By Patricia Ryan
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 22, 2008 - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with Iraqi officials to shore up construction on new piers and a seawall in Iraq's southern province of Basra in the first Foreign Military Sales project for USACE in Iraq. With construction scheduled to begin at the end of the year at Umm Qasr, leaders from the Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division and the Iraqi navy and Defense Ministry, along with contractors and support staff, met Oct. 16 to discuss the new conceptual design for the project.
Foreign Military Sales is a program that allows the host country to pay the U.S. government for construction and supplies related to its Military.
The meeting served as an opportunity to clear up misunderstandings and develop partnerships that will see this project to completion, officials said.
"I commit to the head of the Iraq navy that if he wishes, he and I, or our representatives, will personally inspect the project monthly, and resolve any issues that might arise," said Army Brig. Gen. Charles D. Luckey of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's security assistance office.
"The ultimate agent to make sure Iraq gets what it pays for on this project at Umm Qasr is the USA," Luckey said.
Representatives for the contractor selected for this project -- CCI Inc./PolyEarth Construction International -- provided a thorough briefing on the conceptual design for the piers and seawall. Jeffrey R. Mekinda, director of operations for PolyEarth, assured the Iraqi navy he would be on site throughout construction to ensure all aspects of the contract are delivered as promised.
Rear Adm. Mohammed Jawad Khadum, commander of the Iraqi navy, expressed the need for assurances from USACE representatives that they would be directly involved with quality control, which prompted a long discussion and exchange of ideas.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delivers a quality product," Army Col. Jack Drolet, commander of USACE's Gulf Region South district, said. "We hold the contractor responsible for delivering the project up to standard, on time and within budget.
"As construction progresses, we will perform detailed inspection and analysis of materials and closely coordinate with the construction team to ensure we are all moving forward with the same expectations," Drolet said.
Iraq's top naval officer thanked the team for the long discussions. "The Iraqi navy is pleased to have a voice in the process," he said.
The team adjourned on a positive note and agreed to meet again soon to make certain all parties are aware of the process and to ensure construction will proceed on time to meet the scheduled delivery of new Iraqi navy ships slated for late 2009.
(Patricia Ryan works for the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.)