Community Partnerships: Approaches and Potential Impacts

Published: October 14, 2019

USAFARMYHHSHUDUSMCNAVYOperations & MaintenanceProfessional ServicesVA

The federal government’s purchasing power has significant economic impacts on a given locality. Outside of the traditional procurement process, agencies have additional ways to work with communities. Here are some of these approaches and their impacts in more detail.

Partnering with the community: DoD vs civilian agencies

In terms of community partnerships, DoD and civilian agencies use different methodologies.

Within DoD, a Community Partnership Program (CPP) is a distinct term in and of itself. In a broad sense, CPPs are formalized collaborations of mutual value or benefit between a military installation and local (typically governmental) organizations in that installation’s locality.

State and local governments, regional planning organizations, and economic development organizations are among the types of entities on the non-federal side that typically participate.

The types of services usually involved include services like shared disaster recovery, construction materials purchasing, workforce training, family support services, maintenance and landscaping, wastewater treatment, environmental studies, and custodial services (to name a few).

Civilian agencies partner with communities (specifically via nonprofits) mainly via grants that provide funds to help groups such as veterans, the homeless, and the poor.

Mechanisms to facilitate community partnerships

The grant mechanism (31 USC 6304) is of course available to both civilian and DoD agencies. Defense agencies, given the altogether different nature of their partnership programs, have utilized other types of mechanisms as well to formalize partnerships with local organizations. These include:

  • Intergovernmental Service Agreements (IGSAs) – 10 USC 2679
  • Memorandums of Understanding (MOU)
  • Memorandums of Agreement (MOA)
  • Mutual Aid Agreements (MAAs) – 42 USC 5121-5206
  • Community Agreements – DOD 1015-10, AFI 31-101
  • Cooperative Agreements - 31 USC 6305
  • Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (15 USC 3710a)
  • Leases / Licenses / Permits – 10 USC 2667

Community Partnership Programs among defense agencies

CPPs may become a more utilized part of how the government looks to obtain installation-related services. Reasons for this include DoD’s intent to generate cost-savings, increase mission efficiency and effectiveness, and collaborate more with local communities where possible on opportunities that provide mutual benefit.

Results so far…

Through the Air Force Community Partnership Program (AFCP), the Air Force has developed more than 1,000 initiatives, issued 400 agreements, signed 12 IGSAs, and generated $68 million in savings.[MW1] 

According to an AFCP newsletter from 2018, we know that about 30% of the agreements were MOUs, 43% were related to MWR (military welfare / readiness), and 17% per EMS / law enforcement partnerships.

The IGSAs that have been put into place have so far involved refuse / recycling, pavement marking, snow and ice road treatment, and engineer training.

In addition, the Air Force has been exploring Enterprise-Wide Initiatives to determine how to use the partnership model for installation support services primarily in the areas of integrated solid waste management, grounds maintenance and landscaping, and pavement maintenance. As of Fall 2018, 7 EWI partnerships were put into place and an additional 7 were in the works.

Data on community partnership agreements, MOUs, and similar agreements is more limited for the Army and Navy. We know that as of July 2018, the Army had in place about 25 IGSAs, the Navy had 6, and the Marine Corps had 7. As with the Air Force, the Army and Navy / MC, IGSAs mostly involved installation services and similar types of work.

Congress continues to facilitate

Congress has been steadily facilitating the community partnership model, most notably through National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs) beginning in FY 2013.

The FY 2013 NDAA authorized the military services to enter into IGSAs. IGSAs are agreements between the federal and local / state government entities to “receive, provide, or share installation support services”.

Via the 2015 NDAA, Congress took an additional step and removed the requirement that IGSAs must follow the FAR.

In the 2018 NDAA, the term limit for IGSAs was increased from 5 years to 10 years.

Potential challenges

Community Partnership Programs - and the corresponding agreements or memorandums they facilitate - are an additional tool for installation managers to acquire needed services. They are in some sense, however, non-traditional tools. As a result, consistent and widespread adoption is likely to be an ongoing challenge, requiring concerted outreach and training from CPP leaders and their teams.

To this effect, the Air Force Community Partnership Program - to use it as an example - has put together a host of resources: a dedicated CPP website, a sharepoint page, a periodic newsletter, and a quick reference guide (to name a few).

DoD-wide, the Associate of Defense Communities hosts regularly held conferences that serve to facilitate outreach and education related to community partnerships.

On the vendor side, those in the facilities support or operations / maintenance market will note that agreements and memorandums can be used for a wide variety of services.  A resulting challenge is that a CPP mechanism could potentially be explored in lieu of a traditional acquisition method.

That said, these mechanisms are not appropriate for every situation and have various constraints that come into play. IGSAs for example, cannot be used for security guard or firefighting services, the entities involved must already be providing a given service for its own benefit, and agreements cannot be used to replace federal employees.

Community partnership efforts among civilian agencies

The focus of community partnerships within civilian agencies is typically healthcare, education, and rehabilitation of urban communities (just to name a few).  These partnerships are usually funded through grants awarded to nonprofits.

Examples of notable programs:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs’ program Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) was established to end veteran homelessness.  The SSVF program assists very low income veteran families who are homeless or at risk of being homeless find affordable housing, provide case management and assist them in obtaining VA and other public benefits.  In 2015, $300 million was awarded to nonprofits under the SSVF program.  In August 2019, another $400 million was awarded through grants to assist in helping veterans.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and developed the Veterans Housing Rehabilitation and Modification Program (VHRMP).  This program awards grants to nonprofit organizations that provide nationwide or statewide programs that primarily serve veterans or low-income individuals.  The grants may be used to modify or rehabilitate eligible veterans' primary residences or to provide grantees' affiliates with technical, administrative, and training support in connection with those services.  In 2018, $7.43 million was awarded in grants to various nonprofits across the country.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Entitlement Program provides annual grants to cities and counties to develop urban communities by providing homes and a suitable living environment as well as economic opportunities for low-income persons.  In 2018, roughly $1.2 billion was awarded in grants throughout the US under this program.

Potential challenges

Challenges will arise as it pertains to community partnerships.Often times, community members / groups are not aware of the federal programs that are available to them to help build a healthy and vibrant community.Many programs are fully funded and dispersed accordingly, but at times funds are not used for their intended purpose.Nonprofits need to make sure they understand each of the groups they want to partner with and to make sure that they are working effectively together.Lastly, a major challenge is the knowledge gap. Individuals involved are not always sure of their roles, or how those roles can come together to meet the needs and interests of all parties.

In closing

With respect to civilian agencies, industry members looking to participate in community partnerships are encouraged to do so.To ensure a successful partnership, companies need to do their research on the programs that are out there and make sure their services align with those programs. Additional information about various programs can be obtained at

Within DoD, the benefits from partnerships (in the form cost savings, efficiency, mission preparedness, and others) are likely to incentivize increasing use of CPPs as part of how some installation or MWR-related services are obtained. For those interested in learning more about CPPs and the various mechanisms they employ, the Air Force and the Army have dedicated sites (see Air Force link and Army link) to review developments, policies, and other information.