Egypt: Pacer Forge an example of long-term success

Middle East District
Published July 21, 2010
The Pacer Forge Facility Support program provides a means to construct or repair many projects throughout Egypt, such as this water tower near Cairo. USACE photo.

The Pacer Forge Facility Support program, now in its 14th year, represents a longstanding partnership between the Middle East District, U.S. Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), and the Egyptian Air Force.

The program, known simply as Pacer Forge or PFFS internally, currently operates under a cost-plus award fee contract, and delivers minor repairs and construction projects quickly and cost effectively at more than 35 military installations in Egypt. However, as the program approaches the end of Phase 3, it will require a transition away from the award fee format to meet recent changes in MED’s contracting procedures.

Initially designed to provide a quick response for minor repair and construction requests from the Egyptian Air Force, the program has significantly increased in size and scope through the years.

“Generally, one (task order) contract equals one customer,” said Don Aurandt, a program manager in Construction-Operations Division. “Pacer Forge is unique due to the number of customers it serves. While the primary customer remains AFMC, there are now 16 others.”

Egypt’s defense organizations, including the Air Force, Navy and the Armament Authority, now use the contract. The Office of Military Cooperation, U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, State Department, Marine Corps Systems Command, and Department of Agriculture are among the many U.S. customers also using the contract.

Work includes the renovation, upgrade, or repair of facilities; minor construction; and operations and maintenance services. Pacer Forge provides a means to construct or repair any number of projects, such as sunshades, fencing, dining facilities, elevated water tanks, sleeping quarters, concrete slabs, squadron operations buildings, engine test stands, office buildings, and utilities.

“The PFFS program has been the cornerstone of our entire program in Egypt. It has been a great success for the Egyptian Air Force, the U.S. Air Force, and the Corps,” said Roger Thomas, chief of the Construction-Operations Division. “A noteworthy accomplishment of the PFFS program is that it has enabled the EAF to accomplish many politically significant projects in a timely and efficient manner with MED ensuring quality and cost control.”

Flexibility is the key to Pacer Forge’s success, according to Sherif Rizk, the resident engineer in the Cairo resident office who has worked on the program at various levels since it began in October 1996.

“This contract covers a lot of tasks,” he said. “These projects are happening all over Egypt and include a variety of requirements. Yes, many tasks focus on minor construction and repair, but we can do so many things.

A maintenance facility in Abu Qir, located near Alexandria. The PFFS contract is administered by the Pacer Forge resident office. USACE photo.

“Minor emergency tasks are a very useful tool,” said Rizk. “It was added to the contract only a couple years into Phase 1 to better serve our customer, and provides an exceptionally quick response for tasks in these special cases. Once an emergency is reported, the contractor will be notified and is expected to respond within 24 hours.”

One occasion that demonstrates flexibility, and the reason this program is successful, occurred during the current phase. Construction was beginning on a central training center for F-16 pilots when the EAF Chief of Staff decided he did not want to concentrate all of the training in one location; he wanted training facilities on three different bases.

“The training (simulators) had already been ordered and the facilities needed to be ready when they arrived. We used Pacer Forge,” said Rizk, smiling at the fond memory. “We were able to quickly respond by completing construction on three different bases simultaneously. The facilities were ready for installation of the (simulators) when they arrived.”

A project of that magnitude does not reach a successful end so smoothly though without trusting relationships and effective communication. The contract’s flexibility may create an opportunity for success, but the people involved must seize that opportunity and make success a reality.

“There is a lot of communication needed between our program managers and the customer,” said Aurandt. “We have a good, long-term relationship with … the people involved and we have done a good job of providing each customer a high level of attention. It is a challenge to meet each customer’s expectations, but that is always our goal.

“The Pacer Forge resident office in Egypt does an excellent job overseeing the work and we fully support them as best we can from Winchester. The tasks, and challenges associated with each task, are unpredictable, but we attempt to anticipate as much as possible,” said Aurandt. “There are always going to be changes, so we remain flexible and adapt to support the customer and our area office.”

The contractor has also evolved with the workload. A joint venture between Washington International Inc. and Contrack International Inc. now holds the contract. With only some name changes through the years, this same group has competitively won the contract and performed work since its inception. During fiscal year 2009, they performed work on $17.7 million worth of projects.

“The contractor has done a fantastic job and their ratings reflect that,” said Aurandt. “They have been a big part of this very successful program.”

PFFS falls under the Foreign Military Sales program, which supports the Corps of Engineers’ international and interagency mission by providing engineering assistance to foreign defense agencies and U.S. customers operating in foreign locations. A component of the Defense Department’s security assistance program, FMS transfers defense equipment, services and training to allied nations in an effort to increase stability and capabilities for mutual benefit.

The Pacer Forge contract has been issued each time for one basic year, with four option years available. During each phase, the option years have been included leading to a five-year performance period. Phase 1 began in 1996 and concluded in 2001, completing 188 task orders for $60 million. Phase 2 then ran to 2006, completing 210 task orders for $64 million. Phase 3 is in the third option year and is approaching the final option year. Since the contract was awarded in October 2006, more than 100 task orders have been issued for nearly $46 million. Phase 4 is expected to begin in October 2011 and may have a capacity reaching $100 million for a five-year period, but some changes are necessary. As the U.S. government slows its use of award fee contracts, MED must find an alternative that will maintain the crucial flexibility to meet customer requirements on time and within budget.

“We are in the early stages of looking at contract options. We are exploring the options and will go with what’s best,” said Aurandt.

“The key to the success of the Pacer Forge contract is the ability to provide a quality product at a reasonable cost with extreme flexibility,” said Nael N. Nmair, chief of the Egypt Area Office, summing up the program’s long-term success. “There are so many ‘lessons learned’ from this project that have been incorporated into other projects, and that may be the greatest indicator we have something special here.”