Even before the final results are in from four pilot projects testing DOD’s new authority for forming installation-community partnerships, Marine Corps officials already are planning on rolling out the authority on a wider scale.
Pilots at three locations — Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Albany, Ga.; MCLB Barstow, Calif.; and Marine Corps Base Hawaii — begun one year ago resulted in the development of 24 partnering initiatives with local agencies. The initiatives mainly involve public works, training and education, and emergency management, although the Marine Corps has not focused on any single function, Tom Ruffini, director of government and external affairs at Marine Corps Installations Command (MCICOM), told Defense Communities 360.
Seven memoranda of agreement or memoranda of understanding are under way and involve emergency services, education and other fields. The three pilots also yielded four draft intergovernmental support agreements (IGSAs) which have been signed at the local level but still need to be reviewed by Marine Corps headquarters and the Navy secretariat. Ruffini said he expects that review of the first IGSA should be completed and the agreement signed officially by June.
One of the IGSAs would allow MCLB Barstow to rely on the city of Barstow to conduct water and wastewater analysis rather than hiring a contractor. The city will charge the base for its services, but the Marine Corps projects the partnership will save it several hundred thousands of dollars annually. He pointed to the initiative as an example of the potential benefits offered by the statutory authority allowing military installations to enter into IGSAs with local governments to share base support services. The Barstow agreement is relatively small, but it allows the Marine Corps to pick up “some quick wins and [then we] can go from there,” Ruffini said.
The other three draft IGSAs were developed by MCLB Albany and its neighbors. The remaining initiatives, which include both IGSAs and memoranda of agreement or memoranda of understanding, have not yet been signed. A fourth pilot at Marine Corps Installations East/Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., is still underway and is expected to conclude next month.
MCICOM has scheduled several workshops at the conclusion of the four pilot projects for May to assess the Marine Corps’ return on investment and distill lessons learned. Officials then will brief the senior leadership of the Marines Corps on the results. But based on the progress achieved to date, the service already is embracing the new partnering authority with the backing of the head of MCICOM.
“We have been very impressed with the outcome of each pilot,” Ruffini said.
At a meeting of all installation commanders in the Marine Corps in April, officials will highlight the successes recorded by the pilot projects and the potential they raise for creating installation-community partnerships across the service. While installation commanders already use a variety of authorities to forge agreements for installation-related services, he said, “we recognize that the IGSA authority opens the aperture for providing, receiving or sharing installation services, and we will seek to increase use of the authority.”
After MCICOM completes its review of the pilots and consults with senior leadership, officials will update the service’s formal policies on installation-community partnerships and develop strategic goals for the effort. That exercise should be finished by the end of the summer, Ruffini said. The results from the pilots may help shape the Navy Department’s policy on IGSAs as well, he added.
MCICOM views the pilot projects as an avenue for exploring new ways to provide or enhance installation support services during a period of tight budget constraints. The Marine Corps’ primary aims for the initiative include fiscal efficiencies while maintaining or improving services delivered to Marines, sailors and family members.
“We also believe that this process will produce many qualitative benefits, including strengthening ties we have with the communities around our installations,” Ruffini said.