Dwight Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle, I have found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
While this quote could apply to virtually any long-term planning effort, it’s especially apt in trying to conduct long-term base camp planning in a contingency environment according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ base camp master planners.
Base camp master planners, much like city master planners, look at the long term layout and construction and development plans for a military base to ensure the development is thought out, properly funded and meshes with current infrastructure such as utilities and streets. While the process is not new, it has rarely been applied to contingency operations.
“Over the years, USACE has built up quite a lot of expertise in this type of planning,” said Joey Ball, a camp master planner at USACE’s Regional Planning and Environmental Center (RPEC) in the Fort Worth District.
“However, over the past few years it became apparent that one area where there was a lack of focus on long term planning was contingencies,” he said.
With extensive experience in the USCENTCOM (Central Command) area of responsibility, USACE’s Middle East District (MED) saw this need and reached out to the Fort Worth District for master planning support. An agreement was formalized in 2016 and the first planning conference focused on CENTCOM recently took place at the Middle East District in Winchester, Virginia. In attendance were representatives from MED, the Fort Worth District and U.S. Army Central.
Ball stated the purpose of the conference was twofold. First, to better provide the rotational forces in theater a way to forecast programing requirements beyond individual rotations and secondly, to assist MED in standing up their own master planning cell to better meet the needs of warfighters in theater.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Brotherton, a master planner with U.S. Army Central Engineers echoed Ball’s sentiments saying that a longer term focus was critical to being able meet the warfighter’s long- term needs in an environment that often promotes a short term mindset.
“Up to this point, what we would see is that forces would rotate to a particular contingency base for 9 months to a year and would plan for needs that would arise while they were there. New structures would be built without tearing down outdated ones, locations were chosen because there was space open rather than forethought on what might be needed down the road. These bases were less able to meet the long-term needs of those they were supporting. It’s not always easy to keep long term planning in mind when you’re trying to meet temporary needs but keep in mind that some of our “temporary” bases have been in place for years,” said Brotherton.
Over the course of the three day planning conference, MED, ARPEC and ARCENT were able to produce a five year roadmap for the approximately 20 locations in the ARCENT AoR that will provide planning standards, a capital investment strategy and roadmap to maintain a long-term vision even as forces move in and out of theater. Participating were engineers, program managers, acquisition specialists and a representative from MED’s Center of Standardization for Nonpermanent Facilities which has a readymade library of camp laydown plans as well as facility designs and standards. The Center also has a state of the art 3d printer which can provide a three dimensional model of an entire base layout.
“What we’ve done here is help to provide the rotational forces the information necessary to forecast programing requirements in the appropriate funding cycles. For instance forces currently in theater would need to submit requests for FY 20 and 21. It’s more important than ever to forecast requirements,” said Ball.
Additionally, during the conference they finalized plans to stand up a contingency base camp planning cell within the Middle East District.
“Over time, it became clear we needed a more deliberate in-house contingency base planning capability so we don’t have to rely on others as much for support,” said Alan Zytowsky, MED’s chief of engineering. “This doesn’t mean we won’t continue to utilize Fort Worth District’s capabilities; they’ve really got some valuable expertise. It will however give us a greater ability to support the warfighter, provide better planning support to permanent bases we support in the CENTCOM AoR and possibly assist our Foreign Military Sales customers in their long-term planning efforts.
Oftentimes the rotational forces will only see a few construction milestones occur during their rotations. This group’s efforts will ensure those milestones are only a small part of a larger effort rather than the whole picture.