After the 1996 attack on Khobar Towers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the U.S. military made a multitude of changes to how it managed force protection. And while many of those changes are highly visible, one of the most important ones, the Design Based Threat Assessment (DBTA), is almost completely unknown outside the military construction industry.
Prior to Khobar Towers there were no uniform Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection standards required for Department of Defense Facilities. In 2002, conducting a DBTA was codified in the military construction process and is a critical, early step in determining ATFP requirements before a military construction project can begin.
Unfortunately, unless someone is extremely familiar with the process, they may not know how to go about conducting one. Fortunately, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) has developed dedicated support to help its mission partners with the DBTA process.
“Due to (where we operate), we have to defend against more threats than a typical U.S.-based facility,” said Stephanie Gates, a structural engineer who’s heavily involved in the DBTA process. “Typically, in U.S. locations, the minimum requirements as outlined in the Unified Facilities Code are adequate; however, that is usually not true for the Middle East. Over time our District has developed experience with the various requirements involved in conducting a DBTA and explaining those requirements to our mission partners.”
Conducting a DBTA involves an entire team of individuals, each with their own expertise. This can include an antiterrorism officer, intelligence, operations, security, logistics, engineering, resource management, and any other personnel with a stake in the design. The end user is also heavily involved in the process.
“The DBTA for the US Development Area at Al Dhafra (Air Base) was a big success due to the Middle East District team. They managed an aggressive schedule, comprising an in-depth analysis of over 60 proposed facilities. Furthermore, they navigated participants from 20 different base organizations across two services through the DBTA process. By the end of their 2-week event, they had set the stage for the installation’s upcoming planning and design charrettes,” said Lt. Col. Ray Elmore, USAF Theater Support Group Deputy Commander.
Things involved in a DBTA can include assessing who or where the threat might come from, what tactics they might use and the likelihood of an attack. Part of it also includes a cost benefit analysis.
“Normally, the engineers and program managers would need a contractor to do this. The scope of a DBTA is specialized and firms understand that the convention of using a percentage of the construction costs doesn’t apply. It’s viewed as a premium service and negotiations for the work can take a long time. Having the TAM team do the DBTA in-house can save a lot of time and money,” said Paul Vecchiet, an architect and design manager who works on DBTA issues for the district.
Gates explained although she’s proud that her expertise may help protect military personnel, the capability was also developed out of necessity and benefits USACE as well.
“Over time, we’ve found our mission partners in the Middle East were continually experiencing issues getting help from other sources to perform a DBTA and since there’s normally a high turnover rate of personnel due to deployment status, they often didn’t have the expertise needed to do their own. With this ability in-house we can expedite the process and keep our projects on schedule because we don’t have to track down information or wait for another entity to perform the analysis for us.”