Decommissioning and complexity often go together. Strategic planning and communication determine success, especially when closing down Camp Bastion (BSN), the British Forces base in Afghanistan once synonymous with the fight against the Taliban.
BSN supported 14,000+ troops and live operations across 26km2 alongside NATO alliances. In an active warzone, it had to self-sufficiently support living and working conditions.
As UK troops withdrew from BSN in 2014, all infrastructure was assessed for disposal or handover to the Afghan National Army (ANA). Over 18 months, project management and technical consultancy Tetra Tech worked alongside Royal Engineers and MOD to manage BSN’s live infrastructure and decommissioning. Strategic surveying, planning and engineering were at the forefront of this process.
The lessons we learned followed three key principles: Plan, Engage, Adapt.
A great way to manage a complex project is anticipating its end state. Along with delivering infrastructure, Tetra Tech selected a team to manage withdrawal and remain among the last few civilian-supporting organisations and contractors.
These experts continually liaised with key stakeholders to prepare for operations imploding over several phases of withdrawal all interlinked with one another. The demobilisation of infrastructure managed by Tetra Tech spanned the MOD’s logging, inspection, cleaning, and transportation of over 50 aircrafts, 3400 vehicles, key machinery, and 50,000+ ISO containers.
Successful decommissioning hinges on deep understanding of complex needs, requiring persistent engagement.
In developing options, works requirements, designs and governance for contracts to be let, Tetra Tech managed and reported on all construction elements planned from start to finish. This ranged from scope of works, safe systems of works, communication with facilities providers and civilian contractors, to site inspections, and final handover.
On all of our projects since, we have taken to heart just how important it is to obtain buy-in from all involved and ensure consistency in the organisations delivering the works. The key to this is bringing the right team with the appropriate experience and communication skills to manage, engineer and deliver complex work.
Inevitably, new constraints arise throughout complex project life cycles, making adaptability crucial.
Even two months before handover, infrastructure was still being built at BSN. Everything undertaken had to support military capability, even as the Theatre Logistics Group dwindled in personnel from its peak of 800.
We adapted to accommodate ever-changing operational demands whilst maintaining programme continuity and reviewing ways to foster safe progression. Examples included providing technical advice to adhere to full operational requirements and reviewing any knock-on infrastructure effects. In the face of changing priorities, we learned the importance of accounting for monetary risks and budgeted accordingly.
Improved capabilities for delivering full-life cycles projects
BSN represents an incredible achievement in infrastructure design, management, and decommissioning. Members of staff received individual Commander Commendations, with all full-time deployed staff receiving the Civilian Service Medal: Afghanistan and ISAF NATO medals for contributing to the Government’s work in Afghanistan.
The success of our work, including our collaboration and integration with the Special Team Royal Engineers throughout decommissioning greatly bolstered our ability to deliver full-life cycle projects from inception to design to construction. It later led the DIO to commission Tetra Tech on several other complex large-scale projects such as BATUK, the UK Naval Support Facility in Bahrain, and more.