A senior Defense Department official held a conference in Washington, DC last week to discuss his vision and the important reforms that are being made around military construction.
Since 2015, the department has been working to better review projects before construction begins, and to involve contractors and other partners at an early stage in order to better avoid problems after construction has started, D saidDeputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Construction Michael McAndrew.
“We have come up with a lot of projects that should probably not be ready to go up the hill, go to Congress for approval, for approval,” he said during the 2021 Design-Build Institute of America Federal Design-Build Symposium last week. “We found that site conditions were not being studied properly and we were guessing things.”
The Department of Defense – the largest employer in the US – is currently reviewing how best to select and execute its construction projects. The DOD began investigating the U.S. military build around 2015, McAndrew said.
McAndrew said he was reaching out to contractors through the Society of American Military Engineers and asking questions like “How can we do this job better?” or “What are we not doing right?” hoping to bring expertise and improve project results.
The department is also working on definitions in the industry. For example, McAndrew said where the industry would call something “x”, his teams would call it “x plus y so we changed the terminology”.
“This is really supposed to do one thing and that is improve the project’s communication accountability and definitions in advance,” he said.
The importance of working together
He said other areas for reform are examining risks in advance and working with all parties involved in a project. A typical project could mean collaborating with the owner and the sponsored project alongside other users.
“We have a number of people who are getting involved in these projects that we want to bring to the table early on,” said McAndrew. “We will bring in anyone who thinks they have an opinion on this matter early on, documenting all responsibilities and documenting the data needed to manage this project.”
Once signed by all parties involved, the document can serve as a mini-contract to ensure the obligation to share data and define who will share what and when, he said.
McAndrew said more reforms are in sight.
“I have policy changes, I have data and metrics, a lot is going to happen here in the next few years if we do this,” he said.
The symposium also highlighted the growth of design-build in particular.
FMI Corporation projects will have an annual growth rate of 7.6% through 2025, said Lisa Washington, executive director of the Design-Build Institute of America. She said the FMI predicts that Design-Build will be involved in up to 48% of all design and construction operations in the US by 2025.