Military officials and others said they became aware of problems with the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center’s progress as long as three years ago.

Brig. Gen. Danny Gardner, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Director of Installations and Mission Support, said he first started noticing problems with the project in December 2005. But the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Air Force Services Agency voiced concerns about the project as early as September 2004.

In a memo to USAFE headquarters, top officials with AAFES and the services agency wrote that they had problems with the fast-track approach — which was meant to pace the project’s completion with the closure of Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt.

The memo would be prophetic.

“This accelerated process has contributed to critical design process omissions, design coordination problems, and schedule complications...that may cause cost increases and project delays,” the memo said.

It wasn’t until the early part of 2006 that Gardner said he got heavily involved. He went to German construction contractor LBB for answers.

“‘We’ve got some timelines here... what was the problem?’” Gardner recalled saying. “Their answer to me was, ‘Well, it’s because the customers keep changing the specifications.’”

By June last year, LBB provided 549 change orders. It’s not unusual for large projects to have that many changes, but design flaws added to the modifications. There were so many changes the agency has yet to provide some of them.

The mounting number of changes is one reason why the number of workers on site has dwindled. When the Air Force refused to pay for changes they have not reviewed or approved, contractors started walking off the job. Many have not returned.

Earlier this week, fewer than a couple dozen workers could be seen on site. Getting them back on site is crucial to finishing the job.

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