JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
From the bed down of the Air Force's next-generation aircraft to new flightlines, child development centers and whole base recovery, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, or AFCEC, is modernizing Air Force infrastructure to strengthen national defense capabilities.
Charged with leading military construction, or MILCON, execution for the Department of the Air Force, AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate is tackling the complex task of modernizing infrastructure, restoring installation readiness and ensuring the sustainability of DAF warfighting platforms.
“Installations play a critical role in airpower,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Slominski, AFCEC built infrastructure executive director and facility engineering directorate chief. “Whether we’re extending a runway or constructing new flightline support facilities or state-of-the-art barracks, we’re delivering cost-effective, sustainable infrastructure and global reach.”
Today, AFCEC’s MILCON portfolio has 139 projects in construction across 48 installations, and 167 in design or acquisition, across 64 installations, with a combined value of $17.8 billion.
From the fence line to the flightline, the MILCON portfolio includes single-facility delivery projects, as well as many large-scale efforts to deliver complex, multi-year MILCON projects.
At Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the directorate’s Natural Disaster Recovery Division is tackling a five-to-seven-year rebuild effort that includes more than 40 MILCON projects at a single installation.
The directorate is also helping major commands prepare for new mission requirements at multiple locations. For Air Education and Training Command, AFCEC is supporting about 50 new or renovated facilities across six installations to prepare for 350 new T-7A Red Hawk aircraft. For Air Force Global Strike Command, AFCEC is supporting the more than $12 billion investment to recapitalize, rebuild and repair the command’s nuclear infrastructure.
From programming through planning, design and construction, AFCEC manages the entire lifecycle of a project. While projects can vary in complexity and scope, the directorate continues to adapt its support approach to delivering critical infrastructure more efficiently and effectively.
“We’re refining our design and construction capabilities to build resilient installations with modern infrastructure that has a long lifespan at the overall lowest lifecycle on time and budget,” said Janie George, deputy director at AFCEC’s Facility Engineering Directorate. “To do that, we’re investing in manpower, skills and tools to advance our support to installations and meet Air Force mission priorities.”
Without knowing when and where recovery support will be needed, the Air Force depends on the agility of AFCEC to provide the short- and long-term recovery and reconstruction support commanders need to sustain operations and stay mission-focused.
The AFCEC-led $9 billion NDR program supports major new construction and facility sustainment, restoration and modernization, or FSRM, projects at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, following intense flooding, and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
“Through the NDR program, we bring a smart mix of capabilities that allow necessary planning for MILCON projects to proceed with minimum impact on the mission,” said Col. Robert Bartlow, NDR Division chief.
Three years ago, the DAF changed its infrastructure investment strategy, or I2S, increasing the infrastructure budget to a base level of 2% of replacement value, and shifting to mission-needs-based prioritization.
That new investment strategy required a new approach to MILCON delivery, Slominski said.
“Mission owners depend on us to deliver on-time, on-schedule and on-budget MILCON solutions,” he said. “Shifting the priority from ‘worst first’ to ‘mission-critical’ demanded a fundamental change in how we deliver built infrastructure.”
In line with the strategy, AFCEC established a capability-based framework to fulfill critical DAF infrastructure support so that Air and Space Forces installations are combat-ready power projection platforms.
“As an organization we’ve evolved from three to five divisions in the last year to better support critical MILCON priorities,” George said.
The directorate established matrixed project delivery teams as part of the AFCEC Built Infrastructure Investment and Recapitalization framework to assess gaps, standardize the approach and improve efficiencies to meet the I2S objective.
This enables the AFCEC directorate to manage its large MILCON portfolio more effectively through a “unity of effort.” The UOE program helps AFCEC achieve strategic MILCON while delivering infrastructure installation commanders need to meet or exceed their mission objectives.
Whether it’s new construction or improvements to existing infrastructure, AFCEC’s UOE partnership initiative is critical to addressing complex challenges and planning efforts to provide mission-ready infrastructure, George said.
AFCEC works collaboratively with installation commanders to meet mission needs with minimum impact on operations and surrounding communities.
Together, they address weaknesses and establish a robust plan to keep construction moving and the Air Force mission in flight.
“Every project is a team effort and collaborative partnership to establish best scenarios, that respond to the requirements and concerns of each installation,” said Col. George Nichols, AFCEC Strategic Design and Construction Division chief.
The recently completed Offutt Air Force Base runway construction is a prime example of how AFCEC phased its efforts to ensure mission continuity for the base’s flying missions.
Before beginning construction, AFCEC supported preparatory work at nearby Lincoln Airport to ensure the Nebraska base’s aircraft could safely operate from that location during the Offutt runway closure.
“We provided funding and worked together with Offutt, Lincoln Airport Authority and the contractors to execute construction on base and at Lincoln Airport. Our planning was critical to minimizing operational disruption and maximizing the schedule at Offutt to remain on budget and on time,” said Eric Staph, AFCEC project manager.
Similarly, the DAF’s Nuclear Enterprise Program, set up as part of the BII&R framework, is leveraging radical teaming to create better transparency and decision-making as AFCEC is embarking on a multi-year design and construction mission to deliver bed down for the Air Force’s Sentinel Program.
“It’s an effort on a massive scale with 550 projects in the MILCON portfolio planned between now and the year 2036,” said Andy Sheehan, AFCEC project manager.
The Sentinel program, which will modernize the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile system, has a lot of moving parts and requires one team working in unison.
“It’s an enormous task to keep all stakeholders -- from Congress down to the installation level -- aligned and informed to be able to deliver the Sentinel program along with our traditional MILCON construction mission, and while maintaining installation alert and readiness,” said Col. Chris Stoppel, chief of AFCEC’s Nuclear Enterprise Division. “This effort requires an integrated team with clear roles and responsibilities.”
To get there, AFCEC brought in all stakeholders during a construction summit last year to identify risks and marry the critical program elements needed to move forward with the infrastructure delivery process.
In addition, the division developed a common operating view, a tool to better plan and assess projects, making sure they are truly linked to critical mission needs.
While accommodating the unique needs of various missions, AFCEC continues to improve design and construction timelines for the MILCON program.
The center developed a facility standard design with functional and spatial requirements for the flightline fire stations across the DAF. The facility at Edwards Air Force Base, California, was the basis for standard design.
By implementing an innovative “fast-track” approach, it helped compress the overall schedule by five months. The innovative design of Edwards’ project won an Honor Award for Facility Design in the 2020 Air Force Design Awards.
To ensure consistency of effort within the AFCEC team, the directorate also instituted tailored educational programs to better provide consistent, predictable support across the DAF. Earlier this year, the directorate hosted a three-day project manager training event to advance the project management competencies of its team.
Project managers routinely navigate a myriad of steps in each construction stage, and this educational opportunity provided guidance on more effective development, design and execution of MILCON projects, said George.
The directorate is also hosting monthly technical training sessions to cover a variety of topics, including energy awareness, corporate facility standards, noise mitigation and serving as an additional resource to help project managers provide more effective and efficient installation support.
“Project managers drive the execution of MILCON programs,” George said, “and the educational opportunities we provide will ensure our civil engineers are highly trained and know how to meet mission needs through effective management of construction programs with multiple stakeholders.”
In the future, the directorate is planning to launch a project manager online platform to encourage a more collaborative approach with a resource library and knowledge exchange site.
As part of continuous improvement, AFCEC also launched a Built Infrastructure Common Operating Picture tool that provides all levels of data to leadership and project managers for timely and informed decision-making.
The capability allows AFCEC project managers and senior leaders across the enterprise to pull key design and construction data fields from across multiple systems to help visualize the performance of the Air Force MILCON program and do a high level of assessment in a timely manner.