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DeCA to Receive Two Hammer Awards

By Bonnie Powell
American Forces Press Service

FORT LEE, Va., Oct. 4, 1996 – The Defense Commissary Agency has been recognized with two Hammer Awards from the National Performance Review for its "common sense" approach to getting the job done.

The awards, which recognize the agency's Directorate of Facilities and the Office of the Inspector General, will be given in a special ceremony at a later date.

The Hammer Award is Vice President Al Gore's special recognition to teams that have achieved excellence in "reinventing" government in support of the president's National Performance Review principles. Those principles are putting customers first, cutting red tape, empowering employees and getting back to basics.

The agency's Inspector General office and Directorate of Facilities have already taken the initiative in changing the old way of doing things, says Steve Randol, DeCA's chief, Quality Improvement Division. "Sometimes in government people don't try new things because they think the old way is the law," said Randol. "They get caught up in the process -- whether it makes sense or not."

The Facilities Directorate has reinvented its process of design and construction of commissary facilities worldwide, saving $7.2 million in fiscal 1995 and $31 million over a five-year period. "Enough to build four stores," said Facilities Director Marvin Beck.

In the past, one company designed the building, another built it. Now the same company does both.

DeCA developed a proposal process that concentrates on what the "facility must be able to do" instead of telling contractors "you must build it this way." Instead of requiring a certain number and type of lights in a commissary, for example, the agency simply requires enough lights for people to comfortably and safely use the building.

"The design-build process is not new," says Beck. "What we did is streamline that process to meet the outcome we desired -- the best value.

"This Hammer Award is also a reflection of the partnering efforts achieved within the agency as well as our procurement partners: the U.S. Air Force Education and Training Command, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Naval Facilities Command," says Beck.

According to Walt Winters, chief of the Design and Construction Division, "we are adopting techniques used in the private sector wherever it makes sense." The new way of doing things has been used to build 13 commissaries, with another seven under construction and one contract recently awarded. "The program has turned out to be very economical for us," said Winters.

The Inspector General's office is being recognized with a Hammer Award for turning its traditional image from that of "black hat and non- compliance" to "we're here to help you." Instead of being satisfied with the usual approach of store inspections on a rotating basis, inspectors visit commissaries on the basis of factors such as customer complaints, congressional inquiries, hotline calls and regional director priorities.

Inspector General team visits are targeted to locations where the most benefit can be derived. As a result, DeCA saves money by making fewer site visits -- and making its visits count. Customer feedback surveys show that the DeCA Inspector General's Office has improved its customer service while reducing associated costs.

"The IG's office is the eyes and ears of DeCA," said Army Col. Michael Sandberg, former DeCA inspector general. Under his direction, the office concentrated more heavily on customer service, responding where a need is indicated and treating DeCA employees as customers too.

During commissary visits, the team interviews customers, visits the installation commander and conducts a session with commissary employees. Treating employees as customers is all part of the "quality" approach to doing business. (Powell is a public affairs specialist at the Defense Commissary Agency, Fort Lee, Va.)

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