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Remembering Barry Frankel, Former Director of Real Estate, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Dawson & Associates mourns the passing of Barry J. Frankel who died on September 24, 2023. Barry was a unique colleague with deep roots in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers especially as a leader in the Army’s real estate mission for more than 30 years.

I first met Barry in 1983 when I was a newly hired real estate attorney in the Corps Headquarters assigned to the Directorate of Real Estate. I remember thinking at the time, “This guy never sits down!” A true believer in management by walking around, he constantly interacted with leadership and staff alike, all in support of the mission.

Barry was a New York native through and through. After attending Buffalo University and Brooklyn Law School, Barry passed the New York bar exam and was promptly drafted. He volunteered for duty in Vietnam. In Saigon, Lt. Frankel was assigned to the engineers. He soon found himself in charge of finding and securing forward areas needed for military operations and facilities.

Barry often admitted that he made up the rules as he went along. At one point, he was tasked with leasing a mountain top area for Army use. Negotiations dragged on and Frankel spent weeks trying to get an agreement. Finally succeeding, he proudly brought the lease to his superiors, who informed him that he had leased the wrong mountain top. Undaunted, he went back and leased a second mountain top next to the first one. Undoubtedly, his positive attitude and great good humor served his country well.

Barry’s efforts in Vietnam set him up for what was to become a unique and illustrious career. After Vietnam, the Army sent Barry to the Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, immersing him in the civil works mission. Upon discharge, he, wife Marsha (nee Harris) and their young family returned to New York.

After about a year of working for landlords in Manhattan, Barry decided that the world of commercial real estate was not for him. He accepted a position in the Baltimore District, Corps of Engineers. He arrived just in time to support massive natural disaster recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Agnes.

In short order, he was promoted to Chief of Real Estate. Barry fine-tuned his knowledge of flood control, navigation, emergency operations, environmental projects and on special Department of Defense programs. Subsequently, Barry was selected as the SES Director of Real Estate and assigned to the Corps of Engineers Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Through his dogged leadership, Barry modernized the Army’s real estate mission during a period marked by profound legislative change. This included implementation of the Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act, 3 rounds of Base Realignment and Closure, groundbreaking project cost sharing and policy changes introduced in the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 and the DoD Homeowner’s Assistance Program.

Barry basically ensured that rules and regulations were put in place to implement these laws. The program and policy framework spearheaded by Barry exists to this day.

Perhaps his crowning achievement was his creation of a contingency real estate support team (“CREST”) capable of rapid deployment to support military operations or natural disasters. The CREST team has deployed to the Middle East and other conflict areas on multiple occasions with great success. This concept has been thoroughly adopted within the Corps and emulated by many other organizations.

Barry was an unforgettable person. As his son, Brian, recently noted, if you met Barry, you would have a friend for life. A caring and gifted mentor, he will be sorely missed but gratefully remembered.

Liz Fagot

Senior Advisor

An expert in federal real estate law and policy, Liz spent 30 years as an attorney with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including becoming the first Assistant Chief Counsel for Real Estate.


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