GAO: K-town mall not only project with problems
Stars and Stripes June 27, 2007
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – An investigation by the General Accountability Office into the beleaguered Kaiserslautern Military Community Center has found similar construction problems with other projects at Ramstein Air Base.
Testimony at a House committee hearing on Wednesday revealed that the Air Force’s largest base in Europe has experienced cost, schedule and workmanship problems with other recently completed work.
Poor drainage on the new south runway has resulted in standing water that has caused lights to malfunction, forcing the Air Force to divert flights to other bases.
A year after the Air Force acknowledged problems with its newly constructed freight terminal, neither the military nor the German government have found a solution to its faulty roof.
The German state construction agency — Landesbetrieb Liegenschafts- und Baubetreuung, LBB — has managed and coordinated the construction of KMCC’s hotel and mall in addition to the runway and freight terminal.
"Specifically, there have been several projects where faulty construction has resulted in safety concerns, building evacuations and potentially reduced useful lives of facilities," a GAO report released at the hearing stated.
Greg Kutz, GAO managing director of forensic audits and special investigations, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the mall and hotel are fraught with rising repair costs, no reliable completion date and additional construction problems.
The emergence of additional issues with other projects lead to more serious questions about what went wrong and what needs to be done to prevent future construction debacles involving the military and German government.
A spokesman for LBB could not be reached for comment.
Lt. Col. Manning Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said the command could not answer questions about the KMCC or the additional projects because officials were en route to Germany after testifying in Washington on Wednesday.
Congressional investigators who visited the base in March found drainage problems so severe that they posed a safety hazard to aircraft. When the base received a lot of rain, several large "ponds" of several acres in area formed between the south runway and adjacent runways and taxiway, the report said. Groundwater seeped into underground ducts and manholes holding electrical wiring, causing power outages to the runway lights.
The lights are critical for pilots to see at night or at times when visibility is poor.
Between November and December last year, the Air Force had to divert flights to other bases in Europe because of the lighting and water problem.
The Air Force has used pumps to remove the water at a cost of $65,000 so far, the report said. The Air Force and German government are trying to determine how to fix the runway issue but have not come up with a resolution.
In addition, a solution to roof problems with the base’s cargo facility remains elusive more than a year later. Ramstein’s 100,000-square-foot facility is designed to store cargo shipped to and from overseas locations. But construction crews installed 41 steel columns inside the building due to concerns that the roof might collapse. Inspectors found deficiencies in the steel used for the frame of the building.
They also found the attached building structurally deficient, forcing the Air Force to evacuate the facility from July through September last year to install support columns. Although an inspection in March determined that the structural steel in the attached building was installed correctly, problems with the freight terminal are currently in litigation.
But that’s not all. Investigators would find more problems at Ramstein, which became the Air Force’s flagship base after the closure of Rhein-Main Air Base in 2005.
Contractors failed to install dowels between concrete slabs on a hot cargo pad, the report added.
The concrete area is used for loading live munitions onto aircraft heading to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Without the dowels, Air Force officials told investigators that the cargo pad could be damaged or not last as long as hoped.
The Air Force is in negotiations with LBB to determine what, if anything, should be done.
The Air Force told investigators they have experienced fewer problems associated with the construction of more than 1,000 military housing units built in the area and construction of an indoor pool at Ramstein.
But the GAO reported that those construction projects are not nearly as large as the KMCC and the freight terminal.
The report said the Air Force could not provide any information on what it will cost to fix these additional projects.