Command Strategic Review strengthens communication, sets path forward

Huntsville Center Public Affairs
Published Feb. 22, 2018
Maj. Gen. Michael Wehr, deputy commanding general U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, right, and Col. Christine Beeler, left, listen as Col. John Hurley, U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville commander discusses actions presented during the Center's command strategic review Feb. 13-14.

Maj. Gen. Michael Wehr, deputy commanding general U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, right, and Col. Christine Beeler, left, listen as Col. John Hurley, U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville commander discusses actions presented during the Center's command strategic review Feb. 13-14.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- More than 40 senior leaders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters and the Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville met Feb. 13 and 14 here for the Center’s triennial Command Strategic Review.

The CSR is a working session and collaborative event between HQ USACE, Campaign Plan (UCP) Objective/Action Champions and the major subordinate command (MSC) counterparts to ensure alignment with the UCP and review progress of specific current year priority actions.  Huntsville Center’s last CSR was in 2015.

During his opening remarks, Maj. Gen. Michael C. Wehr, USACE deputy commander, said, “We are here to build trust and relationships, look at what it takes to get alignment, hold ourselves accountable and try to anticipate changes that are around the corner.

“We are going to set the scene by showing where the Center is today,” said Col. John S. Hurley, Huntsville Center commander.  “We want to ensure a Common Operating Picture, and where we are going in the near term.  We will illustrate some of our best practices rather than things that are broken; a lot of things are going right.” 

One of the big goals of the CSR is to stay in step and synchronized with HQ and where we want to go.

“We need to get things simple so that we can get things done,” Hurley said.  “Our CSR goal is to improve communication between USACE HQ and Huntsville Center so that we can support the campaign plan.”

At the conclusion of the day-and-a-half CSR, USACE and Huntsville Center champions had created a list of actions with suspenses that would help do just that.

After a quick overview of Huntsville Center by Hurley, UCP action officers presented best practices and strategic focus areas identified during the Center’s strategic offsite conducted Feb. 22-23, 2017. 

Colleen O’Keefe, Huntsville Center’s chief of Contracting talked about best practices in acquisitions, starting with the Center already obligating more than $407 million for FY18, as well as another $1.4 billion to support power grid restoration in Puerto Rico.  Huntsville Center is the fifth highest of 13 USACE MSCs in program execution thus far for this fiscal year.  She discussed in-process and planned acquisitions and their contract value.

O'Keefe explained that the Center uses a combination of acquisition tools from multiple and single award indefinite delivery contracts to 8(a) set-asides as well as strategic sources such as General Services Administration and the Army's Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions contract vehicle. The Center used strategic sourcing for almost 18 percent of their acquisitions in FY17.

Betina Johnson, division chief, Ordnance and Explosives Design Center, recapped Huntsville Center’s Strategic Engagement Plan that provides a roadmap to building long-term business relationships with key stakeholders. 

“The discussions following the briefing focused on the interaction between HNC and HQ as well as HNC and other MSCs,” Johnson said.  “Additional strategic engagement partners were identified such as HQ USACE Office of Counsel and GSA Acquisition Gateway POCs.  The processes identified and the relationships formed as part of the Strategic Engagement Plan have greatly increased HNC's reception and reputation by HQ and other USACE MSCs.”

Dee Benson, chief of Business Practices, demonstrated the Enterprise Data Warehouse and its capability to manage various business factors in real-time.

“The Business Practices team at Huntsville Center started using Qlik Sense to develop dashboards December 2017,” Benson said.  “Our data visualization was transformed instantly, resulting in a number of returns on investment, such as a reduction in overhead hours, increased data integrity, on demand data access and quick and easy data story telling.

Jennifer Haapoja, chief of Human Capital, and Valerie Ward, a human resources strategic adviser, presented Human Capital best practices, such as leader development programs and supervisory training, hiring practices, and managing turnover.

Focus areas addressed acquisitions, third-party financing, industrial controls cybersecurity and small or micro project execution.

“HNC is a unique organization; not like other divisions,” said Albert "Chip" Marin, Huntsville Center's Programs Director.  “We do specialty programs that are predominantly O&M (operation and maintenance) funded – Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization (SRM).  We have unique requirements that cause challenges.  We approach those unique challenges through focus areas.  Last year, we obligated nearly $2.5 billion in O&M money.  We are seeking ways to better communication and collaboration with HQ to deliver the programs.  We will need help from HQ in doing that.”

Focus Area 1, Acquisition, supports UCP Goal 4, Prepare for Tomorrow:

Objective 4c:  Streamline USACE business, acquisition and governance processes and optimize financial management. 

Marin, Huntsville Center’s lead for focus area 1, said the Center is requesting substantive dialogue regarding acquisitions that will improve the capability to deliver the program through timely, accurate and adequate acquisition tools.

Marin explained the problem centers on major acquisitions of $10 million or more becoming increasingly difficult to put in place.  He said ever-changing law, regulation and policy are adding steps to the process without a requirement to remove any steps, which means longer time frames to put acquisitions in place, which drives up cost. 

“The intent of the Acquisition Focus Area is to establish a vertical Project Delivery Team from HQs, through the PARC (Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting), down to the MSC, Center and district level to look at actual processes being used to plan, assess and acquire contracts to do work,” Marin said. “The contention is that which is actually occurring is not necessarily what the acquisition process states should be happening.  If we look at actuality with an eye for how we can streamline the process, we can shave months off of the process, lowering both our costs and the costs to offerors in preparing proposals.”

Focus Area 2, Energy Programs 3rd Party Financing, supports UCP Goal 1, Support National Security

Lisa Maddox, a project manager in the Energy Division, presented Focus Area 2, Energy Programs 3rd Party Financing as a way for installations to build energy infrastructure through Energy Saving Performance Contracts, Utility Energy Services Contracts and Power Purchase Agreements.  Huntsville Center leads USACE and the Army in this effort, and making the Huntsville Center the 3rd Party Financing (Energy) Technical Center of Expertise (TCX) would allow others to capitalize on the Center’s more than 20 years’ experience using “other people’s money” on energy projects. It is USACE's intent to franchise these types of projects out to the geographic districts as the program and processes become more mature.  In support of the president's public private partnership vision, the focus area strategically positions USACE to acquire other types of facility, utility and infrastructure projects through third party financing once the necessary legislative changes are in place and promulgated.


Focus Area 3, Industrial Controls – Cybersecurity, supports UCP Goals 1 and 4. 

Daniel Shepard, the chief of Huntsville Center’s ICS Cybersecurity Technical Center of Expertise, discussed cybersecurity in planning, designing and constructing projects that involve control systems.  He stressed that cybersecurity mandates must now be incorporated into the standard USACE business model and in how USACE delivers projects for its internal and external stakeholders.  His recommended plan to approach cybersecurity is to have HQ USACE designate Huntsville Center as the Mandatory Center of Expertise (MCX) for Control System Cybersecurity, with a focus on military programs.  He explained Huntsville Center’s unique technical cybersecurity capability that is critical for other USACE organizations to leverage to ensure successful project execution.  He said making Huntsville Center the mandatory center of expertise (MCX) would help ensure adequate quality control for projects.

“Knowing the volume of projects that have cybersecurity requirements are vast, Huntsville Center sees that the opportunity to engage and franchise this technical capability to the geographical districts as a virtual technical resource at the site level is a must have to ensure successful execution,” Shepard said.  “Further, the MCX should be the authority responsible for ensuring that a training program is established to provide the field the technical training needed to support the critical nature cybersecurity.  The proposed MCX should establish the operational and technical parameters and count on the geographical districts to execute but, be the top level resources to assist when they run into issues or challenges."


Focus Area 4, Micro/Small Projects also supports UCP Goal 1. 

David Shockley, chief of the Facilities Division, said discussion regarding the USACE enterprise business model for micro and small projects would make it possible to franchise them through manageable, scalable and predictable processes using normal enterprise tools and systems.  He would like to provide USACE a set of processes and associated costs codified by Huntsville Center, give those processes and their associated costs an MSC-level review and establish a way to provide those documented process and cost expectations to districts along with a way for them to be reimbursed.  Shockley said the return on investment would be a huge impact in allowing districts a chance at serving the installations in their area of operations on micro and small projects; and doing so would improve relationships with stakeholders and customers.

Extensive discussions and breakout sessions helped establish tasks and the way ahead in the focus areas.

“All great comments,” Wehr said.  “Everything was well presented.  No requests are unreasonable.  No doubt that we can get where we need to go.  We need to shape it (the future) before it shapes us.”