Corps of Engineers does its part to protect federal assets domestically and abroad

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Story by Dr. Michael Izard-Carroll on 08/15/2017
BUFFALO, NYThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers carried out four major facility conditions assessments at U.S. military installations in South Korea in late June 2017, under an agreement with the Defense Logistics Agency in place since 2009.

As part of the routine inspection program, FCAs must take place every five years to ensure federal facilities are up to code, safe, and structurally sound. The purpose of these inspections is to assist federal organizations in monitoring their assets for structural, mechanical and electrical integrity and project future year maintenance costs.

The US Army Corps of Engineers Southwest Division, located in Fort Worth, Texas, contacted the Buffalo District in March 2017, and the Buffalo District was able to send two inspectors. The Buffalo team received practical training by performing a FCA at the Buffalo District headquarters facility in Buffalo, NY. The Buffalo District team of trained inspectors is among a larger team of nearly 280 across the Corps of Engineers.

Empowering multidisciplinary teams is in lockstep with the Corps of Engineer's Brigadier General Toy's vision for work across the Corps of Engineers enterprise. Inspection teams typically comprise a cross-section of areas of expertise. For example, architectural specialists review the structural soundness of buildings by evaluating the integrity of foundations, building superstructure, roofing, windows/doors and interior ceilings, walls, and floors. Mechanical specialists review the HVAC components including AC, refrigeration chillers, fans, boilers, air compressors and fire suppression systems throughout the building. Electrical specialists inspect all electrical systems including switch gear, motor control centers, all lights, alarms, and other electrical systems. Civil specialists, evaluate the outside of the building including fencing, parking lots, concrete, asphalt, guard rails, retaining walls, yard lighting, drainage trenches, curbs and ramps.

"It helps with budgeting for the government so they aren't underestimating or overestimating maintenance costs in case something fails", said Robert Simmington, an environmental engineer with the Buffalo District assigned to perform civil inspections. "The DLA will have a good idea of how much money they will need to set aside over the next five years to keep their properties sound and in good working condition."

The team of inspectors currently complete the inspections with paper and pencil but efforts are in the works to implement a tablet version, which would allow for the data to be uploaded to a centralized database more quickly, minimizing the time currently spent performing manual data entry. In the current process, a quality assurance specialist ensures that the data entry is done correctly and this same individual also runs the reports to review for errors before it ultimately reaches DLA.

The four assessments on this trip to Korea were initial assessments, says Simmington. When the next team of inspectors returns in five years, they will be able to compare the conditions from these reports.

"There is an advantage of having the same person go back to the site because that person would know where to look for any issues that were uncovered before," said Simmington, "but fresh eyes might find something new, which is also useful."

The typical day for the inspectors was about 12 to 14 hours, which involved about 8 to 10 hours of on-site inspections, and about four to five hours inputting the data to the "BRED" database. The team's accommodations were in Daegu, in the southern region of the country and they traveled by train each day to the four project sites, located a substantial geographic distance from each other.

Prior to arriving in South Korea, staff from the Southwest District provided maps of what DLA areas needed inspecting at each site. They spent three days at Camp Carroll in Gumi, two days at DLA Distribution Services in Gimcheon, one day at Camp Humphreys near Pyeongtaek and two days at Osan Air Force Base in Osan. Staff from DLA situated in Camp Carroll provided an initial security briefing concerning the North Korean situation and provided specifics of the evacuation plan for non-military US citizens. The team spent their weekend performing any remaining data entry remaining from the prior work week.

"Our presence in the bases was welcomed", said Simmington. "Commanders were happy to have us there. For senior leaders responsible for short-term and long-term budgeting, having a solid understanding of what assets are available and what assets may need replacing or repairing is critical."

The inspection work of the Corps of Engineers on behalf of DLA is an example of interagency cooperation, which Simmington expects to continue.

The Buffalo District has performed FCAs in San Antonio, Norfolk, Pennsylvania, Jacksonville, Savannah and Ft. Drum in NY; internationally, they have gone to Germany and Japan, and in the upcoming months, they will assist with inspections in Arkansas, Louisiana and Southern California.

"Considering the emerging threat level in the region, the comprehensive services that we provide to the Warfighter are needed now more than ever", said Terry Harrington, Area Manager, DLA Disposition Services, South Korea. "The Corps of Engineers, in their ample assessment of our facilities, ensured in large part that our ability to deliver right reverse logistics solutions to our customers will continue unabated."

While the US Army protects the federal assets on the battlefield, civilian agencies like the US Army Corps of Engineers protect federal assets with periodic, planned inspections and by proving recommendations regarding maintenance.

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