Agency Focuses on Efficiency During Relocation
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2011 With less than five months left for the Defense Department to comply with a congressionally directed base realignment and closure plan, an agency on the front lines of the department’s cost-savings initiatives is keeping focused on the mission while relocating its headquarters staff.
The Defense Contract Management Agency is in the throes of moving its headquarters staff and international and special programs divisions from Alexandria, Va., to Fort Lee, Va., in implementing Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations.
The BRAC plan took effect in November 2005, and affects more than 800 military installations. It involves closing some, consolidating or realigning others, and ultimately relocating some 123,000 military members and civilian employees. By law, all of these actions must be completed by Sept. 15.
BRAC affects about 500 Defense Contract Management Agency employees, about 377 of them already operating in the six government-owned or –leased facilities at Fort Lee, reported Bob Allen, the agency’s BRAC program manager. The rest are expected to move by late August.
The vast majority of the agency’s workforce -– 10,400 civilians and 530 military members –- is located near or collocated with contractors’ facilities and won’t be directly affected, public affairs officer Jackie Noble told American Forces Press Service. The Defense Contract Management Agency has almost 50 major field commands and operates from more than 800 locations worldwide, Deputy Director Jim Russell noted.
The moves come just as the Defense Department is looking to its acquisition workforce to identify ways to improve efficiencies while providing critical warfighter capabilities.
Ashton B. Carter undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told a Heritage Foundation audience yesterday that DOD’s comprehensive review aimed at bigger cost savings must address the $400 billion the department spends each year on contracted goods and services.
The Defense Contract Management Agency is front and center in that effort. Its staff works directly with defense suppliers to ensure those supplies and services are delivered on time, at cost and meet all performance requirements. They serve as information brokers and in-plant representatives for military, federal and allied government buying agencies, with their work beginning at the initial stages of the acquisition cycle and spanning the lifetime of a contract.
In a recent memorandum to his staff, Charlie E. Williams Jr., the agency’s director, recognized the organization’s role in Gates’ efficiency initiative.
“We have to be cognizant and respectful of the tax dollars that the department and the taxpayers have entrusted us with,” he said. “This means we must make some changes in how we conduct business, ensure our processes and practices are streamlined and leverage technology whenever possible to help contain costs.
“Bottom line is this: consistent with the secretary of defense’s efficiency initiatives, we must be more stewardship conscious,” Williams continued. “I need every commander, manager, supervisor and leaders, as well as each of you, to work diligently to identify ways to be more efficient in our business operations, challenge the status quo way of doing business and find ways to make a difference.”
Williams said he’s impressed with how the agency’s new headquarters facility at Fort Lee is progressing to help in meeting that challenge. With 18 conference rooms complete with video teleconference equipment, the staff will be able to communicate with customers worldwide. Allen said this enhanced capability will directly support Gates’ efficiency initiatives in creating a “culture of savings.”
In preparation for the headquarters staff’s move, the agency established transition management offices in the Fort Lee area and planned phased moves so it could continue operations without interruption, Allen noted. It sponsored transition fairs to educate employees about the moves and services and support available to them.
The agency also offered three-day permissive temporary duty travel orders for employees to travel at their own expense to the Fort Lee area to make their decisions about moving, Allen said.
Carter recognized yesterday the challenge of moving key people in the midst of the department’s efficiency efforts.
“You are asking people who are part of the solution here to move to Fort Lee –- to either relocate, or you are going to have to find somebody else to do that job,” he said. “I realize we are in pursuit of the promised land of a better footprint. But boy, it is tough on people.”
Frank Kendall, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, emphasized during a recent forum at Fort Belvoir, Va., the role these people will play in the efficiency campaign.
“We can do initiatives and policies and have meetings, but at the end of the day, it’s the people in the program offices who are running the programs and the chief engineers and their staffs in the contracting offices who are really going to make a difference in all this,” he said.
Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III underscored Kendall’s message.
“We’re not only asking you to do business differently. We are asking you to do things that are inherently difficult,” he told the group. “But as the secretary said, ‘Difficult is not impossible.’”