Documenting Utilities in Djibouti

As Camp Lemonnier transitions from an expeditionary to an enduring base, understanding and documenting the condition of its utilities network will be essential for future project planning, design, construction, and operation and maintenance.  


By Stan Worcester, P.E., M.SAME, and Lt. Cdr. Adnan Ahsan, EIT, CEC, M.SAME, USN 



Utility asset management is essential for rapidly developing Camp Lemonnier, the primary base of operations for U.S. Africa Command in Djibouti, Horn of Africa.

Camp Lemonnier is the centerpiece of a constellation of smaller bases in Africa that support humanitarian and counter-terrorism efforts across the continent.

Assessments at Camp LemonnierSince 2002, it has expanded from 88-acres to nearly 600-acres through a series of agreements with the government of Djibouti. The base currently supports 5,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel, and Department of Defense contractors.


Planning for expansion—new facilities and supporting infrastructure—is carried out according to a master plan. The plan is updated annually in response to the Camp Lemonnier’s evolving mission requirements. It takes a snapshot of the current situation, incorporates future requirements, and prioritizes construction projects.To date, projects totaling more than $600 million have been programmed, designed and awarded for new construction. These include a roadway network; aircraft parking aprons; two taxiways; permanent stacked containerized living units; administrative and operational compounds; upgraded power generation facilities; a galley; water production and distribution center; and a wastewater treatment plant. Camp Lemonnier produces its own power using two prime power generation plants, purifies its water using a state-of-the-art reverse osmosis water purification unit, and treats its own wastewater.As the installation rapidly transitions from an expeditionary to an enduring base, the U.S. Navy and its Base Operations Support contractor must be able to quickly and easily identify all utility assets by location, identification and description, ratings, condition and capacity.

Camp Lemonnier is programmed to continue heavy construction over the next decade and this data will be essential for future project planning, design, construction, and operation and maintenance.


The long-term health of a military base depends in large part on the condition of its underground utilities network. In October 2013, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia retained Stanley Consultants to provide verification of all of the utility systems throughout Camp Lemonnier.

A 12-member team worked onsite over four months to identify and record information on 3,400 assets. The process included utility mapping in CAD and GIS surveys to provide mapping of the existing base utilities and structures as well integration of future utilities.

The information collected was used to generate utility maps and drawings that identify above-grade assets including equipment, panels, generators, transformers, valves, pumps and tanks as well as underground electrical, communication, water, sewer, and storm piping routes, manholes and valves. The grid map is overlaid with color coordinated layers of utilities, each scaled for accurate distance footage and depths below grade. Every building, asset and utility route, when applicable, is provided survey-grade locations around the equipment perimeter, foundation corners and along the route with coordinates and elevations. For security reasons, sometimes utility markings were surveyed and immediately removed from the ground surface.

The routing maps, surveys, utility locations, elevations, sections of utilities, drawings and photos were provided electronically and via handbooks. Drawing details of equipment installations, design templates, and quality standards for updating records also were included. A database containing the asset descriptions, locations, degradation index, photos and GPS location is organized for easy maintenance, scheduling improvements, and design of the base infrastructure. 

The attributes captured in the survey database are exported and used to initialize the feature attributes in the GIS geodatabases. Information will be extracted from GIS to update the Navy Facility Assets Data Store (iNFADS) property records. The degradation index will aid decision-makers in phasing maintenance and repair of utility assets when faced with restrained budgets.

Each asset and system feature was identified with a metallic asset tag and documented with nameplate ratings, photos, description, dimensions and drawings. Tags are discipline-specific, color-coded, and have an adhesive backing for quick affixing. Each is unique and bears a clear and concise description that provides an easily identifiable and unmistakable description to avoid confusing assets. Equipment was noted for size, installation year, code compliance, deficiencies, safety issues and abandoned services, and designated if it was scheduled to be demolished, removed, or replaced.

Assessments at Camp LemonnierWhen data was being collected in congested utility areas, field verification was performed by excavations needed to clarify crossing routes, cable splices, pipe fittings and elevations. For soil subsurface investigation, potholing machines, which used either vacuum or compressed air to suction or blow dirt and rocks away from the utility, provided a safe excavation that did not damage the cable. Using compressed air caused minimal disturbance to the ground surface. Potholing machines are portable and carried by hand. They store excavated materials, filter the air to reduce dust, and can reach tight areas inaccessible by vehicle. It was nearly impossible to use back hoes or heavy machinery for excavating since blocking access to areas was unacceptable for security or emergency response. Shovels and pickaxes may have caused damage to energized cables or communications lines, especially in areas with limited access or many utility crossings.

In high security areas, camp and tenant units were involved with risk management decisions, judging the value of utility documentation versus security requirements. These areas also received advanced preliminary reviews of documentation of utilities approaching their boundary to pre-screen any vital utilities and locations before the information is common knowledge to the base. Often manholes are padlocked, entire sectors are fenced off, and drawings will have blank information to show as directed to safeguard vital security interests.

Information describing each asset was entered in the field via portable computers that contained the electronic database that stored GPS location, photos, and technical ratings. These computers and personnel had to withstand the elements and operate smoothly in bright sunlight, darkness, wind, blowing sand, dust, dirt, mud, insects, heat, rain and locations where satellite signals were blocked due to metal buildings and radio signals that interfered or skewed results. Equipment and computer battery life was challenged to last each 12-hour day of collecting data.


Stanley Consultants developed and programed data gathering software to fit the project needs—identifying the types of equipment on base and programming pull down menus for every option, size, manufacturer and mounting possible. These menus integrated data with unique asset numbers and descriptions and prevented accidental reuse of the numbers. The data integrated GPS coordinates and photos all from the same platform to make the data collection easier. More than 18,000 photos were taken and over 50,000 separate pieces of data collected, which averaged to 14 attributes for each asset. GPS coordinates were collected for more than 100,000 point locations and the team dug over 700 potholes.

Over the next 25 years, more than $1.2 billion in planned improvements are scheduled to take place at Camp Lemonnier. The information accumulated during this asset management project will be vital during this expansion and transition from expeditionary to enduring base. An accurate depiction of utility routings will allow the PWD to properly identify, operate and maintain utility support to all areas of the base during upgrades or replacements of existing facilities. Proper documentation of the conditions of the assets will assist in further system studies, which may identify where utility capacity would be compromised under future planned expansion.


Asset management and documentation is a critical tool in the effective management of an installation’s infrastructure. Utility operations, production and maintenance crews will be able to refer to the handbooks for quick reference and engineers in the Public Works Department. The Facilities Engineering & Acquisition Division will be able to review and evaluate CAD utility profiles in 2D and 3D.

Accurate information will allow military planners to select and deconflict suitable sites for new projects and infrastructure expansions. And most efficiently, it can be passed down easily to individuals who deploy in—mitigating the challenges of high turnover and rapid growth, while maximizing scarce resources and government dollars in support of the warfighter.



Stan Worcester, P.E., M.SAME, is Associate Chief Electrical Engineer/Project Manager, Stanley Consultants Inc.; 303-925-8307, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lt. Cdr. Adnan Ahsan, EIT, CEC, M.SAME, USN, is Facilities Department Head-Lakehurst, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; 732-323-2017, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..