like any good soldier, I learned, adapted, and overcame.

Over the course of the year, I learned a lot about Afghan construction. The following ten lessons proved invaluable to me and could likewise prove useful for others overseeing construction operations in Afghanistan.

Lesson 1--The Process for New Construction Was Straightforward but Took Time

The process for approving new construction in Afghanistan was similar to that in the United States. The process began with a commander submitting a request for new construction. This was followed by a site survey and a design for the construction project. The project proposal went before a Joint Facilities Utilization Board, where a general officer, who had approval authority for projects under $750,000, could approve it. (2) The money was allocated after the project was approved.

While the money was being procured, a complete set of engineering drawings and a statement of work (SOW) were completed. Those documents became available to Afghan construction companies so they could bid on projects. Interested companies could submit a technical proposal and a bid. We then reviewed the technical proposals. (These were often just reiterations of the SOW for technical feasibility.) Subsequently, the contract was awarded to the company with the most technically feasible proposal and the lowest cost.

Following the award of a contract, there would be a kick-off meeting with the Afghan companies at which time we would go through the SOW, answer any questions, and reiterate key deadlines. A contract officer representative would be assigned for each project with instructions to contact us with any technical issues that arose between inspections. The project would then begin, with a typical period of performance of ninety days, although they typically ran thirty to sixty days over. Over the course of the project, we would have monthly job-site inspections to check progress and adherence to the SOW.

When a project was completed, it would undergo a final inspection, and projects that were on a major base required an additional inspection by the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). LOGCAP is a program where an American company contracts logistics support for the military. The LOGCAP included companies such as KBR, DynCorp, and Fluor. (3) In my region, Fluor had the LOGCAP contract. Fluor representatives would inspect the new construction, and, upon a successful inspection, they would take ownership of the upkeep and maintenance of the building.

Expedited projects could go through this entire process in four to six months; however, most projects would take six to eight months. Due to the length of the process, which often overlapped unit deployments, the majority of our construction was designed by our predecessors. Similarly, the majority of our designs were built by our successors.

Lesson 2--Afghan Companies Often Would Mislead You to Get a Contract

Afghanistan has been in turmoil since the Russian invasion in 1979. …

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