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Failing facilities highlight need to replace base infrastructure

A sign is placed on the inside of Bldg. 429 when snow accumulation reaches over six inches, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Currently, occupants of Bldg. 431 and 429 must evacuate the buildings and find alternate duty locations when it snows. A proposal is in place to demolish these buildings and build the SBIRS Operations Facility, which is set to consolidate the work centers and offer permanent homes to the nearly 200 people who work in the existing facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

A sign is placed on the inside of Bldg. 429 when snow accumulation reaches over six inches, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Currently, occupants of Bldg. 431 and 429 must evacuate the buildings and find alternate duty locations when it snows. A proposal is in place to demolish these buildings and build the SBIRS Operations Facility, which is set to consolidate the work centers and offer permanent homes to the nearly 200 people who work in the existing facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

The roof of Bldg. 431 in the restricted area is unable to bear the weight of more than six inches of snow at a time, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Currently, occupants of Bldg. 431 and 429 must evacuate the buildings and find alternate duty locations when it snows. A proposal is in place to demolish these buildings and build the SBIRS Operations Facility, which is set to consolidate the work centers and offer permanent homes to the nearly 200 people who work in the existing facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

The roof of Bldg. 431 in the restricted area is unable to bear the weight of more than six inches of snow at a time, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Currently, occupants of Bldg. 431 and 429 must evacuate the buildings and find alternate duty locations when it snows. A proposal is in place to demolish these buildings and build the SBIRS Operations Facility, which is set to consolidate the work centers and offer permanent homes to the nearly 200 people who work in the existing facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

A storage unit behind the 460th Operations Group Mission Control Station houses new batteries that will eventually supply power to Space-based Infrared System assets, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The Mission Control Station currently relies on backup power owned and controlled by the Aerospace Data Facility Colorado next door. The new project will expand the electrical infrastructure in the restricted area for dependable commercial power and independent backup generators for the SBIRS MCS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

storage unit behind the 460th Operations Group Mission Control Station houses new batteries that will eventually supply power to Space-based Infrared System assets, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The Mission Control Station currently relies on backup power. The new project will expand the electrical infrastructure in the restricted area for dependable commercial power and independent backup generators for the SBIRS MCS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

A storage unit behind the 460th Operations Group Mission Control Station houses new batteries that will eventually supply power to Space-based Infrared System assets, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado. The Mission Control Station currently relies on backup power owned and controlled by the Aerospace Data Facility Colorado next door. The new project will expand the electrical infrastructure in the restricted area for dependable commercial power and independent backup generators for the SBIRS MCS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

A storage unit behind the 460th Operations Group Mission Control Station houses new batteries that will eventually supply power to Space-based Infrared System assets, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado. The Mission Control Station currently relies on backup power. The new project will expand the electrical infrastructure in the restricted area for dependable commercial power and independent backup generators for the SBIRS MCS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

Bldg. 429 and 431 require a Team Buckley member to ride in a lift and clean the snow off the top of the roofs when the snow accumulation exceeds six inches, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.  Currently, occupants of these two buildings must evacuate and find alternate duty locations when it snows. A proposal is in place to demolish these buildings and build the SBIRS Operations Facility, which is set to consolidate the work centers and offer permanent homes to the nearly 200 people who work in the existing facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

Bldg. 429 and 431 require a Team Buckley member to ride in a lift and clean the snow off the top of the roofs when the snow accumulation exceeds six inches, Nov. 18, 2015, on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Currently, occupants of these two buildings must evacuate and find alternate duty locations when it snows. A proposal is in place to demolish these buildings and build the SBIRS Operations Facility, which is set to consolidate the work centers and offer permanent homes to the nearly 200 people who work in the existing facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Meadors/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Snowstorms during the night Nov. 16-17 triggered a disruptive evacuation for about 200 military members, civilians, reservists and contractors working in the Buckley Air Force Base space complex.

The Monday leading up to the first proper flurries of the season was defined by last-minute preparations and scrambling to find alternate places to work Tuesday.
A March 2015 study on the roofs of buildings 429 and 431 in the restricted area found the aging structures unable to bear the weight of more than six inches of snow at a time.

Lt. Col. Timothy Bos, 460th Operation Support Squadron commander, explained the roof's infrastructure failure as such: The building's roof structural members are stressed beyond their capacity by 172 percent. When these temporary buildings were constructed in 1971, the local minimum snow load requirements were different.

This revelation comes in light of several other infrastructure integrity issues plaguing the base due to its beginnings as an auxiliary landing field, a Naval Air Station and then an Air National Guard installation.

"Having transferred hands multiple times since World War II, this base was not born and developed like other Air Force installations," said Col. Rose Jourdan, 460th Mission Support Group commander. "There are no-fail and ground breaking missions that now find their home at Buckley that are riding on top of an infrastructure that hasn't been modernized in the same manner."

A proposal is in place to demolish the two buildings that house the 2nd Space Warning Squadron and 8th Space Warning Squadron command sections, 460th Operations Group offices, 460th OSS command section, Space and Missile Systems Center Space-based Infrared System Block 10 staff offices, Buckley Support Team offices, 460th OG Detachment 2, and Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center offices.

The plan for a new building, the SBIRS Operations Facility, is set to consolidate some of these work centers and offer permanent homes to the nearly 200 people who work in the existing facilities.

Alongside the restricted area's roof issues, an obsolete power system threatens to interrupt some of the critical tasks involved in keeping tabs on missile launches around the world.

"The existing system was installed in 1997 (and) has performed admirably until recently," said Duane Bartley, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron. "It is past its life expectancy (and) is being replaced by a faster, better, smaller, more powerful unit that performs the same function. During this demolition and reinstallation, we are going to fix problems that were found to be untenable when the old unit failed.

The great news is that the system, once the project is complete, will be re-instated to the high level of redundancy and reliability that it was originally designed to provide."

The Mission Control Station currently relies on backup power. The new project will expand electrical infrastructure in the restricted area for dependable commercial power and independent backup generators for the SBIRS Mission Control Station.

"We jeopardize the success of these critical missions if we do not make these overdue infrastructure investments," Jourdan said.

It is no small task modernizing a base that has spent the majority of its life as a National Guard asset primarily geared toward supporting a flying mission. Much of the improvements must first be approved by higher headquarters to obtain the funding necessary to fully turn Buckley AFB into a 21st century installation.

"We have great support from Air Force Space Command to replace our obsolete infrastructure, and we're laser focused on doing that right now. That's what building a better Buckley together, or B3T, is all about," said Col. John Wagner, 460th Space Wing commander. "It is simply unacceptable that we have power systems that have well-exceeded their design lifetime and buildings that over 100 Airmen must evacuate when it snows because the now 40-year-old 'temporary' buildings can't handle the loads."

Referring to the criticality of performing a persistent global surveillance mission, Wagner stressed the importance of taking the necessary steps to build and replace infrastructure with a 20-year outlook.

"We must take positive steps now to build the Buckley AFB mission critical infrastructure we need from 2016 through 2036," Wagner said. "We must protect and preserve our personnel and mission capabilities to the best extent possible without putting our Airmen at increased risk.  Too much is riding on this to not get it right." 

This article is part on an ongoing series dedicated to covering infrastructure replacement and improvement around Buckley AFB.
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