District Provides CENTCOM Commercial Real Estate Support Across the Middle East

Transatlantic Middle East District
Published Jan. 3, 2024
Updated: Jan. 3, 2024
A group of people being interviewed on a patio.

A public affairs team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts an interview with a USACE employee from the Transatlantic Middle East District at an employee housing compound. The Transatlantic Middle East District has a dedicated real estate team that provides commercial real estate support to the U.S. Military throughout the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility.

With over 70 years of history in the Middle East, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) is not only able to offer their mission partners the engineering and construction expertise USACE is known for, but also a host of other niche services developed along the way. Many of these services were developed out of necessity by TAM to better accomplish its construction mission. As TAM developed that expertise in-house, it was obvious that they were able to offer that expertise to other partners in the region and create entirely new lines of operation.  

One of the more recent services the District has developed has been Real Estate support for U.S. military organizations across the Middle East.

Few real estate transactions are simple but when you add in multiple countries, time zones, force protection requirements, and applicable statutes, policies, and regulations the process can be downright byzantine.

John Philpott, the head of TAM’s real estate division said that’s where his office comes into play.

“TAM’s Real Estate Division acquires, manages, and disposes of real estate interests for US stakeholders operating in the U.S. Central Command region. This can include routine business such as procuring housing or office space but also specialized programs on an as-needed basis supporting contingency operations.  When needed, we can also serve as “one-door to the Corps” for other real estate services provided by our sister Districts and Divisions,” Philpott said.

Colonel Philip Secrist, TAM’s commander, said that offering real estate services to other stakeholders in the region developed organically, much the same way many of its other capabilities have.

“Real estate is just one example of something we began doing for ourselves because it needed to get done. Then over time, we realized we could offer that expertise to our mission partners,” he said. “Another example of this is design-based threat assessments. Anything that we build for the U.S. military requires a threat assessment but because our mission partners don’t do them as regularly as we were doing them, they didn’t have the same expertise and started asking us to do them. Real estate is similar. We’ve been trying to procure housing, office space and other land use in the region for over seven decades and eventually our mission partners started asking us to do it for them. Now we are the go-to for virtually all U.S. military real estate leasing in the Middle East where other traditional alternatives are not feasible.”

Philpott said that while he hadn’t worked on Real Estate transactions before being given the task of standing up the new branch, he learned quickly on the job and has a team of well-versed experts.

Christina Rauhala, one of the District’s Real Estate specialists said although the job has challenges, it mostly comes down to the relationships they build.

“The job is pretty simple when you boil it down. Find the property or facility that we need and negotiate the best price for the government. The time differences can sometimes be challenging but if you build a good relationship with the property managers and the people overseas you can trust you’re getting what you need.”

Rauhala also said she enjoys the opportunity to travel as part of her job.

Similar to Construction, Procurement, and Service Contracting Officers and Specialists, Real Estate Contracting Officers and Specialists require specialized training and Delegations (similar to Warrants) that give them the authority to enter into leasing agreements on behalf of the government.

TAM currently maintains approximately 161 active leases across approximately 775 properties in 6 Middle East countries.