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Naval captain: A lot of work ahead on military projects

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An official with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command spoke to construction managers Wednesday night with the message that despite the industry slump, the military has plenty of projects to keep construction busy.

"The bottom line is, we have a lot of work," said Capt. Steven Wirsching, who is the commanding officer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southwest.

San Diego is the primary recipient of Department of Defense spending in the nation, according to the military economic impact study released Tuesday by the San Diego Military Advisory Council. Construction is one area that will see a large boost in the coming years.

Military construction alone has grown by 150 percent in the last two years.

From 2008 to 2010, planned construction estimated at $2.65 billion will generate $5.3 billion of output and 43,000 jobs.

Wirsching told the San Diego Chapter of the Construction Management Association of America that the chief of naval operations (CNO) is focused on repairing and rebuilding shore installations after ignoring master planning bases for years and focusing on ships and planes.

"We've really started to think of our shore installations as one of our platforms," Wirsching said, noting that's not how it always has been. "We've never seen the CNO actually worry about that because it wasn't a ship. This is big, it really is."

That concern coming from the top of command means more money will be spent on construction projects to repair and re-plan Naval and Marine bases.

Gone are the days when barracks would be built next to aircraft hangars, simply because that's where space is.

Instead, the Navy is focusing on building recreation areas next to military housing and multitasking space like classrooms and meeting rooms.

"This is really what the Navy is focused on, is building a facility that is well thought out and makes sense," he said. "I hate to say it, but we really haven't thought about facilities like this in the past, so it's exciting."

The Navy isn't just thinking about new buildings either. Instead, they look at the lifecycles of the new construction -- and think about the length of its usefulness and its disposal before it even gets off the ground.

This attitude is carrying beyond shore installations as well.

"Now this group looks across the entire Navy and they engage with the submarine guys and the air guys and they say 'Hey, where are you going to be in 15 years? How many ships will you have? What will you need?'" Wirsching said.

Not only are they identifying needs, they are also identifying ways to reduce, Wirsching said.

The Navy currently has 330 million square feet of property. It plans to demolish 30 million square feet by 2010.

This will be done by looking at space redundancy and also by getting rid of items the Navy no longer needs, such as supplies for planes from World War II that have been out of operation for years.

"We're not wasting your taxpayer dollars by getting rid of stuff, we're wasting your taxpayer dollars by storing stuff we don't need," Wirsching said.

They also are looking at duplicate contracts for construction and services and eliminating those by 5 percent.

The military makes a lot of money leasing space, so warehouses that can be emptied and demolished or released becomes income. For example, at Naval Base Ventura County, the Navy allows imported cars to be stored after they come off of the boat. The land they are using is only needed during a time of war -- and their contracts with the importers outline that.

Camp Pendleton is also being farmed. More than 100,000 acres were leased last year, resulting in $4.8 million in revenue, Wirsching said.

With so many projects set for the future, it transfers to a lot of work for contractors. There are contracts waiting to be awarded for fiscal year 2008, which ends Sept. 30.

Several new projects for barracks construction in the Southwest area are planned -- Wirsching said the projects are needed because 27,000 Marines are expected in the next few years.

In addition to the barracks, they are focusing on ways to use renewable energy and contracts to build those facilities will need to be awarded, as well.

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