Event Recap: Capital Week 2023

At the 2023 Capital Week, over 650 attendees came together at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center to support the SAME Foundation, gain insights on upcoming programs across the uniformed services and federal agencies, and discuss pressing issues facing the A/E/C industry.

Coming Together for a Good Cause

To begin the Capital Week festivities, over 150 attendees gathered Monday night for a Fundraising Reception in support of the SAME Foundation. Attendees were treated to an ice sculpture, a bourbon and whiskey tasting bar, and selfie station to make plenty of memories while supporting a good cause. Through the generous support of SAME’s sponsors, 100 percent of all ticket proceeds went to benefit the SAME Foundation and its Leader Development Program, Camps Mentoring Program, and Indigenous STEM Program. 

These programs target students and mid-career professionals to ensure the nation maintains a pipeline of dedicated STEM professionals ready to address the grand challenges of the future. Through these world-class programs featuring hands-on training, activities, discussions, mentoring, and more, the SAME Foundation is driving the development of the next generation of military, government, and industry leaders our nation needs.

Opportunities Ahead

On Day One, attendees kicked things off with a morning general session featuring executive leaders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, U.S. Air Force, and Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss their upcoming programs, areas of focus, and general outlook for FY2024. Still in the midst of a once-in-a-generation investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure, the services shared insights into how they are approaching this challenge and how attendees, no matter what kind of line of business they were in, could participate in executing this historic workload.

“Even with our 40,00 employees, we can’t do it alone. So when you look round this room and see a bunch of SAME members, I look at it and I see the possibilities.”

Maj. Gen. Richard Heitkamp, USA, Deputy Chief of Engineers and Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Nowhere had the increased investment in nation’s infrastructure been more apparent than in the USACE programs, which Maj. Gen. Richard Heitkamp, USA, Deputy Chief of Engineers and the Deputy Commanding General, USACE, noted in his opening remarks stood at approximately $91 billion dollars, which represented a doubling in the size of the program compared to five years ago (when it stood at about $45 billion). Major areas where this program increase is being targeted include supply chain resilience, such as through dredging and waterway maintenance.

Assuring supply chain resilience was also one of the major areas of focus for the Air Force, though focused more on international than domestic considerations. As David Dentino, SES, Deputy Director of Civil Engineers, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering, and Force Protection covered in his remarks, the Pacific region remains the number one priority for ongoing construction in order to meet China’s pacing threat.

Dr. Michael Brennan, Executive Director for the Office of Construction and Facility Management at the Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke on challenges facing his agency regarding aging infrastructure. He noted that over 50 percent of VA facilities were over 50 years old and trending older. To address this and bend the curve of infrastructure age back down, a concerted effort was being made to modernize and recapitalize those facilities.

NAVFAC is also making a historic investment in updates and modernization to its infrastructure, focusing largely on the Pacific region as well. As Bob Silver, Director, Military Construction Program Office at NAVFAC, covered in his presentation, the NAVFAC program has increased to $6.4 billion in military construction alone from its usual baseline of around $3 billion. Of that, the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program stands at about $2.4 billion. Other major pieces of this workload include the support of weapons platforms, again trending toward the Pacific region.

Delivering for our Nation

“Today, in the construction and design of facilities, 90-plus percent of projects are not delivered on time or within budget. And if they are delivered in budget, there has been some scope reduction.” 

Rear Adm. John Korka, P.E., F.SAME, USN (Ret.), Division President, Clark Construction Group

To close out Capital Week 2023, SAME hosted the inaugural IGE summit on Wednesday afternoon. Centered around the topic of “Construction: A Contact Sport,” this event brought together members from both government and industry for a forthright discussion around three pressing issues facing project delivery and the construction sector. The discussions produced from this summit will help set the stage for further explorations during the 2023 Joint Engineer Training Conference & Expo and potential avenues for solutions.

Along with the summit setting the standard for further IGE Summits hosted by SAME, the goal was to determine what the right questions were to ask regarding project delivery, the shrinking contractor base, and the sharing of risk. From those questions, and subsequent informed discussions, solutions could begin to emerge. Through three breakout sessions, participants identified that risk and how that risk is shared between government and industry remains a pain point. Seeking out ways to share that risk and transform it into an effective tool to build urgency, build relationships, and ultimately reverse the shrinking trend in the federal contractor base is needed.

Read More from Capital Week 2023

Daily Recap Emails: March 28 | March 29