The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has faced a significant adversary over the past decade. But we’re not talking about ISIS, or North Korea or any of the adversaries you may be thinking of. We’re talking about budget uncertainty, which has made it difficult for the military to make long term plans and investments that will help it become more ready for future missions.
Although budget concerns have long been a talking point for military senior leaders, the challenge has been far more tangible and significant in the past decade. The need to get the federal budget and deficit under control following the economic downturn led to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which put processes in place to help decrease the nation’s spending. In the years that followed, continuing resolutions and last minute budget deals had left the military with the inability to predict budget levels.
The impact of this budget uncertainty was illustrated by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis at the 2017 Air Force Association (AFA) Air, Space and Cyber Conference when he said, “If we don’t get budgetary predictability, if we don’t remove the defense caps, then we’re questioning whether or not America has the ability to survive. It’s that simple.”
However, much has changed since Secretary Mattis made that statement. With a new administration in office that has rallied and campaigned on strengthening America’s military, the uncertainty has come to an end – even if temporarily.
In August of this year, President Donald Trump signed the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which handed a $717 Billion top-line budget to the DoD. When announcing this giant spending initiative, President Trump claimed that the NDAA, “…is the most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in modern history. We are going to strengthen our military like never ever before and that’s what we did.”
The signing of the 2019 NDAA has opened a window for the military. In addition to the acquisition of new military platforms and vehicles deemed necessary to increase readiness in the face of increasingly near-peer adversaries, this NDAA will allow the military to make necessary infrastructure improvements that may have been put off due to the previous budget uncertainty. This means that the military will be investing in its facilities – including bases and building – in 2019 and beyond.
The focus on renovating military infrastructure was illustrated by Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Stephen Wilson during this year’s AFA Air, Space and Cyber Conference, when he said, “[Our team has] mapped out our bases and infrastructure and we can tell you where areas we need improvements are down to every building on every installation across the Air Force. Then we’ve got to stop just looking at it and doing something about it, so we’ve prioritized the investment in our infrastructure…and boosted the funding considerably this past year and made it priority that we’ll fundamentally fund our base infrastructure…”
However, for the military to make necessary repairs and improvements to base infrastructure, they first have to know what needs to be done. And that’s where reality capture and existing conditions modeling can come into play.
Technology exposes what needs renovation
When approaching a renovation, it’s essential to have a complete knowledge of the structure and its problems. And one of the most effective ways to accomplish that is by building a detailed 3d model of the existing facility.
Utilizing laser scanners, video footage from UAVs and other data points, today’s digital design and 3d modeling solutions can effectively create a virtual model of the facility that can then be analyzed for weaknesses and tested against any number of different factors and conditions. Tests can be run to determine how environmental factors will influence the facility over time. Audits can be run to analyze how energy efficient the facility and its utilities are.
This is important for two very important reasons:
- Eliminate surprises – Anyone that has ever renovated a home knows that you often discover surprises lurking in the walls that add to the total time and budget of a project. There is nothing worse than facing project budget and schedule overruns in a renovation – and that’s especially true when you’re trying to use taxpayer dollars as effectively and efficiently as possible. Reality capture and existing conditions modeling helps to eliminate the surprises that may pop up and keep costs under control.
- Enable prioritization – Just because a funding window is open doesn’t mean that America’s military has an unlimited pool of funds that it can use to purchase every new weapon system it wants and make every renovation necessary. The funding is finite, and the most critical requirements need to be addressed first. With a detailed 3d model in place, and the information that it can reveal, the military can make smarter decisions when it comes to prioritizing its investments. The facilities in the worst shape, and that require the most essential renovations can be prioritized to ensure that budget dollars are being spent where they’re most needed.
With finite dollars to spend, reality capture and existing conditions modeling can play an important role in keeping costs down, and ensuring the budget is used fastidiously. And there is already precedent for reality capture and existing conditions modeling in today’s DoD.
Air Force Academy Chapel provides an example
A few years ago, the Air Force Academy Chapel was in dire need of renovation and repair. An exquisitely designed, beautiful building, the chapel is gorgeous on its face, but facing problems behind the scenes. Foundation issues and water penetration were threatening to cause significant damage to the building.
Utilizing digital video of the interior and exterior of the chapel, as well as 129 scans of the interior and exterior of the cadet chapel using a laser scanner, a 3d model of the chapel was developed. That model was used to determine the areas where structural damage occurred, test the structure against environmental impact (such as damage from wind) and visualize renovations.
The Air Force Academy Chapel is an incredible example of how reality capture and existing conditions modeling can help the military as it works towards renovating its bases – the facilities from which the military projects power. By analyzing facilities, generating 3d models and testing structures digitally, the military can eliminate surprises during renovation projects, identify the building in most dire need of rehabilitation and better spend its budget dollars to ensure that it gets the most out of the current funding window.
In our next post on the GovDesignHub, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the use of 3d modeling, reality capture and existing conditions modeling for energy audits and increasing energy efficiency. If you’d like to learn more about the 3d modeling of the Air Force Academy Chapel, click HERE for an archived blog post by Autodesk.