By Will Boudra, P.E., F.SAME
In 2009, the Guam International Agreement committed the United States to relocate approximately 5,000 U.S. Marine Corps personnel from Okinawa, Japan to Guam and Hawaii. The Government of Japan authorized providing up to $2.8 billion in FY2008—along with the U.S. government’s share of over $4 billion—for the design and construction of new facilities and base infrastructure in Guam for the relocating forces.
However, the journey to complete what will be Camp Blaz, the Marine Corps’ newest operating platform, has been affected by a series of engineering and logistical challenges: geographic isolation, unexploded munitions, extensive cultural and environmental preservation requirements, limited utility capacity, insufficient road infrastructure, a constrained labor force, and a global pandemic. These, in turn, have required Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) to innovate and reinvent the planning, design, construction, and activation process in order to deliver the newest U.S. military installation on a schedule and scale unprecedented since World War II.
NAVFAC Pacific needed to establish an organization, the Guam Program Management Office (GPMO), that was able to simultaneously “feed” two defense departments, two central governments, and two legislative bodies with the program and project documentation necessary to align government funding streams with over 120 military construction project schedules. GPMO provides this support by developing project programming documents, tracking funding, and providing updates on execution, as well as participating in bilateral meetings between the United States and Japan to ensure that the agreements between the governments are satisfied.
Protection and conservation of natural and cultural resources on the island is critical to the success of the Camp Blaz construction program. Upon completion of the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision in 2015, the Navy formalized agreements with the Guam State Historic Preservation Office in a programmatic agreement and with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in a biological opinion.
In response to the magnitude of the construction efforts across the island, the NAVFAC Pacific Environmental Team, along with the Officer-in-Charge of Construction and Camp Blaz environmental managers, retooled their environmental services delivery model to more rapidly address protections of identified threatened and endangered species and cultural sites and mitigate delays resulting from new discoveries uncovered during construction. The services for archaeological monitoring and mitigation of cultural resource sites identified during construction were moved to a dedicated task order on the NAVFAC Pacific Cultural Resource Multiple Award Contract. Proper treatment and preservation of cultural resource items is a very important issue locally. By using a specialty contractor to perform the monitoring and mitigation work, site mitigations were able to be implemented quickly as site conditions and stakeholder input were considered.
To provide adequate capacity to Camp Blaz while mitigating impacts to public utilities, upgrades to the utility infrastructure are necessary. In 2011, the One Guam pillar was established to seek solutions for upgrading the island’s infrastructure to meet these growing demands. Memorandums of Understanding were established between the Department of the Navy and the Guam Waterworks Authority to protect the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer through cooperation and coordination in management of the island’s water resources. Building on this commitment, NAVFAC recently awarded a contract to construct four production wells to supply Camp Blaz. Additionally, a project is underway to refurbish and repurpose existing wells and build seven new observation wells to monitor the aquifer’s health.
To address a capacity shortfall of the Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant, a joint effort between the Defense Department and Guam Waterworks Authority will soon be completed to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant in order to meet anticipated demand from the incoming Marine Corps forces. Once completed, the plant will have an increased total design capacity and secondary treatment.
To meet electrical needs, NAVFAC has projects underway or completed to build a new substation, switching station, and transmission and distribution lines to improve the electrical infrastructure serving Camp Blaz. Many of the lines were placed underground to protect them from the high winds that frequently occur on the island. Guam Power Authority has also invested in its local infrastructure, notably a new 198-MW power plant (with an additional 40-MW of emergency units) currently under construction.
Upgrading transportation infrastructure around the site is another priority to meet the needs of the installation. Roadway, intersection, and bridge upgrades outside of the fence line are required to handle the increased traffic and both heavier construction vehicles and heavy-duty tactical vehicles anticipated in the future. Through the Defense Access Road Program, the Defense Department has secured funding for these improvements, which are executed through a partnership between the Guam Department of Public Works and the Federal Highway Administration. NAVFAC is working in close collaboration on improvements, including the replacement and reinforcement of existing bridges to meet federal highway design standards.
REMAINING ON TARGET
With the expected arrival of the first Marine Corps personnel from Okinawa in only a few short years, NAVFAC Pacific will continue to innovate in response to rapidly developing program challenges. This was recently exemplified by the agency’s creative response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With contractor contact heavily restricted, the vertically integrated program management team from Hawaii to Guam reinvented the on-site preconstruction conference by inviting interested contractors from across the globe to attend virtually. Leadership provided both still and video graphic photo coverage of the project sites in the contract requests-for-proposal.
Additionally, GPMO hosts a bi-annual contractor engagement meeting to provide program updates directly to the contractor community, including one-on-one meetings with contractors to receive direct industry feedback on new and emerging risks to the Camp Blaz program. Issues brought up during these engagements such as bonding capacity, labor capacity, and sub-contractor and supply issues have led to program adjustments that better allowed contractors to develop their proposals, benefiting both the industry and the U.S. government.
Despite both the challenges of the pandemic and the unique hindrances posed by Guam’s remote location, all new construction contract awards in support of the Marine Corps’ move from Okinawa to Guam have remained on plan. When complete, Camp Blaz will play a critical role supporting the rebalancing of military forces and the strengthening of alliances in the Indo-Pacific.
Will Boudra, P.E., F.SAME, is Director, Guam Program Management Office, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command; email@example.com.
[This article first published in the July-August 2022 issue of The Military Engineer.]