By Mr. Justin Matthew Ward (USACE)March 2, 2010
NACHSHONIM, Israel Aca,!" With the completion of an $8 million vehicle maintenance facility at Nachshonim Dry Storage Base in central Israel, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished the last of dozens of military construction projects originally ordered by the Wye River Memorandum, an agreement brokered to ease tension between Israel and the then-Palestine Liberation Organization.
The project, overseen by the CorpsAca,!a,,c Europe District, was part of almost $275 million in foreign military sales projects that came as part of the 1998 memorandum, which, in part, sought to ensure the Jewish state completely redeployed its military from parts of the West Bank into new facilities within recognized borders.
Although the memorandum was the reason the Europe District set up a few small offices in Israel, project delivery accomplishments in the early 2000s led to an increase in demand for military construction oversight services from the Israelis. In fact, according to the DistrictAca,!a,,cs deputy area engineer, Maj. Landon Raby, business is not only continuing after the Wye River projects, itAca,!a,,cs growing.
Aca,!A"We expect to see requests for our support on more and perhaps larger projects in the next few years than weAca,!a,,cve ever seen in the past,Aca,!A? said Raby. Aca,!A"And weAca,!a,,cre looking forward to providing our allies with the same high-level products and services that theyAca,!a,,cve come to expect. ItAca,!a,,cs just how we do business and itAca,!a,,cs the reason weAca,!a,,cre still here.Aca,!A?
Since the late 1990s, USACE oversaw over half a billion in complex, high-quality renovations and new construction, including constructing new command centers, training bases, intelligence facilities and simulators. Roughly a third of that was construction oversight support on projects at Nevatim Air Base, a former small desert outpost that has grown to be one of the largest and most modern air bases in the country.
Already in early 2010, the office has handed over a $30 million set of hangars at Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel and a $20 million headquarters for the Israeli Air ForceAca,!a,,cs most elite squadron. And it is gearing up for its biggest year yet.
Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre getting ready to support the Israelis with a $40 million renovation of a port in Haifa and a $20 million in helicopter pads in Ramon Air Base,Aca,!A? said Raby. Aca,!A"Our proud support to Israeli construction projects would not have happened without the belief of their government in the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers.Aca,!A?
Recently, one of the officeAca,!a,,cs most high-profile projects has been to oversee the construction of several hangars at Palmachim Air Base, in central Israel, which now house the largest unmanned aerial vehicles in the world, the Aca,!A"Eitan,Aca,!A? a 4.5-ton drone with an 85-foot wingspan that can remain airborne for more than 24 hours.
Another much-publicized project has been the $16 million Military Operations in Urban Terrain site at Ze\'elim that, when constructed in 2007, was the largest in the world.
Raby said he is thankful for these projects not only because of the help they provide an important ally in the international community, but also because they represent AmericaAca,!a,,cs practical and concrete steps in de-escalating tension between Israel and its neighbors while developing a proud partnership between USACE and the Israeli government.
Aca,!A"We treasure our relationship because we know that it is a relationship of choice and trust,Aca,!A? said Raby. Aca,!A"And we hope to preserve our relationship by continuing to support critical construction and engineering projects."