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'Can Do' Attitude Turns 'Years to Finish' Pentagon Repairs to 'Finished Years Early'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2002 – Less than a month after a terrorist- hijacked airliner slammed into the Pentagon last year, the building's chief renovation official estimated that repairs to the stricken building could take years to accomplish.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Pentagon Renovation Program Manager Lee Evey credits teamwork among his employees and contractors for being years ahead of schedule on repairs to damage caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. The Vietnam veteran is slated to retire from federal service on Sept. 16. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.

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

In remarks to reporters Oct. 2, 2001, renovation project manager Lee Evey said it would take 18 months just to clear debris and rebuild the damaged sections of the Pentagon. He noted another two years of work would probably be necessary in order to install necessary utilities and provide furniture, fixtures, equipment and carpeting.

Today, as the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack nears, repair work to the Pentagon's damaged outer west wall is complete and employees are moving back into their "E" ring offices.

By spring 2003, Evey now says, all "Phoenix Project" interior renovations will be complete.

Some people are calling the project a miracle. Evey instead credits the determination of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to effect repairs as soon as possible, around-the-clock work schedules, and the "can do" attitude of his staff and construction contractors.

Evey pointed out that Pentagon attack repairs are many months ahead of early projections. In recognition of that effort, the renovation program recently received the Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence. This success has occurred, he remarked, because of an emphasis on teamwork and better ways of doing business tied to common-sense management and improved relations with contractors.

"It's incredible what people can do if they team," the 56-year-old former Army infantry officer explained. "What you saw out here was a whole bunch of things coming together."

Since coming aboard in November 1997 to head renovations for the 60- year-old Pentagon, Evey said management changes have been implemented within his program that establish clear goals, responsibility, and reward initiative.

Evey noted his office has awarded more than $1.5 billion in contract work to repair the terror-damaged Pentagon, while continuing renovations of the rest of the building. While having ample funding is both desirable and necessary, this may not always guarantee success, he pointed out. How that money is spent, he emphasized, is key.

At the Pentagon, he explained, contractors producing results ahead of schedule are rewarded with increased profits. Operations and the decision-making process have been streamlined while maintaining open dialogues between government managers, rank-and-file employees, and contractors, he added,.

"You make it so you work together as a team and you emphasize leadership," he remarked.

Evey recalled his first meeting in a Pentagon auditorium with his managers and rank-and-file employees in the fall of 1997.

"The Pentagon renovation program had been under way for five years at that time," he continued. "That was the first time they had ever met as a group." By the time the meeting concluded, Evey recalled, his audience knew his goals and management style -- and were properly motivated. "They were all chanting, 'On cost, on schedule, built for the next 50 years.'"

Evey said he's learned over his 32-year federal career not to be a micromanager. For example, the Vietnam veteran says it isn't necessary for him to prescribe the exact details of how contractors pour and spread concrete -- that's their job.

More important, he emphasized, is conveying what you want to achieve and where you want to go -- "and then get the hell out of their way."

With Pentagon repairs and renovations firmly on course, Evey noted that he's ready to start a new project, as he's slated to retire from the government Sept. 16.

"Somebody will take my place," Evey said, matter-of-factly, noting he'll miss "the people who make the job really worthwhile."

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Related Sites:
Pentagon Renovation Program Web site

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