Every project, every program, and every task supports the warfighter every day.
That’s the role of the Transatlantic Division (TAD) as it directly supports U.S. Central Command and other federal and partner agencies in a volatile operational area that spans the 20 countries of the Middle East and Central Asia.
TAD’s work includes provision of facilities for U.S. military forces, support to other U.S. government agencies such as the State Department, engineering services to foreign government agencies under the Defense Department’s foreign military sales program, and construction of facilities in Afghanistan to promote stability.
The work is carried out by a division headquarters, two districts, and two task forces. Each of those subordinate organizations is unique with differing funding streams, customers, and objectives, according to Col. (P) Mark Quander, TAD Commander. “Yet they complement each other by providing the necessary engineering and construction services required by warfighting commanders to carry out their missions in that area of operations,” he said.
“Our role is to deliver the program at the speed of relevance to our stakeholders. That means getting that project to the customer as promised or even early,” Quander said. “When we deliver a project, we also deliver a capability and decision space to the warfighter. That’s critical in the fluid environment in which they work.”
Task Forces and Districts
Task Force Essayons, established in May 2017, provides planning, engineering, design, environmental support, construction management, and real estate services for deployed units engaged in defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The supported unit, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, works with partner nations to help set the conditions for regional stability.
Task Force Essayons, located in Iraq and Kuwait – helps provide cost effective facilities and services from which operations are conducted.
Projects include base camp master plans, site assessments, government estimates, infrastructure assessments, storage facilities, fencing, classrooms and schools, warehouse renovations, installation of pre-engineered buildings, airfield renovations, ranges, and roads.
“Task Force Essayons has captured the essence of being nimble and agile,” Quander said. “The team recently took a project from award to beneficial occupancy in 120 days. They are turning over projects before the users are redeploying from theater. That’s incredible speed.”
Mosul Dam Task Force was established in September 2016 following an agreement between the Governments of Iraq and the United States for USACE to serve as the Engineer and Technical Advisor to the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources for its grouting contract with the Italian firm TREVI to stabilize Mosul Dam.
Mosul Dam, the largest earthen dam in Iraq, sits on a soluble geologic foundation, requiring continuous grouting as part of the regular maintenance operation. Because maintenance was neglected when the area was under ISIS control, once liberated, the international community responded to the need to reestablish grouting to prevent catastrophic failure of the dam. The Mosul Dam Task Force works closely with Iraqi, Italian, and U.S. government contractors and agencies, all focused on improving the dam’s structural foundation.
The project has required Enterprise expertise with more than 85 civilian and military members from across USACE deploying to serve on the task force and more than 350 USACE civilians contributing through reachback.
Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite has said of the project, “We are very proud to team with our international and interagency partners to achieve important outcomes.”
Afghanistan District, a contingency district, has existed since 2004. The District supports Operations Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel by accomplishing construction for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, for the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, and for the Departments of Defense and State to complete projects authorized under the Afghan Infrastructure Fund program.
The work includes projects for the Afghan Air Force modernization, Afghan Special Security Forces, the National Army and Police, the Women’s Participation Program, and the Northern and Southern Electrical Power Systems.
“Just a few years ago, we were expecting the Afghanistan program to wind down,” said Scott Sawyer, chief, Programs Integration Division. “Today, barring unforeseen circumstances, we expect that program to continue for the next four years with an estimate of $100 million in construction placement annually.”
A key component of the USACE program in Afghanistan has been to use predominantly Afghan-owned companies in the construction programs and to have Afghan quality assurance staff assist in construction oversight – all in an effort to build skilled human capital.
While these task forces and Afghanistan District operate in a singular area, Middle East District has existed in a variety of configurations for nearly 70 years.
The District's programs primarily consist of U.S. military construction projects that support U.S. forces across the USCENTCOM area and projects undertaken through the Department of Defense's security assistance program working with allied partner nations throughout the Middle East. These programs currently have a total value of approximately $3.5 billion.
Additionally, the District houses the USACE Technical Center of Expertise for Aircraft Hangar Fire protection, the Center of Standardization for Nonpermanent Facilities, and the USACE Contingency Deployment Center which provides a one-stop shop for recruiting, deploying, and supporting USACE personnel who deploy to TAD contingency locations.
"When our military and allied nation mission partners in the CENTCOM AOR partner with the Middle East District, they are not only getting our entire team of professionally licensed engineers, architects, program managers and support personnel, they are getting the entire depth and breadth of USACE Enterprise capabilities,” said Col. Stephen Bales, District Commander. “Additionally, they are getting the regional expertise, historical knowledge, and relationships we have built through our long-term history in the Middle East. Quite simply, we are the ‘go to’ source for support in one of the most challenging construction environments in the world."
TAD in Transition
Engage, Execute, Evolve – TAD’s strategic imperatives.
Ready, healthy, world-class governing metrics – to increase TAD’s overall effectiveness.
Established in 2009 as a contingency division, in recent years TAD has operated with an even mix of permanent and temporary positions. The high number of temporary positions affected recruitment and retention, and that revolving personnel door affected program execution.
That is changing now, with the addition of 30 permanent positions to the manpower allotment. That change is helping to revolutionize the way the division operates, according to Sawyer.
“The additional staffing and having the ability to recruit for permanent people give us the ability to better and more fully function as a division staff,” Sawyer said. “This increases our capacity to engage with stakeholders and open those vertical and horizontal lines of communication. This expanded level of engagement helps us nest more fully in future operations, and that enables us to respond more quickly to contingencies in the USCENTCOM area.”
Sawyer said that timely engagement sets up the Division for successful execution to meet stakeholder expectations.
To address performance, TAD recently established outcome-oriented, performance-based metrics that address organizational readiness, health, and program cost and schedule targets. The metrics provide an analysis framework to determine the cause and effect of any deviance from performance goals and standards, explore potential solutions to problems, and drive other initiatives to fully evolve.
Evolve – the third leg of the imperatives stool – requires implementing strategies and actions to remain an enduring organization capable of responding to changing conditions and contingency missions. “The ability to evolve amplifies the Chief’s (of Engineers) direction to revolutionize the Corps,” Sawyer said.
“As we move toward being more agile, processes, systems and technology provide great enabling capabilities, but if we are to deliver quality projects at affordability and speed, it must be underpinned by quality people," Quander said. "The investment we place in our people will remain instrumental towards delivering the program for our stakeholders in this very dynamic environment.
“I’m excited about the talent in TAD and the talent coming into TAD. This talent will drive TAD, and these people will solidify TAD’s identity well into the future.
“The addition of permanent staffing is significant,” Quander continued, “as it signifies the (USACE) headquarters recognition that TAD has an enduring mission in direct support of USCENTCOM – not just for USACE but for the Army as well.”