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NEWS | July 2, 2024

AFCEC team wins Presidential Federal Sustainability Award 

By Debbie Aragon Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s efforts to build more resilient coastal installations were recognized with the presentation of a Presidential Federal Sustainability Award during a White House ceremony June 25.  

The awards recognize federal agencies that are “advancing the sustainability and climate resilience of the U.S. government in ways that cut energy costs, reduce emissions and grow our economy,” according to the awards announcement. 

Garey Payne, from AFCEC’s Natural Disaster Response Division at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and his team won the award in the Advancing Climate Adaptation and Resilience category because of their efforts to integrate nature into resilient infrastructure at Tyndall. 

After Hurricane Michael dealt Tyndall a direct hit in 2018, destroying almost 500 buildings, base leadership, working closely with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and AFCEC, capitalized on the reconstruction to redevelop the base into a resilient, sustainable “Installation of the Future,” according to the announcement.  

This included integrating the use of nature-based coastal resilience solutions into the rebuild plan, serving as a model for other coastal federal facilities that need to adapt to the changing climate. 

“Rebuilding Tyndall Air Force Base after Hurricane Michael presented a tremendous challenge,” said Dr. Timothy Sullivan, AFCEC Facilities Engineering Directorate chief. “Garey and his team were able to turn that challenge into an opportunity by looking at innovative ways to protect the installation at the interface between infrastructure and the environment. As coastal installations work to combat the effects of sea level rise to protect vital missions, the lessons learned from the team’s efforts will undoubtedly serve as a blueprint for future efforts throughout the Department of Defense.”

Tyndall’s nature-based coastal resilience strategy focuses on a layered coastal defense approach, including traditional and nature-based solutions, with improving marine and coastal habitats surrounding the base as a central part of the overall strategy. 

Restoring and enhancing layers of natural infrastructure along the approximately 40 miles of shoreline at the base, including dunes, seagrasses, marshes, and oyster reefs, is expected to help reduce risks to the installation’s critical operations, which are currently threatened by climate change, Payne said. These efforts will also provide new habitats for a wide range of resident and migratory fish and wildlife, indirectly supporting the local marine and installation-dependent economic sectors.  

After receiving the presidential award in Washington, D.C., Payne said he and his team are honored for the recognition as they continue their work on building a coastal resilience strategy that will shore up the Tyndall AFB coastline and protect the installation’s mission through the year 2100. 

They’re also excited for others who might be able to use the plan once it’s completed.

“We know our strategy is exportable to other coastal installations and municipalities that face the challenges of sea-level rise driven, in part, by the effects of climate change,” Payne said.

7 people smiling at the camera with the bay in the background
Members of the Tyndall AFB Project Team pause for a photo as they conduct project site visits on the proposed oyster reef and living shoreline projects in Florida's East Bay off Tyndall AFB. (Courtesy photo)
7 people smiling at the camera with the bay in the background
Coastal resiliency
Members of the Tyndall AFB Project Team pause for a photo as they conduct project site visits on the proposed oyster reef and living shoreline projects in Florida's East Bay off Tyndall AFB. (Courtesy photo)
Photo By: Courtesy photo
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Recipients of the presidential awards represent “the very best of our federal workforce and agencies who have tackled complex challenges and delivered results for a cleaner, more efficient federal government,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory.

“Our federal government is the nation’s largest energy consumer, building and vehicle owner, and purchaser of goods and services, and the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars while delivering on the most ambitious climate and clean energy agenda in history,” Mallory said.

This year’s awards included more than 140 nominees representing domestic and international facilities or projects spanning 10 federal agencies.