KMCC Construction Looking Up

Story and photo by Airman 1st Class Marc Lane
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The Kaiserslautern Military Community Center is taking a major step towards completion.

The Federal Republic of Germany has long recognized the unique issues of this project and is teaming up with the U.S. to jumpstart stalled construction by offering a special funding account to their German construction agent, Landesbetrieb, Liegenschafts-und Baubetreuung, or LBB. 

These funds will allow LBB to pay contractors for work that the United States had not received the appropriate documentation on until last month. It also allows the U.S. to fulfill its obligations under the international agreement Auftragsbaugrundsatz-1975, ABG-75, while operating within U.S. fiscal limitations, a concern of the Air Force Audit Agency and the Government Accounting

Much of the work in question is from a backlog of change orders LBB had not provided the U.S. The state agency is required to submit documents for changes they make during the course of construction. These change orders are provided to the U.S. as justification for the work. Once work has been validated, the U.S. then makes payment. 

***image2***After the U.S Air Forces in Europe engineering staff identified problems with change orders in late 2006 and early 2007 and concerns in management of these changes were documented by the AFAA, changes in business practices have taken place at the site. 

A new German management team was put in place and is now working side by side with their U.S. counterparts on site to resolve past issues and ensure completion. Herr Winfried Schuch, of the German agency LBB, leads half of the new leadership team tasked with managing, coordinating, and scheduling the massive project. Col. David Reynolds, the newly appointed KMCC resident director, and his personnel make up the other half of the team that handles customer inputs, approval process and payment of U.S. funds.

“Even though we still have nearly $50 million to complete the project, we simply could not pay for work until LBB had properly notified us in writing, and we approved those changes,” Colonel Reynolds said. “LBB then couldn’t pay the contractors on work the contractors accomplished prior to U.S. approval.” 

This relationship is unique to German construction. Under ABG-75, the German agent acts on behalf of the forces for construction projects. Their responsibilities include design, solicitation and award of contracts based on the requirements provided by the Air Force and contract administration.  During the actual construction, the German agent provides construction management services including quality assurance, scheduling, cost control, change order management and invoice review. LBB also performs the general integration role in coordinating the work of various trade contracts. USAFE’s role is primarily one of validating the work and paying the German agent for their services.

Unfortunately, LBB had a difficult time managing the many trade lots− more than 30 − that were required of this massive project, according to German construction regulations. 

The German agent is now making progress with the backlogged paperwork, as well as the critical aspects of the remaining design and construction.

“We are resolving our problems to reinvigorate this project,” said Herr Schuch. “Our team members are working very closely together to see this through.”

The colonel, Herr Schuch and their team are working feverishly to bring the much anticipated project to fruition.  HQ USAFE, Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Air Force Services Agency − all major stakeholders in the project − have a vested interest in completing the project. A special task force represented by these stakeholders as well as members from the Air Staff at the Pentagon are doing all they can to help the team effort.   Members of the task force were at USAFE this week for a KMCC Oversight Council meeting.

“Construction has slowed but has never stopped on this project.  While much work still needs to be finished, we continue working the financial and technical challenges that come with any large construction project, much less the Department of Defense’s single largest facility,” said Colonel Reynolds. “This project is especially complex because of limits placed on the U.S. under ABG-75 and U.S. fiscal limits the forces must abide by, as well as the many contractors LBB has had to direct.”
Essentially, without proper documentation, the Air Force could not flow money into the project, and it stalled.  Now that Germany has found a way to solve this problem, work can accelerate.  While the project has taken longer than originally scheduled, both U.S. and German representatives at all levels remain committed to finishing it.

Once Gen. Tom Hobbins, USAFE commander, became aware of the many issues surrounding the KMCC, he put the necessary resources toward the project to get it back on track.

“My main concern is delivering the KMCC to the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who deserve this unique facility without compromising quality,” said General Hobbins.

“The new facility will greatly enhance the quality of life in the KMC, as well as the military and civilian members transiting to and from downrange. We owe the completion of this project to them for the sacrifices they make every day.”

Headquarters USAFE and the FRG are confident the project can be completed within the approved budget limitations. Only 70 percent of the funds budgeted for KMCC construction have been expensed to date. The visitors quarters is over 90 percent complete and the mall 80 percent.

USAFE, its stakeholders, and everyone in the KMC, are anxious to get into the facility.

When will the construction of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center at Ramstein −the Gateway to Europe − be finished?

“That is still to be determined,” said Colonel Reynolds. “LBB is working hard to develop a firm schedule based on ongoing negotiations with numerous contractors who we trust to complete a project which they can be proud of.”