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Building relationships and infrastructure facilities with Kuwait

Published Jan. 7, 2020
Members of the Kuwaiti Military Engineering Projects Office and program managers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District pose for a photo outside the historic courthouse in Winchester, VA where the District headquarters is located.

Members of the Kuwaiti Military Engineering Projects Office and program managers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District pose for a photo outside the historic courthouse in Winchester, VA where the District headquarters is located.

Pete Heffern, a project manager on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District's Kuwait Program, reviews plans for new infrastructure the District is building in support of the Kuwait's F/A-18E/F program with members of the Kuwaiti Military Engineering Projects Office.

Pete Heffern, a project manager on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District's Kuwait Program, reviews plans for new infrastructure the District is building in support of the Kuwait's F/A-18E/F program with members of the Kuwaiti Military Engineering Projects Office.

When an allied foreign nation purchases military equipment such as planes or tanks from the U.S. through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, there are a host of infrastructure requirements that go along with that military hardware. Often the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is able to design and build that infrastructure but before these projects can begin it’s important for their allied nation partners to understand exactly what they are getting. That’s where a design review comes in.

The saying, “It’s not over until the paperwork is done,” is often used in reference to the more tedious, less glamourous parts of a job but it can also convey the importance of the small details that can make or break a project.  In some cases the saying would more aptly be, “It can’t begin until the paperwork is done,” and that’s probably the best way to describe the design review process.

USACE’s Middle East District recently began a design review with the Kuwaiti Air Force on $140 million worth of construction on a Kuwait FMS case to support Kuwait’s newly purchased F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The design program is the continuance of a survey of existing facilities at Al Jaber air base that identified new hangars, parking aprons, maintenance facilities and other needed infrastructure to operate and maintenance the arriving F-18 fighter jets.

“In a perfect world, these design review conferences would just be a quick discussion of any questions our stakeholders have,” said Pete Heffern, a project manager on the District’s Kuwait program. “The reality is that they are usually a lot more detailed. It’s really important to us to make sure our partners understand exactly what they are getting and everyone is on the same page.”

Heffern noted the participation of the Kuwaiti Air Force in the design review signified the importance of the project to them and the District’s commitment to ensuring a successful project.

“I’ve seen design reviews where the customer isn’t very engaged in the process and it seems like it’s more about checking a box,” said Heffern. “The fact that the Kuwaitis were willing to send an entire team to (the District’s headquarters in) Winchester really demonstrates their commitment to the project and more importantly to us, the strength of the District’s relationship with them.”

For their part, the Kuwaitis sent not only engineers but end users of the facilities being built.

“It’s been really helpful to me to see how the engineers are implementing the needs of the operators as the project proceeds. When completed, the F-18s these facilities house will be the backbone of the Kuwaiti Air Force and I look forward to achieving this huge project,” said Lt. Col. Youssef Al Sabah, a squadron commander with the Kuwait Air Force who will fly the F-18 and also helps oversee the project.

Representatives from both nations readily agreed that the relationships built during meetings like this can be as important as the projects themselves.

“The District’s relationship with Kuwait dates back to the 70s and 80s and it’s still going strong,” said Joseph Zaraszczak, the District’s branch chief responsible for Kuwait. “Some of the people we worked with long ago as young officers have risen through the ranks to become decision makers and still speak fondly of working with USACE. It’s these types of interactions and the relationships they build that speak to the undeniable true benefits and importance in establishing partnerships that will endure as they have in the Kuwait program.”

Husam Al Ateeqi, an engineer with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Defence, Military Engineering Projects office at Al Jabar air base was a testament to that.

“I worked with USACE’s Gulf Region Division (originally a subordinate organization of this District) as far back as 2002. They are always professional and it’s great to work with them again.”