TOKYO, Japan -- Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer – Japan Engineer District (USACE JED) attended the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) forum held at the New Sanno hotel in Roppongi.
Founded in 1920, the Society unites public and private sector individuals and organizations from across the architecture, engineering, construction, environmental and facility management, cyber security, project planning, contracting and acquisition, and related disciplines in support of national security.
This was the first time in over 3 years that the forum was held at the hotel, with more than 400 attendees from all U.S. military branches in Japan attending, as well as American and Japanese contractor representatives. The forum was hosted by U.S. Forces Japan in partnership with delegates from SAME.
“SAME exists to further the trades, science and technology, and engineering,” said U.S Air Force Col. David McCleese, during his keynote address, opening the forum. McCleese serves as the 35th Fighter Wing Mission Support Group commander for Misawa Air Base and is also the Japan Post president for SAME. “We’re here to enhance the alliance and the defense and to learn from all of our attendees today what we’re doing right, and what we can do better.”
The forum held this year presented the opportunity for some of JED’s Engineers to showcase some of their larger projects worked on, coming off a record-breaking volume of contract actions awarded during the previous fiscal year, while also explaining what some of their upcoming contracts and goals were; the lessons and takeaways learned thus far, and to network with potential contract partners.
“It’s our first opportunity to attend a face-to-face industry event in a while, so we put a lot of effort into preparing for this event with the goal of informing industry about our programs and hopefully encouraging more contractors to take interest in them,” said Jake Shaw, JED’s Contracting Chief. “Andrew [Wright], who manages our Army, Air Force, Installation Support, and Environmental Branch, has a lot of great information to share with the attendees to help them better understand our program, our challenges, and the opportunities we have for contractors who are interested in doing business with us.”
Throughout the day, attendees were able meet with one another to discuss industry tips and tricks, and compare notes, seeing what kind of contracts and projects have been completed over the last fiscal year in Japan. JED’s Andrew Wright briefed to a packed ballroom what The District had been up to.
“As the Department of Defense design and construction agent for U.S. Forces and other agencies, Japan Engineer District provides quality, professional and comprehensive engineering, construction and other value-added services in support of peacetime and contingency operations in Japan and throughout the Pacific region,” said Andrew Wright, Program and Project Management Division Branch Chief for JED.
Some of the projects highlighted were a fuel offloading pier to be constructed in Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, several new multi-story barracks for Marines stationed on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, and housing renovations for approximately 120 houses on Yokota Air Base, near Tokyo.
“FY22 was the largest year on record for US Funded construction awards highlighting the level of investments in Japan,” Wright mentioned. “FY23 will be an even larger year needing the support of [the] Japanese construction industry to make it happen.”
But while JED’s team are focused on innovating and renovating, they also take the opportunity to learn from their host nation partners, taking in ways that construction methods can be improved and made more cost effective. But working in a bilingual environment means collaboration is sometimes an uphill battle as translating materials and requirements between U.S. and Japan standards can prove to be challenging at times.
“It has always been a bit difficult for Japanese contractors to build by U.S. standards,” mentioned Philip Lewis, JED’s Deputy Chief of Engineering division. “Our contractors have been forced to buy from U.S. vendors within the U.S., resulting in risks to bidders, or even projects becoming unattractive or not drawing enough interest.”
Many of the challenges that JED has encountered thus far have been integrating U.S. supplies with Japanese construction standards, such as pricing, or the modification of equipment for Japanese-use.
The opportunity here for The District to learn from these lessons can potentially streamline processes for future contracts, in addition to building a stronger foundation of trust between Japanese contractors and U.S. government agencies.
Furthering their initiative to improve, JED has produced something called the ‘Japan Edited Specification’ or JES, which they intend to integrate into their processes, and update quarterly to incorporate into future military contract (MILCON) designs.
“Our lessons learned thus far are only the beginning,” said Lewis. “Some of our lessons learned are not a 100% solution, but the research behind these methods will provide us a better opportunity to help us grow.”
While the SAME forum only lasted two days, it provided JED a great opportunity to explain their mission, projects, and learn more about the world of contracting from foreign and domestic perspectives, leaving the team better prepared to deal with the challenges of large Department of Defense military contracts, here in the Land of the Rising Sun.