Historically, utilities on installations were the domain of military engineers who designed and managed systems to meet the needs of the base and the mission. By the end of the twentieth century, the changing needs of energy, internal expertise and the overall investment in installation infrastructure led to a degradation in the reliability of base utility systems. With little interest by Congress in writing big checks to rebuild systems, the Department of Defense (DOD) needed a new strategy. Based off of other successful reform efforts in that period, they turned to the private sector and a partnership model that would bring reinvestment and reliability.
In 1997, Congress provided statutory authority giving DOD the ability to privatize utility systems on military installations. In December 1998, Defense Reform Initiative Directive #49 mandated all military departments to develop plans to privatize utilities on military bases. The UP program would bring sweeping changes to installations across the country.