The Afghanistan conflict is America’s longest war, and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has been there since 2002 supporting military contingency operations and U. S. government initiatives. Through various policy shifts in Afghanistan since then, USACE has remained a consistent and reliable provider of engineering and construction services to U. S. and coalition partners.
Throughout the year, the Afghanistan District supported Operation Resolute Support, the NATO-led, non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The District also supports other U. S. partners in Afghanistan.
“Our efforts to provide quality facilities are evident in the number of projects completed and turned over to help establish security and provide infrastructure,” said Col. Jason E. Kelly, Afghanistan District Commander. “As the U. S. mission has evolved, USACE now has additional projects that may carry into the next four years.”
The Afghanistan District operates similarly to other USACE districts in terms of following USACE policies and procedures, but it does so in a contingency environment and with a revolving workforce of military and civilian members. Their work is supplemented by Afghan citizens under the Local National Quality Assurance program where these citizens assist in construction oversight.
The participation of Afghan citizens falls under the Afghan First Program, a NATO program designed to contribute directly to the long-term stability, security, and economic development of Afghanistan. The program also promotes use of Afghan firms- all with a goal of building the capacity of Afghan workers and companies.
The Afghanistan District, in collaboration with the Afghan Builders Association, conducts an Industry Day every year. For 2018 this event was held in April where District acquisition professionals briefed the Afghan construction industry professionals and business owners on Government contracting practices and future business opportunities.
The Afghanistan District, through the contract actions awarded, positively impact the economy by injecting money into local contractors through Section 886 of the National Defense Authorization Act “Afghan First” authority.
The District’s mission is a country-wide, three pronged effort with U. S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A), Combined Security Transition Command- Afghanistan (CSTC-A) with our ANDSF construction programs, and the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with concentration on power generation. In addition, an operations and maintenance program instills the skills necessary for the Afghans to operate and maintain the newly constructed facilities. The District also partners with the Defense Department and State Department to complete water and power infrastructure projects.
Just a year ago, the Afghanistan District was focused on reducing its footprint and aligning itself with the projected workload for a reduced U. S. mission in theater. However, in 2018 that changed with the Resolute Support Commander’s plan for a conditions-based strategy, which included an aggressive train, advise, and assist mission in conjunction with significant increases in the size and scope of the ANDSF platforms.
Our projected workload over the next four years has tripled. New and expanded programs include projects for Afghan Air Force Modernization, Afghan Special Forces, and Women’s Participation Program, while the District remains committed to completing projects identified under the North East Power System (NEPS) and the Southern Electric Power System (SEPS).
“In addition, USAID and the District established an unprecedented partnership to finish out the U. S. contribution to the national power grid, taking on the more than $250 million-countrywide power transmission project. When complete, this project will establish power throughout the country, connecting Afghanistan civilians and military to stable reliable power,” Kelly said.
Over the course of 2018, the District applied the concept of operating at the “speed of relevance at the speed of war,” taking deliberate steps to ensure it was engaged early in the operational planning cycle, connected to its partners, and offering engineering solutions in a dynamic and volatile environment. The District placed people at critical locations where it could best support its partners’ key priorities, increased District access to USACE, and reduced the lines of communication needed in a theater constrained to air movements over geographically-dispersed locations.
The Afghanistan District’s ability to reach back to the USACE enterprise brings the might of the entire USACE team. From design expertise on Women’s Participation Program training facilities to technical specialties for closed circuit television in support of NATO’s effort to secure Kabul in the month’s preceding the presidential elections, the District leveraged expertise from 33 stateside organizations.
The command’s three top priorities are focused on Delivering the Program, Force Protection, and Managing Transitions.
And as we transition from this year to the New Year we do so with nearly 100 projects, 50 in construction and 24 in the pre-award phase with yet another 25 on tap in the near future, and 21 contracts currently scheduled for award in FY19.
We wrap up 2018 and look forward to rolling into 2019 with thousands of Americans, Afghans, and members from the international community working and continuing to work on USACE projects throughout Afghanistan.