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U.S. Military installations have a long history of collaborating with communities. If we look back to the history of the earlier camps & forts in the U.S., they were strategically placed to protect settler and travel routes on expanding frontiers, protect communities from attack and provide relief after natural disasters. Over the years, both urban and suburban communities have developed around military installations and in turn, have developed relationships that have allowed both the installation and community to evolve together.  This week’s Friday Field Notes features RAND Corporation’s research on the overcoming barriers to establishing strong partnerships between military installations and their surrounding communities. 

The purpose of the Military Installation Public-to-Public Partnerships study (2016) is to clarify the potential value of Public to Public Partnerships (PuPs) to the Department of Defense, identify barriers to their cost-effective application, and recommend ways to overcome those barriers and provide an overview of lessons learned from existing PuPs. The study contains valuable information that would be of interest to congressional and military leaders, policymakers, decision-makers, installation staff, managers across DoD and community leaders and staff who have an interest in promoting installation partnerships.

Barriers to partnership – Through examination of hundreds of military installations the study identified that the most common barriers to partnership were as follows:

1.) Challenges to both installation and community:

  • cultural differences between the military installations and communities
  • resistance to change by individuals and groups
  • partner(s) not able or willing to make the commitment required
  • deciding how to manage and share risks
  • place-specific partnership opportunities and obstacles based on unique local circumstances

2.) Community specific challenges:

  • little community interest or political support for partnering
  • staffing issues within the community
  • communication roadblocks with military installations
  • frustration with the slow military decision-making and approval processes relative to the community’s processes
  • constraints on community capacity and expertise.

3.) Installation specific challenges:

  • installations not wanting to partner with the community
  • installation staffing issues
  • installation communication challenges
  • security and access concerns on the installation
  • assessing the partnership in relationship to other activities.

4.) Challenges in creating, implementing, and maintaining the partnership agreement or contract:

  • determining which authority and what type of agreement to use for the partnership
  • installation and community lawyers, contracting personnel, and other staff disagreeing
  • on the specific terms of the partnership agreement or contract
  • an installation’s inability to appropriately monitor performance and provide contract oversight
  • the agreement or contract not having sufficient flexibility to change over time given changes and challenges that arise.

Wide Range of Benefits Experienced by Installations and Communities from Installation PuPs

1. improved military mission
2. economic benefits, including cost savings, earnings, and cost avoidance
3. improved installation and community operations, facilities, infrastructure, workforce,
and services
4. access to additional capacity in resources, skills, expertise, facilities, and infrastructure
5. improved strategic regional collaboration
6. improved government and community relationships
7. enhanced outreach to military personnel and their families and communities
8. energy and environmental benefits
9. facilitator and political help with federal, state, and local governments and other
10. helping maintain community character and way of life.

Recommendations for Installation-Level Actions for Developing and Implementing

  • Establish synergistic goals and objectives.
  • Invest in the partnership with the intent to develop a long-term relationship.
    Have committed leaders and staff.
  • Facilitate partnership champions who can communicate objectives, motivate change, and address barriers.
  • Make sure there are routine and ongoing communications at multiple levels.
  • Ensure that clear responsibilities are assigned to the different partners.
  • Develop a well-written partnership agreement or contract that includes objectives and performance criteria, spells out risk-sharing and other responsibilities, and provides the consequences for not meeting the agreement terms.
  • Ensure that all partnership participants know that part of this process is to develop a
    long-term mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Involve all potentially relevant stakeholders in the process.
  • Develop a joint process for handling the media regarding the partnership.
  • Encourage on-site field trips to help develop the partnership relationship and project
  • Once implemented, evaluate the partnership progress on an annual basis.


The document is worth the read for anyone working to develop a community-installation partnership!  It is worth mentioning that the full study expands upon each of the barriers to partnership as well as the strategies for strengthening partnerships listed above in much more detail.

Access the full research study:

Military Installation Public-to-Public Partnerships