January 7, 2012
By Paul Giblin
BAGRAM, Afghanistan ---- The scope of work directed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through its Bagram Area Office differs significantly from the scope of work supervised by the Corps of Engineers in the rest of northern Afghanistan.
The Bagram Area Office is located within Bagram Airfield, a large international air base that houses between 26,000 to 31,000 military and civilian personnel, and dozens of aircrafts ranging from C-130 cargo transport planes to F/A-14 fighter jets.
As a result, the Bagram office's portfolio features a great concentration of construction work to accommodate U.S. and coalition military forces. In contrast, the other area offices within northern Afghanistan have a greater focus on construction to benefit Afghan army and police forces.
Consider this: As of Dec. 2, across the district, 54 of 318 construction projects, or approximately 17 percent, were associated with U.S. and coalition military forces. That equated to $791.4 million of $2.9 billion, or approximately 27.7 percent, of total spending.
On the same date in the Bagram office though, 30 of 45 construction projects, or roughly 66.7 percent, were tied to U.S. and coalition military forces. That corresponded to $426.8 million of $642.6 million, or 66.4 percent, of the office's spending.
Overall, Bagram office personnel run 30 of the district's 54 military construction projects, and accounts for $426.8 million of the district's $791.4 million military construction budget. That equates to approximately 55.6 percent of the entire district's military construction projects, and 53.9 percent of all of the district's military construction spending.
The Corps of Engineers is installing permanent -- or at least semi-permanent facilities -- at the base, said Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel Gerdes, who took over as the officer in charge of the Bagram office in December. After the bulk of U.S. and coalition military personnel pull out of Afghanistan, a limited number are expected to remain at the airfield.
"Bagram is going through a significant transition during the next year to two years," Gerdes said. "We're transitioning out of a get-it-in, get-it-done, support-the-surge mindset into a long-term, five-year, 10-year vision for the base."
Details and dates always are subject to change, but for the time being, the master plan looks similar to master plans for a similar-sized base in the United States. "The structures that are going in are concrete and mortar, rather than plywood and tent skins. That is a major step," Gerdes said.
The current scope of work features a variety of projects. Among them:
* A network of drainage systems for $9.9 million.
* Road construction valued at $14.3 million.
* A complex for special operations forces, comprised of two phases for $12.1 million and $16.9 million.
* A key component of the overall drainage system will be a tunnel for rainwater to flow under a taxiway near the north end of the runway.
Previously, rainwater collected in a wash -- or to use the Afghan term, a "wadi" -- near a taxiway. The water then spilled over the taxiway, leaving mounds of sand and silt in its wake. The new drainage system will direct the water into a reinforced culvert, then through a tunnel that was bored under the taxiway.
Other work will divert water into existing wadis and creeks around the base. The overall project began in October 2010 and is scheduled to be complete in December 2013.
The road project will replace miles of dirt roads with paved roads, reducing dust in the summer and mud in the winter. The project also will relieve some of Bagram's infamous traffic congestion, which is caused by too many cars, delivery trucks and military vehicles squeezed onto the existing roads.
Road construction is hampered by factors that are unique to the setting: Unmarked landmines and other unexploded ordinance left by Soviet and Taliban forces, and heavy concrete T-walls and earth-filled blast walls that sometimes stand in intended new routes.
Landmines and other unexploded ordnance must cleared, and new blast walls must be constructed and the existing walls removed before roadwork can begin.
The project began in October of 2009 and is set to be complete in December 2012.
The special operations forces complex will allow the secretive military personnel to operate with near-complete autonomy in a facility that essentially will be a base within a base.
The first phase started in March 2010 and is scheduled to be complete in May 2012. The second phase began in October 2010 and likewise is slated to be finished in May 2012.
"We're in a significant transition, and you're going to see that go on and on, as we go on," Gerdes said.