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Preparing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Future Pandemic Response Operations: A Case Study of Alternate Care Facility Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic


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In March 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was tasked to support national COVID-19 response efforts, with a primary focus on implementation of Alternate Care Facilities (ACFs). Despite USACE receiving overwhelmingly positive public responses from elected officials and media for the unprecedented work performed, several states--most notably, New York State with its New York City operations--discontinued services with USACE in favor of constructing ACFs directly with private firms. Acknowledging that some states may have perceived issues or challenges with the performance of tasks by USACE, the purpose of this study was to provide the Chief of Engineers, as the Chief Decision Maker within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with a rich description of the organization's performance of ACF tasks during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to identify capability gaps and generate solutions to prepare for future pandemic response operations. This research employed the Applied Professional Case Study methodology, leveraging the U.S. Army's Capabilities-Based Assessment as its governing process and the associated DOTMLPF-P domains as its primary model. The primary data collection method was document analysis of nearly 7,000 pages of USACE After Actions Reports, reflecting the observations of USACE Headquarters and each of its nine subordinate divisions. Ultimately, this study developed an expansive assessment of USACE enterprise performance of ACF site assessment, engineering and design, and contracting tasks during COVID-19 emergency response operations, while concurrently identifying capability gaps in USACE's ability to respond to a future pandemic event. Generating solutions to these identified capability gaps across the DOTMLPF-P domains, this study formulated a comprehensive response to the question of how USACE should prepare itself for effective support to ACF operations in future pandemic events.



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