•  Carrier


Facilities, Infrastructure and Theater Security Cooperation Planning

The service delivery model established by U.S. Special Operations Command South over the last decade offers an adoptable approach for other commands providing similar services in their areas of responsibility.


By Lt. Col. Kyle M. Merolla, P.E., USA, and Col. William F. Lyons Jr., P.E., AICP, ENV SP, M.SAME, USAR 


 training range built in Guyana



More than a decade of war has provided ample time for combatant commanders and sub-unified commands to test various service delivery models for expeditionary facilities and infrastructure development. Much of the focus has been on the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, given the immense needs for facilities and infrastructure in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, much work has been performed at a smaller scale in U.S. Southern Command over this same period to support theater security cooperation initiatives in Central and South America. The service delivery model pioneered by U.S. Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) over the last decade can help other commands provide similar services in their areas of responsibility.


For SOCSOUTH, theater security cooperation plans have included a robust persistent presence component. This aspect of the plan is based on routine rotations of special operations forces to host nations to engage in various military-to-military training and cooperation activities. Generally, these engagements were planned around a U.S. Army Special Operations Detachment Alpha, a team from a Naval Special Warfare Group, or a civil affairs team. On some occasions, planning centered on a theater-wide skills competition, in which case the projects were planned within the auspices of Exercise Related Construction. Typically, the proposed basing plan is predicated on housing the team on a host nation military installation, in a building owned by the host nation, or in a new building purpose built for Special Operations Forces personnel. The intent is for the team to live and train with its host nation counterpart.

In SOCSOUTH’s model, facilities planning for the deployment of a special warfare team begins with development of a Pre-Deployment Site Survey (PDSS). As the staff and the team begin to plan a PDSS, the command engineer identifies the personnel resources necessary to accompany the survey to investigate the housing facilities proposed for occupation. In addition, the command engineer representative will evaluate the training facilities necessary to support the team’s rotation. This includes firing ranges, live fire shoot houses, rappel towers, boat ramps and docks.



The primary purpose of having a representative of the command engineer’s office attend the site visit is to conduct a complete evaluation of the facilities in order to determine the suitability of the proposed housing and operations building from a life safety and health perspective. The evaluation starts with a Threat and Vulnerability Assessment based on the design criteria development process specified in UFC 4-020-01, DOD Security Engineering Facilities Planning Manual. 

Inputs for the evaluation include a review of threats from foreign intelligence, terrorism and crime as well as natural threats such as vector borne illnesses, flooding, seismic conditions and extreme weather.

Once the threats have been identified, the physical condition of the building is assessed. Deficiencies in the condition of the building that would affect the health and safety of the team are identified and mitigation plans are developed to manage the risks posed by the deficiencies.

Typical mitigation measures include the installation of window screens to prevent vector borne disease; upgrades to electrical systems to prevent hazards due to inadequate grounding and overloaded circuits; repairs to domestic water and wastewater systems; and the installation of fencing and other Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection measures. Often these improvements are contracted based on a bill of materials. Sometimes, more detailed construction contract documents are required. The intent is to make impactful changes before the team occupies the house.

meeting place in SOCSOUTH



Staffing is substantially less at SOCSOUTH than it is at other theater special operations commands, due to the lower profile nature of the theater. The command engineer section is rarely larger than three personnel. The demands on the staff’s time include military construction projects and sustainment, restoration and maintenance projects, on top of the requirements for expeditionary facilities. This situation often renders the command engineer’s office unable to send a representative on the PDSS. When this happens, the command engineer works through the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to negotiate the services of an architect-engineer firm to provide the facility engineering services necessary for the PDSS.

Once the PDSS is complete, the architect-engineer firm prepares a statement of work, rough-order-of-magnitude cost estimates, and conceptual mitigation plans to be further developed and implemented before the team deploys. If possible, a simple bill of materials is developed and the improvements are implemented quickly.

When the mitigation measures are sufficiently complex that additional design is required, the command engineer works with USACE to further develop the mitigation plans through the architect-engineer firm. Typically, a set of design-build criterion drawings and specifications is developed for a multiple award task order contract. On rare occasions, full design-bid-build plans are developed, as might be required when new construction is the recommended course of action.

On some occasions, it is advantageous for the command to use troop labor to construct projects using the bill of materials. Troop labor includes host nation forces as well as U.S. Forces, typically Seabees from the Navy Reserve. Troop labor is typically more cost effective and has the added benefit of building capacity with the host nation forces and improving readiness for our reserve forces.

This model for expeditionary project development and construction has been exceptionally helpful for Exercise Related Construction. The scope of these projects often includes a wide range of construction elements with complex details. Using an architect-engineer firm to develop a bill of materials for construction by host nation troop labor allows for expert design assistance with the additional benefits of capacity building.



Theater security cooperation planning for SOCSOUTH has required new models for the design and construction of facilities and infrastructure in a timely manner.

The utilization of staff augmentation for design and construction has played a key role in the delivery of these essential services throughout the area of responsibility. Architect-engineer firms and contractors have provided the foundation for a very successful program, while the use of host nation and reserve component troop labor has played a critical capacity building role.

The teamwork of the entire spectrum of uniformed, civilian and host nation personnel has allowed SOCSOUTH to succeed in its expeditionary facilities mission during the long war. And the model provides an adoptable approach for providing similar services in the area of responsibility of every theater special operations command.



Lt. Col. Kyle M. Merolla, P.E., USA, is Deputy Command Engineer, U.S. Special Operations Command South; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Col. William F. Lyons Jr., P.E., AICP, ENV SP, M.SAME, USAR, is Commander, 2500th Military Intelligence Group; 877-305-4163, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..