Chapter VII:
Facilities Engineering
Facilities engineering, as distinct from new construction, refers to the series of operations carried out after basic structures are complete. It involves the services necessary to keep any large physical plant functioning efficiently: maintenance and repair of buildings, surfaced areas and grounds, service to refrigeration and air conditioning, minor ancillary construction, fire prevention, removal of trash and sewage, rodent and insect control, water purification, custodial services, management of property, engineer planning, supply of maintenance materials, and maintenance of equipment used in the upkeep of a base.
For these operations the Army relied heavily on civilian contractors working under an arrangement in which the contractor provided labor, organization, and management, while the Army provided tools, repair parts, supply, mess facilities, and quarters for the work force.
A number of factors influenced how facilities engineering support would be provided. Contingency planning for operations in Vietnam had not, in any of the joint service plans, developed a requirement for facilities engineering forces. While operations in Vietnam were substantially different from those assumed in developing contingency plans, the fact remained that plans were not developed to support facilities once erected during previous sessions of contingency planning. The inability to produce the manpower for a military facilities engineer force severely limited other military engineer capabilities from the outset. Most of the engineer utilities detachments intended for facilities engineering were in Reserve status, and the decision not to mobilize the Reserve meant that these forces would be unavailable. The strict limitations on personnel strength in Vietnam and the desire to keep the ratio of support troops as low as possible forced consideration of a predominantly civilian work force. However, low ceilings were imposed on direct hiring, a complex and slow procedure; this left a civilian contract force as the only feasible alternative. Consequently, with the buildup the Army called upon Pacific Architects and Engineers to expand its organization as the pace of facilities construction in-

creased. The contractor's response was commendable, although not without problems. His strength grew from 274 men located at six adviser sites in 1963 to a peak strength of over 24,000 in 1968 at more than 120 locations.
The piecemeal nature of the buildup made it almost impossible to predict future requirements or even the eventual location of incoming troop units. The system which evolved was to tailor the contractor's organization to meet the needs of each installation as it was established and expanded. The PA&E work force was made up of a combination of U.S. civilians, Vietnamese, and other nationalities. The force mix was about 5 percent American, 15 percent other country, and 80 percent Vietnamese. The contract with PA&E grew to approximately $100 million per year, not including government-furnished supplies amounting to approximately $20 million.
While the Army relied heavily on Pacific Architects and Engineers, it knew that the contractor could not do all the work. His civilian workmen could not enter certain areas of the combat zone and would go off the job when curfews and strikes were ordered. There were, however, approximately 1,450 engineer troops mobilized and deployed in Vietnam as utilities detachments and firefighting and water purification teams. (See Chart 5.) Military power plant operation and water supply companies ranged in size from four to forty men. While some of these units operated at the same locations as the contractor's forces, they were stationed primarily in outlying areas where for security reasons civilians were barred.
In addition to the PA&E work force and the engineer utility detachments, there were a number of smaller contracts let for specific kinds of facilities engineering support. But, except for contracts with the Navy and Philco-Ford in I Corps and with Vinnell for electric power generation, these contracts will not be discussed individually.
In sharp contrast to the Army, the Air Force facilities engineering forces were predominantly military. During peacetime, the Air Force had maintained a significant number of military personnel as facility maintenance engineers in its stateside installations. This gave the Air Force a good base upon which to draw when the conflict in Vietnam developed. A base civil engineer force is an integral part of an Air Force wing, and when wings were deployed to Vietnam, their base maintenance forces went with them. These forces were augmented by Red Horse squadrons (heavy maintenance and repair units numbering about 400 men) and Prime BEEF teams (small detachments sent for six-month tours to augment the base civil engineer forces for specific projects). The Air Force made con-

siderable use of contracts, but these were usually for special tasks, such as power generation and refuse collection.
The Navy also experienced a shortage of trained military personnel, although it was somewhat better off than the Army in this regard. In I Corps, Seebees were assigned to the Public Works Department, Naval Support Activity, at Da Nang. The Seabees managed the work force augmented by hired foreign nationals and by local nationals provided under a service contract with Philco-Ford. The work force was made up of about one-third Seabees, one-third foreign nationals, and one-third Vietnamese. In contrast to the Army's contract with Pacific Architects and Engineers, the Philco-Ford contract served primarily to provide skilled local labor. Except at a few industrial facilities, the contractor was not responsible for over-all management. In addition to the forces assigned to the Public Works Department in Da Nang, the Navy activated two construction battalion maintenance units and sent them to Vietnam.
As previously noted, Pacific Architects and Engineers had to organize and staff its forces along the lines of standard Army organizations. To control this force, PA&E established a Contract Management Office in Saigon and three district offices at Saigon, Qui Nhon, and Cam Rahn Bay from which PA&E forces and operations at each Army installation were controlled. A highly effective communications net was operated independently of the unreliable Vietnamese telephone system and of the military communications system, which was needed for high-priority operational traffic.
PICTURE - SEABEES responsible for bridge construction in I Corps
SEABEES responsible for bridge construction in I Corps

Administration of contracts and the technical direction and control of the contractor's activities were, until mid-1968, the responsibility of the 1st Logistical Command. Within the 1st Logistical Command, responsibility for contract management was vested in the U.S. Army Procurement Agency, Vietnam (USAPAV). The rapid growth of contract work between 1965 and 1967 made it evident that better control than the procurement agency and the 1st Logistical Command engineering staffs could provide was needed. Therefore, the Contract Operations Branch, located at PA&E's Contract Management Office in Saigon, was established as a part of the Office of the Engineer, 1st Logistical Command. In addition, the staff engineers of the Saigon, Qui Nhon, and Cam Ranh Bay Support Commands, subordinate commands of the 1st Logistical Command, and the staff engineers of the installations within the support command areas were delegated appropriate contracting officer's representative authority. The Contract Operations Branch consisted of an operations branch, a technical inspection branch, and a performance and analysis branch. It had the mission of directing the contractor's activities and analyzing contract operations and expenditures. This new organization facilitated the identification and resolution of many problems which resulted in increased efficiency and responsiveness in the contractor's work.
Increasing construction, real estate, and facilities engineering costs resulted in a decision to integrate all Army engineer activities in the U.S. Army Engineer Construction Agency, Vietnam (USAECAV), in 1968. In July 1968, USAECAV also assumed the facilities engineering responsibilities formerly assigned to the 1st Logistical Command except for a direct-hire force supporting the Saigon area under the direction of the U.S. Army Headquarters Area Command. This activity was also later transferred to USAECAV in 1969.
Under the Construction Agency organization, district engineer offices were established at Saigon, Cam Ranh Bay, and Qui Nhon. The district engineers, in turn, supervised the installation engineers. This provided a vertical command channel from USAECAV through the district engineers to the installation engineers independent of other command relationships. This vertical channel, together with a substantial increase in the number of military personnel directly concerned with supervision of the contractor's operations (212 under the Construction Agency as compared to 73 under the 1st Logistical Command), substantially improved operations management.
Under the new setup, 1st Logistical Command's procurement agency retained contracting officer authority, and the contracting officers, who exercised technical supervision over the contractor,

reported to two separate headquarters. To overcome the inherent disadvantages in this arrangement, it was proposed to provide the Commanding General, USAECAV, with contracting officer authority for the facilities engineering contract. This, however, was disapproved by the Department of the Army in order to avoid fragmenting procurement authority in Vietnam. While this decision did not result in the optimum organizational relationships from the viewpoint of managing the facilities engineering effort, relations between the procurement agency and the construction agency under a memorandum of understanding were excellent. Through mutual effort, the difficulties inherent in the organizational relationship were minimized.
The form of the contract with PA&E underwent several changes. Originally negotiated as a cost plus a fixed fee in 1963, the contract remained in effect until 1970. To increase the contractor's incentive in performance of the contract, the Procurement Agency assisted by the Construction Agency negotiated a cost-plus-award-fee contract in 1969. Under this contract the company was evaluated on its performance, and the fee depended upon this evaluation. The new agreement appears to have resulted in increased effectiveness and efficiency.
An effort was made to introduce competition by splitting off the Qui Nhon area in 1968 and advertising for new bids. Because PA&E was already working in Vietnam and was familiar with facilities engineering operations there, the firm had a distinct advantage over any competitors. Consequently, the new contract also went to Pacific Architects and Engineers. The attempt to introduce competition not only proved unsuccessful, but the new contract meant PA&E would operate under two distinct contracts. Any thoughts of a second try at competition were quietly laid aside, and-the following year the Army returned to a single contract.
In 1967 PA&E's activities were extended into I Corps following deployment of substantial numbers of Army units into the area, which had been primarily a Marine Corps and Navy zone of operations. Although the Navy was providing logistical support for I Corps, it was not in a position to support all Army installations.
In 1970, following major shifts in U.S. operations, logistical responsibility for I Corps was transferred from the Navy to the Army. Consideration was given to extending the PA&E contract to cover all of the area, but the decision was made to negotiate a contract with Philco-Ford to continue in the areas where they had been working under contract to the Navy. This arrangement facilitated continuity of operations but had the disadvantage of resulting in two different contracts and contractors to supervise.

Experience in Vietnam highlighted many administrative, regulatory, and other constraints, which indicated areas where improvement was required. Vietnam was the first conflict in which peacetime Army budget regulations had been stringently applied in a combat zone. Many of the peacetime regulations applicable to facilities engineering were necessarily prohibitive in nature and cumbersome in application. Designed to minimize the diversion of utilities engineering resources and to avoid certain statutory violations, the application of these regulations in a combat zone greatly inhibited the effectiveness of facilities engineering support by both the contractor and the utilities detachments. Further examination of these regulations as well as the Department of Defense directives and the laws on which they were based is required to achieve greater flexibility and responsiveness under future combat conditions.
The contractor, PA&E, frequently drew criticism for overstaffing. Much of his staffing requirements, however, resulted directly from the requirement that he organize, staff, and manage his efforts strictly in accordance with Army regulations. (Chart 6) This resulted in much of the contractor's effort going into work management and production control. While the principles of work management are an inherent part of effective operations under any conditions, the amount of effort expended in the preparation of detailed schedules and work plans was of questionable value under the turbulent conditions which prevailed. There was a distinct advantage in having the contractor follow Army regulations in organizing and managing his force in that this facilitated the control and monitoring by the contract officers, but here too consideration should be given to adopting simplified procedures for combat conditions.
A major problem that persisted throughout the conflict, largely because of the rapid turnover of military personnel, was the general lack of facilities engineering experience. The one-year tour of duty was necessary from a morale standpoint, but it had an adverse effect on the operations of the engineer detachments and on contractor supervision. Most officers assigned to facilities engineering duty in Vietnam lacked former experience, and it normally took much of their one-year tour to become knowledgeable in facilities engineering regulations and requirements. The Vietnam experience has highlighted the need for a broader base of both officers and enlisted men with facilities engineering training and experience.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty in the contractor's operations stemmed from the problems he had in obtaining the necessary government-furnished supplies and equipment-problems which were not resolved until late in the conflict.


Despite these difficulties, the facilities engineering support of combat forces in Vietnam was an undertaking successfully carried out on a scale never before seen in a combat zone. The rest of this chapter will discuss a few of the special problem areas.
While primarily contracted for facility operation, maintenance, and repair, PA&E was used extensively to accomplish construction of minor facilities during the major period of the troop buildup from mid-1965 to mid-1968. Before the buildup, the small PA&E force was primarily engaged in maintenance and repair of leased facilities. As more and more troop units arrived in Vietnam, the most urgent requirements were to construct defenses followed by troop and support facilities. Urgent requirements existed for cantonments, airfields, depots, repair shops, and the utilities systems needed to service them. Because of its construction capability, Pacific Architects and Engineers was called upon to provide help in small operations and maintenance funded (under $25,000) projects. Paradoxically, although much of its effort went into construction, the terms of the PA&E contract did not permit the contractor's employment on new construction funded work. This meant that he could not construct many of the facilities needed for his own use, which would have increased his over-all effectiveness. By the end of 1967 the increased capabilities of the construction contractors and construction troops made it possible for Pacific Architects and Engineers to concentrate on facilities engineering. The sharply increased demand for facilities engineering made redirection of PA&E effort imperative as more new facilities went into use and more troops arrived in the theater. While during 1965 and 1966 the contractor expended as much as 80 percent of his effort on new construction, this figure dropped to 25 percent by the middle of 1968 and to below 15 percent in subsequent years.
The varying standards of construction and the absence of a standard for maintenance and repair proved troublesome throughout the conflict. Although the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam published over-all standards, wide variations existed. Standards ranged from tent frames and Southeast Asia huts to elaborate air-conditioned, pre-engineered facilities with high-voltage electric distribution systems and modern water and sewage systems. The extent of facilities engineering support received by individual installations depended on what local commanders needed and on what facilities they succeeded in getting built. Until very late in the conflict, there were no countrywide standards for planning facilities engineering support. As a result, resources were often not equitably distributed.
Fire protection was certainly adequate at Army installations

PICTURE - VIETNAMESE FIREFIGHTER ignores risk to fighting petroleum fire at Long Binh.
VIETNAMESE FIREFIGHTER ignores risk to fighting petroleum fire at Long Binh.
throughout Vietnam. Fire companies were manned primarily by PA&E, although there were some military firefighting detachments. On a visit in 1969, representatives of the Office of the Chief of Engineers pointed out that there were far too many fire companies and fire trucks in the theater. Further analysis by the Army Engineer Construction Agency led to a substantial reduction in fire companies and the cancellation of all outstanding requisitions for fire trucks. Although fire protection was possibly overstressed, fire prevention was given inadequate attention. While temporary structures appropriate to a combat zone were constructed with combustible materials like plywood and low-density fiberboard, fire hazards could have been appreciably reduced by proper building site spacing. Still, the use of combustible interior partitions and other interior finishes and nonexpert installation, extension, and modification of electrical systems created serious fire hazards. The lesson is evident-more emphasis must be given to fire prevention.
Control of insects, rodents, and other pests was a particularly challenging problem. Vietnam lacks all but the most basic health and sanitation safeguards; malaria and the plague are endemic. Vigorous efforts by facilities engineering entomology teams and the rigid enforcement of health and sanitation rules turned military bases into "islands of health in a sea of disease and pestilence." The return of retrograde cargo from Vietnam raised the danger of Asiatic insects and rodents being brought back. Careful and thorough cleaning of this cargo and treatment with rat poison and insecticide dust-as much as 112 tons per month-effectively eliminated this danger. Losses of foodstuffs in storage from insect infesta-

tion amounted to millions of dollars annually. During 1970, new control techniques for treatment of stored foodstuffs in CONUS before shipment and in Vietnam after receipt were adopted. Fumigation of railway cars in transit from the mills began in September 1970. Experience in the United States to date indicates that these procedures will reduce losses of stored foods by as much as 98 percent.
Chief among the lessons learned from Vietnam was that the requirements for facilities engineering support in future conflicts must be anticipated during contingency planning, inasmuch as these requirements represent a substantial portion of the resources required to support such an operation-the total force dedicated to facilities engineering (over 25,000) approached the combined strength of the two engineer brigades deployed to Vietnam (about 30,000). The feasibility and, under similar circumstances, the desirability of providing the major portion of this force by contract was demonstrated in Vietnam. Our experience also clearly demonstrated the need for the Army to maintain, in its active force structure, an adequate number of military personnel trained in facilities engineering to provide management and supervision of contractor and direct-hire civilian maintenance forces and to man sufficient numbers of military facilities engineering detachments to ensure continuity of essential operations in emergency situations.

page created 15 December 2001

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