Coalition, Afghans adjust security infrastructure plan to meet current, future needs

KABUL, Afghanistan (September 10, 2013) — Military planners overseeing a $9.1 billion infrastructure program to build Afghan military and police bases have saved $432 million by transferring existing U.S. and coalition facilities to Afghan forces and by adjusting ongoing contracts to meet current needs.

The International Security Assistance Force is working with the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior to identify opportunities to transfer existing coalition facilities that meet near-term needs and to adjust plans to build new facilities based on need and affordability.

Afghan forces are projected to decrease from the current numbers of 352,000 to an estimated 228,000 in 2015. The projected reduction means that military planners face the challenge of housing Afghan troops at the current level while ensuring they don’t overbuild, leaving facilities empty but still in need of security and upkeep.

“We’re taking a close look at what the Afghan forces currently have, what they need to sustain the fight, and what they can afford to operate and maintain,” said Col. Butch Graham, the chief engineer overseeing the infrastructure program for ISAF.

While Afghan troops and police are using new facilities, some have gone underutilized or unoccupied, revealing a need to adjust plans that were developed during the coalition’s surge in forces, initiated in 2009.

ISAF is developing a comprehensive view of the Afghan National Security Force’s basing inventory, projected requirements, and anticipated budgets. With this information, military planners are identifying which new construction projects should be completed as well as what opportunities exist to fill short-term needs by transferring coalition bases.

“It’s important to build flexibility into our Afghan National Security Force base infrastructure plan, which the transfer of existing expeditionary bases provides,” said Graham. “We recognize that we must demonstrate good fiscal stewardship of U.S. and coalition funds by ensuring we build only what the Afghan forces need and can afford to maintain.”

The $4.1 billion in new construction currently in place has contributed to the success that Afghan forces have achieved on the battlefield while they assume the lead to protect the sovereignty and people of Afghanistan.

This success has allowed coalition forces to begin a measured drawdown of forces, which has left hundreds of expeditionary facilities available for use by Afghan forces. While ISAF has been leading the effort to adjust the basing strategy, the Afghan security ministries are beginning to take over this responsibility.

ISAF and Afghan officials continue to adapt the infrastructure strategy in view of changes in requirements, priorities and funding. In order to obtain funding approval, large-scale construction projects are often planned years before shovels hit the dirt; actual construction starts two to three years ahead of planned occupancy. These long lead times in construction do not always reflect the changing security environment and operational needs of Afghan and coalition forces, and require review to ensure resources are properly allocated.

ISAF remains committed to the good stewardship of valuable resources. It has implemented a series of actions, such as quarterly review boards, to adjust project delivery dates based on construction risk and requirements.

ISAF’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars and efforts to right-size the infrastructure build out for Afghan forces is an active process involving input from coalition and Afghan officials. The end goal is a network of bases and training facilities for Afghan military and police forces that meet security needs while avoiding the burden of maintenance costs for unused facilities.

“Ultimately, this is about helping the Afghans secure a safe and stable environment in which they can continue to build upon the gains achieved over the past decade,” said Graham.

Naweed yousufi

Freelance journalist

By Voice of After The War