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Air Force transforms, merges property operations

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 08, 2003) -- The Air Force recently created a new agency to handle all of its real estate transactions.

The Air Force Real Property Agency resulted from the merging of two agencies: the Air Force Base Conversion Agency and the Air Force Real Estate division. The move, said the director of the AFRPA, is expected to improve the effectiveness of Air Force real estate operations across the force.

"Merging these functions creates the synergy needed to meet Air Force mission capability," said Albert Lowas. "By that we mean to take the expertise of the active Air Force real estate people and merge them with what was AFBCA, so we can do a better job of using that real estate asset to support the Air Force mission."

Before the merger, Lowas said, the Air Force Real Estate division handled the sale and purchase of real estate to meet the needs of active service installations. Such property sales might have included abandoned missile silos or housing areas that were no longer needed. The same division would also have handled the purchase of land if an active installation needed a bombing range or needed to expand a runway.

In contrast, Lowas said, the AFBCA was responsible only for converting of Air Force installations being closed under the Base Realignment and Closure Act.

"The AFBCA handled the property disposal for bases closed in the four rounds of BRAC," said Lowas, who was head of the former AFBCA. "We worked with the local communities on what their disposal plan would be. We would do the environmental cleanup, we took care of the buildings so they would not deteriorate, and then we would dispose of the property."

The AFBCA did not simply sell off Air Force installations closed under BRAC. Instead, Lowas said, the service worked to ensure that local communities that surrounded those installations would be able to thrive as they had when the base was active.

"We tried to replace that economic engine of the air base and the air wing with new jobs," Lowas said. "Even before the base was closed we were working with the wing commander so a warehouse could be leased, or we could start joint use on the runway, or we could start to use the hangars and have commercial enterprise come in and start to use the base."

During its existence, the AFBCA used that methodology to convert 32 Air Force installations to civilian use. That experience, Lowas said, will be brought to bear upon all Air Force real estate transactions.

"With AFRPA, we are going to take that experience of working with local communities and transform how we do property disposal on other Air Force installations, to make it the proverbial win-win, for us and for the local community," Lowas said.

The Air Force, Lowas said, is transforming the way it conducts real estate business.

"It's all about being good neighbors and working to ensure everyone's interests are being considered," Lowas said. "Old practices have to be evaluated, and new ones more conducive to the 21st century must be incorporated.

"We are transforming the way we do Air Force real property acquisition and disposal. We are looking beyond the boundary of the base into the larger community to balance everyone's needs: the Air Force's and the community's," he said.