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Selecting 'Best Person' Key to Pentagon Renovation Successes

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2003 – One of the keys to the success of the Pentagon Renovation Program is putting the best person in the job, program manager Michael Sullivan said at the Federal Buildings Expo here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Program manager Michael Sullivan talks about the success of the Pentagon Renovation Project. Sullivan said the project, slated for completion in 2010, is "on track." He was one of the featured speakers on the first day of the Oct. 22-23 Federal Buildings Expo at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center. Photo by K.L. Vantran

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Sullivan began his presentation at the Washington Convention Center with an overview of his organization, noting that about 80 percent of his core staff is contractors.

When considering contractor firms, Sullivan said he looks for "superior past performance, a sound technical solution and a good organization to implement it." The lowest bid is not necessarily the determining factor, he added.

Innovative acquisition and execution was next on Sullivan's list. This includes looking at situations from different angles. "If you look at regulations as being the bible, then you're probably lost. If you look at them as guidance, you can do a lot of innovative things," he said.

Sullivan said the Pentagon renovation team polled local, state and federal entities across the United States and asked what they were doing to motivate contractors. The staff also asked contractors what would motivate them.

"We tried to embrace that type of philosophy, to ask the people who are going to be motivated," he added.

This led into Sullivan's next point -- fostering a team environment. "All stakeholders need to be involved," he stressed.

Measuring performance also is crucial to success, Sullivan said. "If you're not measuring, not keeping score, then you're only practicing," he said, emphasizing that an organization must track performance to "be in the game."

Knowing what the customer wants and delivering on those expectations matters as well, he said. "We're a service organization. We're here to execute projects. If we're not successful, then they don't need us."

Each project, noted the manager, presents challenges, and the renovation of the Pentagon is no exception. Among the challenges the renovation team faces are moving employees to temporary spaces so areas can be renovated and coordinating contractor work schedules.

A $2.1 billion renovation of the 60-year old Pentagon began in 1993 and Wedge 1 was nearly completed when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building Sept. 11, 2001.

The Pentagon, dedicated in 1943, is laid out in five concentric pentagonal "rings," the "E" being the outermost and the "A" the innermost. The plane hit the renovated wedge as well as an adjoining section before stopping at "B" ring.

Renovations that included structural improvements such as blast-resistant windows and steel framing saved many lives, noted Sullivan. The renovated area had a new sprinkler system that Sullivan also credits with saving lives. The fire in Wedge 1 burned out in hours, while Wedge 2, with no sprinklers, burned for more than two days, he added.

What just days before had been a routine renovation became known as the Phoenix Project. Construction crews worked tirelessly to rebuild Wedge 1 by Sept. 11, 2002. In February, the last group of employees returned to work in this area. In July, part of Wedge 2 was finished, and employees have returned to offices there as well.

Because of that fateful day, Sullivan said the remaining renovation has been accelerated. "Putting in steel cages and flash-resistant windows sooner will protect people sooner," he added. The projected completion date moved from 2014 to 2010. "It's aggressive, but we're doing it," he said.

"We're on track. We have to look out all the way to 2010," he added. "We have to pulse ourselves every day. We have to do crisis management every day to get through today's jobs, but we're focused on 2010."

Another project with unique challenges is the Pentagon Memorial, said Sullivan. The memorial will be 184 lighted benches, each containing the name of a person who perished in the terrorist attack. The memorial is funded through private contributions. Sullivan said the team had hoped the $1.5 million would be raised by mid-November, but so far the fund has only $50,000. The challenge, he added, is working with the contractor to see what may be done in the interim.

Ultimately, the key is to "be flexible and do what you think is right," Sullivan said.


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