––Rachel S. Cohen
The Air Force is planning a $5 billion rebuild of Tyndall AFB, Fla., which was largely destroyed by a hurricane late last year. The work is broken into zones within the districts as shown in the map above. USAF chart from Industry Day slides.
Officials running the reconstruction effort at Tyndall AFB, Fla., last week laid out a 12-part plan to rebuild the base decimated by Hurricane Michael last year, and are ready to hire someone to make sure all the pieces work together—if and when they get the money to do so.
Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, executive director of the Tyndall Program Management Office, told Air Force Magazine in a May 2 interview the scope of the rebuilding effort is so vast the service believes it not only needs someone to coordinate the work within each zone, but an integrator who oversees all 12 zones as well.
Each zone is defined by its location and its major mission, and fall into seven “districts” that include the flightline, support facilities, and more, according to slides from the May 2 industry day.
“We are looking to get a professional services contract to have an integrator, basically someone who is looking at all the different pieces and making sure they are synchronizing and that we’re not going to have a sidewalk that goes to nowhere, or we’re going to have a water line that doesn’t connect up with a water line from the other zone,” Melancon said.
The Air Force isn’t issuing any new contracts for Tyndall’s nearly $5 billion restoration until Congress approves supplemental disaster-relief funding, which so far has been tied up in partisan disagreements. But once they can resume the contracting process, an integrator needs to be flexible enough to handle a potentially bumpy funding stream.
“If we initially only get enough money to do maybe two of the zones, that’s not a whole heck of a lot of integration involved in that,” Melancon said. “We are trying to figure out the right way to do sort of a base award for that design integrator, and then as we get more zones on we will add capability to that design integrator because the more zones we have … the more effort it’s going to be.”
Another initial step will be finding a firm to start designing the base, according to the new master plan, and to help search for construction companies. Theoretically, the integrator could eventually need to wrangle 12 separate design firms plus another 12 construction companies.
Why divide the work? Few companies could handle a multibillion-dollar workload that encompasses the entire base, and having one firm do it all may not be efficient, Melancon noted. Looking for more contractors also fuels competition so the Air Force can get better prices, and allows more opportunities for small, local businesses.
The Air Force, and those in charge of rebuilding the Panama City area, must also vie for the same pool of nearby contractors.
“Post-natural disaster, the labor market gets really constrained because you’ve got way more demand than you have supply, and materials even become very problematic,” Melancon added. “We’re trying to figure out how we can deal with those [factors] in a way that’s going to be fiscally palatable.”
Air Force Magazine previously reported rebuilding facilities that aren’t tied to a particular flying mission, like housing and child care, are a top priority. Melancon said that while the new master plan is in its final stages, officials are refining their requirements so they’ll be sure of what they need when lawmakers approve additional funding.
Although some on Capitol Hill have suggested a disaster-relief bill could be pushed until after the end of the fiscal year, two senators indicated this week there may soon be progress.
“It’s been 208 days since Hurricane Michael devastated Florida’s Panhandle and Southwest Georgia and a disaster funding bill is still in limbo,” Republican Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.) and David Perdue (Ga.) said in a release Monday. “Fortunately, there’s been some movement in the last few days and we hope that both sides are ready to come to an agreement.”
The rebuild effort is working against a deadline of Oct. 1, 2023, when the first F-35s are set to arrive on base. Tyndall also may receive a new MQ-9 mission after that as well.
“The longer that we are delayed in receiving those construction funds, the more that we are going to have to squeeze the schedule,” Melancon said. “You have cost, schedule, and quality. You can’t have all three, so which two do you want?”
After the first industry day in January, nearly 70 contractors and academics submitted about 100 white papers with ideas for a new Tyndall, which the Air Force decided were either worthwhile, possibly beneficial despite some risk, or not the right fit.
Submissions fell into six categories: Resiliency, “smart basing,” master planning concepts, contract acquisition, design and construction, and project management. The service is moving forward with about half of the suggestions it received, and one-third require more exploration, Melancon said.
In imagining the future of Tyndall, she said one standout idea involves developing a suite of sensors that could alert maintenance staff when a building has a problem or parts need to be replaced. Using the sensors for more proactive maintenance would help address issues earlier and avoid higher repair costs as facilities deteriorate further.
“We might be able to get an alert that says, ‘Hey, the motor in the No. 1 cooling tower, the vibrational pattern is off,’” Melancon said. “It might also be able to tell us, ‘Hey, by the pattern that we’re seeing, it’s probably a bearing problem.’”
In about a month, the Air Force plans to hold a gathering to discuss what kinds of sensors it might need and how to harness data about the base once it’s collected. Tyndall officials are similarly looking into the possibility of relying on privately funded energy services like microgrids and solar power, and plans to bring 5G wireless networks to the base are also underway.
A third industry day is tentatively scheduled for August.
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