JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – On Oct. 1, 2012, Air Force leaders activated the Air Force Civil Engineer Center to provide centralized Civil Engineering support and expertise. Ten years later, AFCEC is celebrating a decade of delivering “Battle Ready, Built Right” support to installations around the world.
"'Battle Ready' is our link to the warfighter," said Joe Sciabica, AFCEC’s first director. "Everything we do is to support the men and women around the world accomplishing the Air Force mission. 'Built Right' is a standard…for our buildings and infrastructure, and for the entire CE enterprise."
One year before the merger, the Air Force was handed down major budget reductions – more than $33 billion over a five-year period — and lost 1,600 civilian CE positions. Air Force leaders saw centralization of functions managed by the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment, Air Force Real Property Agency and the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency as the best solution to take care of the CE enterprise.
“We were essentially trying to build an aircraft as it was flying,” Sciabica said. “The biggest challenge was establishing new processes to accommodate a wider range of capabilities across more than 180 installations.”
Among the most critical needs was ensuring installations received accurate sustainment funding for critical base assets. AFCEC leaders focused on real property accountability and record keeping and establishing a transparent process for strategically racking and stacking facility sustainment, restoration and modernization requirements.
Thanks to the support of a devoted team, AFCEC achieved full operational capability in just over a year, Sciabica said.
Less than two years after reaching FOC, AFCEC joined five other agencies realigned to support the newly formed Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center. As a primary subordinate unit for the intermediate-level headquarters, AFCEC plays a critical role in providing CE-related installation and mission support capabilities to all Air Force and Space Force installations, major commands and direct reporting units.
“Transitioning under AFIMSC was a much easier process because by that time AFCEC already established a culture. We worked together inside and out of the office through meetings and team building events, like holiday parties and chili cookoffs, to gain a better understanding of who we all were and our goals for the organization,” said Gaye Schwarm, secretary to the past six AFCEC directors and commanders. “During those moments, we became a family.”
With the motto “Your Success is our Mission,” AFIMSC relied on the trust and relationships AFCEC had formed with MAJCOMs and mission support groups to advance installation and mission support capabilities.
Under AFIMSC, AFCEC delivered on the priority capabilities Sciabica and company began a decade ago.
AFCEC created the first integrated priority list in 2014, taking detailed information from the MAJCOMs and installations and assigning scores to build a two-year, rank ordered asset management list centered on risks to Airmen and missions. Today, the Air Force Comprehensive Asset Management Plan supports a five-year outlook to plan and prioritize FSRM projects and target critical installation needs.
When Brig. Gen. William Kale took command in August, AFCEC had recently completed NexGen IT deployment to 179 installations. The seven-year-long effort was a total force transition to a single enterprise system data source.
“Having accurate records and real-time data is a powerful business intelligence tool,” Kale said.
Over the years, AFCEC has rolled out a suite of tools and resources that arm decision makers with the business intelligence and enterprise view they need to meet new and emerging mission requirements. From the KC-46A Pegasus and F-35A Lightening, to the forthcoming B-21 Raider stealth bomber and T-7A Red Hawk, AFCEC has managed billions of dollars in military construction to deliver the infrastructure to expand global reach.
“What we do extends beyond the flightline and runway,” Kale said. “Installations are where our Airmen and Guardians live, train and work…they’re power projection platforms and communities.”
In 2019, the Air Force Housing Privatization team launched a responsive plan to rectify health and safety concerns by residents. AFCEC launched 51 initiatives to address housing quality, maintenance, empower residents and improve overall resident experience.
“We’re committed to providing Airmen, Guardians and their families access to safe, quality homes and secure communities,” Kale said. “We listened to our families, heard their needs and we took action.”
Among the improvements, residents now have a tenant bill of rights, resident advocates, increased staffing at base military housing offices and a process in place to elevate health and safety issues.
The housing improvement plan was not the first time AFCEC was tasked to develop and lead an enterprise-wide response plan to an emergent health and safety concern.
In May 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency established a lifetime Health Advisory for two organic chemicals within a group of synthetic fluorinated chemicals knowns as Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The chemicals were commonly used in nonstick cookware and stain-resistant fabric. They were also components of legacy aqueous firefighting foam used to extinguish petroleum fires.
AFCEC led a three-step approach to identify AFFF releases, respond to drinking water impacts and prevent and protect against future releases. In all, AFCEC has spent over $1.34 billion on PFAS actions, disposed over 979,000 gallons of legacy AFFF and has retrofitted vehicles with ecologic system kits at all installations.
AFCEC’s mission continues to evolve to meet emerging needs. When Hurricane Michael destroyed most of Tyndall AFB in Oct. 2018, AFCEC was among the first to respond. The massive recovery and rebuild effort at Tyndall, followed by a devastating flood at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, in March 2019, demanded a strategic reserve of expertise that AFCEC was uniquely positioned to deliver.
AFCEC established the Natural Disaster Recovery division to recover and rebuild bases with adaptive, resilient, right-sized, and fiscally sustainable infrastructure that enhances combat power. At Tyndall, the division is tackling a five-to-seven-year rebuild effort that includes 44 new military construction and 260 FSRM projects valued at $4.9 billion.
Today, AFCEC’s 2,200-person team based at 72 locations worldwide, deliver seven core capabilities: Built Infrastructure Investment & Recapitalization, Energy Assurance, Environmental Compliance and Restoration, Integrated Base Response and Recovery, Real Property and Real Estate Management, Civil Engineer Enterprise Health Assessment and Integrated Infrastructure Investment Requirements Planning.
Looking to the future, there’s a growing focus on innovation and new technologies, but Kale said AFCEC’s central focus is to be a one-stop shop for CE support.
“We’re equipping the field with new CE technologies and building the installation of the future, but our most important job is to answer the call for help and provide the CE community with responsive, full-spectrum civil engineering expertise and support.”