News: DLA expands construction role in Afghanistan
Story by Dianne Ryder
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- The Defense Logistics Agency is taking on new responsibilities in support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan.
The Corps has long been involved with the construction of K-Span structures, large corrugated metal buildings used as temporary industrial facilities. But since October, DLA has been helping procure quality materials for the structures.
The buildings are the preferred choice of structures used for training Afghan National Police and Army officials, said Army Lt. Col. Carl Knotts, chief of plans, exercise and readiness branch in DLA’s Joint Logistics Operations Center.
“One of the overarching components of [counterinsurgency operations] is to take the indigenous population and make it self-sufficient,” he said. “In order to do that, since they don’t have facilities out there to help the government maintain control, … we have to build facilities for them.”
K-Span buildings are similar to the type of metal construction that was widely used by the U.S. military during World War II. These arched metal buildings, sometimes called Quonset huts, fell out of popularity after the war, but various types are still in use, Knotts said.
Typically, the Army Corps of Engineers employs contractors to handle the acquisition, transportation, construction and quality control of the material for the K-Span structures, Knotts said.
“Because they’re operating in a combat theater, in some cases they will use combat engineering capabilities [of the military services], but predominantly they’ll use contract construction folks to put these facilities together,” he said.
Because of concerns about the quality of locally procured construction materials, the corps wants to use government-furnished materials, Knotts said.
“What they’ve asked us to do is the procurement, and the strategic distribution to the geographic region,” he said.
DLA’s role in the material management and tactical distribution at the construction sites has yet to be defined, Knotts said.
“But they’ve asked [DLA to do] the beginning piece of it, … the actual procurement, particularly of the long-lead items so we can start putting that stuff in that pipeline to get it to that region,” Knotts said.
He said the K-Span facilities are necessary for Afghan security.
“It’s an integral component of counterinsurgency operations strategy, that is, you build government capacity so that you can withdraw the U.S. forces,” Knotts said. “Then you create a positive U.S. partner. … It’s all linked to national strategy.”
Because President Barack Obama’s objective is to substantially reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 2014 or earlier, Knotts said, timing is critical.
“That’s the overarching goal, and that’s the intent … to synchronize the U.S. construction timeline to build infrastructure for the Afghan national police and army,” he said. “This is part of our strategy to win in Afghanistan; this has got to be done. It’s huge with regard to the operational [and] strategic effort.”
Knotts notes that performing well in this effort will provide a basis for future business opportunities for DLA.
“From an agency perspective, it’s an expansion into a business line that we generally didn’t have a business presence [of this magnitude],” he said. “This is a chance for us to … demonstrate that we can do this and do it well.”
There is also an opportunity for DLA to be more involved in the construction and barrier material, or Class IV supply chain, for future Corps of Engineers projects, Knotts said.
Knotts said he is confident that expanding DLA’s business capability in this way will increase the value of DLA’s services to customers.
“Anytime you bring capabilities together, consolidate, you achieve some form of efficiency and effectiveness,” he said. “This is not a one-shot [deal]; it’s about a three-year project. This is continual business with DLA, building different aspects of DLA’s business.”