Thursday, February 25, 2010

So, It's Not All Fun & Games

Sure I post right away about being caught out by RADM Handley.....but there was some seriously interesting stuff in that Roundtable.

This is a link to the audio of the call.

Several bloggers on the call were asking questions about the materials that the SeaBees need to do their jobs. What gets imported? What is acquired locally?

These questions led to thoughts on fostering sustainable industries in Afghanistan. I've also been thinking about that in light of some stuff we were presented with at EPIIC last weekend.

The questions started out asking about moving equipment and materials in C-17s vs. sea-lift and coming in through Karachi. But then the conversation turned to the materials themselves.

Chuck: Yes, sir. Chuck Simmins, from America's North Shore Journal.
I wanted to ask about raw materials. Afghanistan doesn't seem to have much industrial capacity. When you need cement, when you need concrete, when you need asphalt, when you need milled lumber, can you buy any of that locally, or is it all imported?

ADM. HANDLEY: Our construction material -- and for us, that is our fuel; that is what -- that drives us in our construction -- is probably one of the greatest concerns that we have. And we find that it's a very long lead-time for us to get material. In the past, we've been able to get and resource general building materials, mostly lumber. But as we go into more specialty materials -- some electrical materials that we need, and then we do a fair amount of water well drilling, and the well material that you need -- the pipe and what we call a completion kit that has all of the valving and other technical components that help develop a well -- those are the longest-lead items.
And so we are working with -- through the Army system in Afghanistan, as well as the Defense Logistics Agency, in order to improve the flow of materials. But our ability to be successful today has been the fact that we have reached very far into the future of what we believe our requirements are going to be, and we've anticipated fairly well.
Our two challenge areas have been in electrical materials and in well-completion kits, to this date.

Chuck: Well, do the Seabees have the capability of putting in a small concrete manufacturing plant and making their own concrete, or putting in a small mill and making their own milled lumber?

ADM. HANDLEY: The Seabees have the ability to run what's called a concrete batch plant. But the core ingredient that you need -- you get aggregate that goes in there, and sand, but the real core ingredient you need is cement. And we don't have the ability to -- essentially it's a cement kiln that is where you make cement. We don't have that capacity. That's a raw material that you have to go out and procure. And we've never had the ability to mill, and to mill you'd need, obviously, lumber and a number of other things. Far more efficient for us to go ahead and buy it and have it imported in than to go out and create that kind of production.

Chuck: Thank you, sir.

So Chuck wanted to follow up, but we had to go around again.

This time it was Andrew who picked up the thread.

Andrew: Yes, I do. Admiral, Andrew Lubin again, Leatherneck Magazine. Sir, I spent a fair amount of time in the international trade business. And frankly, when I'm in Afghanistan, I'm horrified at the amount of American materials I see. Pakistan has cement they're dying to sell. The government of -- Indians have wire mills for rebar. They've got pipe mills where you can buy all the pipe you need. Why are we shipping it from the States or wherever, when it's better and cheaper to get it virtually locally, if almost domestically?

ADM. HANDLEY: I actually don't have specific knowledge that it comes from the States. I'd have to research that one and get back to you.
I know that when we were in Iraq -- and I'll say just from my own experience of being deployed there -- we did pull it from Jordan and from Turkey and from, obviously, from Kuwait, but not necessarily all the way from the United States.
I would be -- (inaudible) --

Andrew: I mean -- sorry; go ahead.

ADM. HANDLEY: -- if we got lumber from the United States, but I'll take a look at that.

Andrew: Lumber I understand. But you read the value of cement that comes out of the States versus -- the locals are buying their cement from Pakistan; we're importing it from the States. We're shipping 20- ton containers full of cement. You can't find a worse waste of money.

ADM. HANDLEY: Right. Very good. I'll take a look at that.

Andrew: Thank you.

ADM. HANDLEY: I'd much rather get it local.

So, I thought that was excellent. The whole..."teach a man to fish" thing.

And I am going to have another post related to this discussion from some stuff I got out of EPIIC and forestry.

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