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Peak of Marine Base Building Boom Still Ahead


Camp Pendleton Marine Base has celebrated a milestone in their multi-billion-dollar construction boom. The Corps estimates the construction has generated more than 10 million man hours of work so far.

Camp Pendleton Marine Base has celebrated a milestone in their multi-billion-dollar construction boom. The Corps estimates that construction on dozens of new barracks buildings, training facilities and child care centers has generated more than 10 million man hours of work so far. Work on bases around the southwest is providing thousands of jobs for companies hard hit by the economic downturn.

Captain Keith Hamilton, commander of Naval Facilities Southwest, said an average of 2,800 people are working on about 300 construction projects on bases each day. Marines are spending more than $6 billion on these projects, he said, and the busiest period of construction is still ahead.

“We’ve got about two-and-a-half billion that’s either complete or under construction now,” Hamilton said. “Over the course of the next couple of years, we expect to award about another $2 billion of construction to complete the Marine Corps build-out here on the West Coast.”

Hamilton said the corps made a strategic decision to invest in their people and the quality of life on base, so they are completely rebuilding all their barracks and a lot of other infrastructure.

“That was not extra money,” Hamilton said. “That was money that was destined to go into weapons and training and other things.”

Col. Nick Marano, commanding officer of Camp Pendleton, said the base is transforming. He said some of the money also came from federal stimulus funds, and many of those dollars have gone into generating renewable energy, like solar power.

“Altogether, when those projects are up and running, about 10 percent of the base’s daily energy use is going to come from renewable energy sources, and that’s this year,” explained Marano.

Marano said there are plans on the drawing board to more than double that, so the base would generate about 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources. To put that in context, the State of California has set a goal to generate 33 percent of its energy by 2020.

The Marines are taking advantage of the down economy to get the most out of contractors, in a competitive climate where commercial construction has virtually come to a halt.

Tim Penick is a San Diego-based contractor with more than $200 million of contracts on base. He said the military has been their best client in the difficult economy, but the Marines are setting high standards.

“They take you to a great barracks,” Pennick said, “and say ‘here’s what we really like but you need to exceed this,’ so each one needs to be better and better for the troops.”

At a recent meeting with contractors, Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson, head of Marine Corps Installations West, remembered the crumbling, hastily constructed World War II barracks he lived in when he served on the base 35 years ago. He told the contractors the buildings they are building now will have to stand up much longer than those 1940s barracks did.

“These buildings will not be here for 50 years,” he said. “These buildings will be here for 100 years because we are already experiencing cutbacks that will start occurring. What you do will be monuments to the welfare of marines and their families.”

Later in an interview, Jackson spoke of the peace dividend that will come after troops pull out of Afghanistan and how that will mean less funding for the military. He predicted this building boom will be the last chance Marines have to beef up their bases so comprehensively for many years to come.

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