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Symposium brings together senior leaders from across the Department of Defense

Terry Edwards, Air Force Civil Engineer Center Director, addresses the audience during the annual Design and Construction Partnering Symposium.

Terry Edwards, Air Force Civil Engineer Center Director, addresses the audience during the annual Design and Construction Partnering Symposium. More than 200 military members and civilians attended the symposium, held on November 14-15 in San Antonio, Texas, and provided a platform to discuss lessons learned, best practices, program successes/challenges, and path forward to facilitate collaboration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

This annual symposium, sponsored by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC), brought together senior leaders from across the Department of Defense to share and discuss best practices, and new policies and procedures affecting military design and construction programs.

From left, Dr. Larry McCallister of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Mark Correll, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure; Nancy Balkus, Deputy Director of Civil Engineers; and Terry Edwards, Air Force Civil Engineer Center Director gather during the annual Design and Construction Partnering Symposium. This annual symposium, sponsored by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC), brought together senior leaders from across the Department of Defense to share and discuss best practices, and new policies and procedures affecting military design and construction programs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Warns)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – “Revitalizing Execution Excellence” was the theme of this year’s Design and Construction Partnering Symposium conducted November 14-15 in San Antonio.

This annual symposium, sponsored by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC), brought together senior leaders from across the Department of Defense to share and discuss best practices, and new policies and procedures affecting military design and construction programs.  More than 200 military members and civilians were in attendance over the two days, and this number reflects a steady and significant increase over the last few years.

Terry Edwards, new AFCEC director, stressed the value and importance of the symposium.

“Two fundamental things happen at these gatherings,” Edwards said. “One, you see people talking to each other from different bases, from different echelons of leadership, from different branches of the service sharing ideas and challenges, and learning from each other. That’s invaluable, and we don’t get enough opportunity to do that when we’re doing our day to day job at the installation.

“The other is to get a view from the top, so to speak,” Edwards continued. “We have a lot of leadership from all of the services, from the upper echelons of installation management and support, and they’re able to share perspectives. For example, what’s happening at The Pentagon? What’s the latest status of policy initiatives? What kinds of things are we working on strategically across the services over the coming weeks and months? It’s really important for the rank and file, for all of the folks to hear what we are doing.”

Before taking over as AFCEC director, Edwards was the Executive Director of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC). AFCEC is one of four primary subordinate units (PSUs) of AFIMSC. Edwards elaborated on AFIMSC’s important role in regard to the rebuilding effort at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, which was severely damaged Oct. 11 by Hurricane Michael.

“AFIMSC has a really critical integrating and leadership role in pulling the resources from across our portfolio,” Edwards said.  “That includes civil engineers from AFCEC; services support from the Air Force Services Activity (AFSVA); cost accountants from the financial services center to process vouchers for Airmen who are displaced; to putting leadership on the ground in charge of the task forces, and integrating that across the Air Force through the appropriate chains of command with Air Combat Command and Headquarters Air Force (HAF).” 

Mark Correll, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure, Headquarters Air Force, Washington, said the symposium provides a good opportunity for effective communication by eliminating layers of bureaucracy.

“That allows us to directly communicate what we want done and why we want it done, right down to the base level, face to face, in a way we can’t do day in and day out,” Correll said. “And, it allows them to directly communicate to me without any filters from anybody else. I get direct feedback from the bases, and they get direct feedback from me.” 

Nancy Balkus, Deputy Director of Civil Engineers at Headquarters Air Force, Washington, said she learns more from the symposiums than what she brings “to the fight.”

“What I mean by that is that the installations are where the action is happening,” Balkus said. “The challenges they face, and the feats they are able to accomplish, we’re just facilitators to that. Where we need to adjust policy or adjust Air Force Instructions, or where we just need to frankly communicate across the department to make things happen if it’s a cross-functional issue. That’s what we can bring to the fight from The Pentagon to help make it happen at the installation level.”

An awards ceremony also was held Wednesday afternoon of the symposium to honor the winners of the 2018 Air Force Design Awards, recognizing innovative projects for excellence in design, efficiency, and resource effectiveness.

Edwards and AFCEC honored eight innovative design projects for excellence in design and efficiency. The 2018 Honor Awards recipients were from McConnell AFB, Kansas (Facility Design); Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio (Facility Renovations and Innovations); and Cannon AFB, New Mexico (Facility Design).

The 2018 Merit Awards recipients were Minot AFB, North Dakota (Facility Design); McGhee-Tyson AFB, Tennessee (Facility Design); Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (Facility Renovations and Additions); Offutt AFB, Nebraska (Facility Renovations and Additions); and Eglin AFB, Florida (Facility Design).

“When assessing a project, we ask jurors to emphasize cost control, energy efficiency, functionality and sustainability,” said David Duncan, AFCEC senior architect and Air Force Design Awards program manager. “These outstanding designs set the bar high and help inspire future innovation, leading to continual design improvement and success.”

The symposium fostered numerous consequential discussions, which served to improve partnering in the pursuit of revitalizing execution excellence.  AFCEC looks forward to hosting this significant and popular event again next year.