Huntsville Center engineers solutions by asking, 'What's your vision'

Huntsville Center
Published Jan. 9, 2019

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville does more than provide global stakeholders with programs designed to complete their project goals. It assists organizations in reaching their overarching vision through an end result approach.

By first determining a stakeholder’s vision for their organization, Huntsville Center uses a portfolio of lines of effort to better determine which programs are best for achieving that vision. This also allows for the establishment of new programs to meet unique requirements.

The Center’s portfolio currently contains 43 programs catalogued into five lines of effort:  Medical, Facilities and Base Operations, Energy, Operational Technology and Environmental. This approach not only helps stakeholders identify what programs are available for their specific needs but helps the Center determine what programs it may need to design to meet the full spectrum of requirements that may arise before or during a project. 

“I started the lines of effort about two years ago,” said Col. John Hurley, commander of the Huntsville Center. “It came from a need to tell the story. I was trying to tell the story of why we exist in this unique mission inside the Corp of Engineers. What is it that the Center does for the Department of Defense and the Army? It was very hard to do that using an organizational chart.”

“When an organization reaches out to us,” Hurley continued, “they are not generally interested in all the different programs we offer or how they are organized necessarily. They want to know what we can do for them specifically. So the lines of effort are a functional tool we use to determine what we can offer that stakeholder.”

Redstone Arsenal’s Fox Army Health Center, here in Huntsville, is an example of this process in action.

“They had a dream about what they would love Fox to look like - a place where they can really take care of patients and their family members, where people are comfortable waiting, a welcoming space with lots of windows and light’” Hurley explained.

“And they want it all based in what the medical community calls evidence-based design that says if medical treatment is provided in a certain way, it’s more likely to be effective,” Hurley continued.

“So they have this wonderful dream over there and they say, ‘how can Huntsville Center help me achieve my dream.’ Through our medical line of effort, we can do medical design, medical renovations, medical outfitting, furniture and information technology,” Hurley stated. “Those are our programs. But that’s not really what they care about. They care about their vision. It’s up to us as senior leaders to have that conversation with end users, understand their vision and then create the programs that will get them to their vision.

“So programs could come and go,” said Hurley. “It’s all about that line of effort.”

Tracy Lonon, chief of the Facility Management Division at Fox, said in an earlier interview for an article published at the beginning of the facilities repair and renewal efforts, that customer care is the top priority at his organization. They are always looking for new ways to improve the quality of life for their patients.

"Our vision for ox Army Health Center is to become the premier model of organizational and beneficiary wellness. The renovations that have been underway for the last several years are being done to further enhance customer care - we're ready to usher in a new era of patient care here," Lonon said.

Charles Hudson, chief of staff of the Army Reserve’s 88th Readiness Division, headquartered at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, has been very interested in the Base Operations line of effort.

The partnership between 88th Readiness Division and Huntsville Center is through an 88th RD Program Management Office established at Huntsville Center.

“The PMO is our gateway to the Corp of Engineers in support of our virtual base operations mission and has resulted in measureable increases in Soldier and equipment readiness,” Hudson stated.

“They have the ability to reach back into various USACE divisions and districts with standard or unique existing technical expertise in support of our mission,” Hudson said. “Their reach-back capability has increased our ability to support units, Soldiers, and their equipment in our 19 state region, improving their readiness to perform their assigned wartime missions.

"Huntsville Center's unique capabilities have been a great asset in helping the 88th RD not simply execute tasks but to really reach our ultimate vision of ensuring Soldiers are ready and lethal,” Hudson praised. “Their turn-key solutions afford us timely acquisition within budget and professional subject matter experts who take the time to understand the Army Reserve mission and the role we play in the larger National Defense strategy."

“It’s about communication that starts with the end user in mind,” Hurley said. “We want to know their vision, not just their needs. I want Mr. Hudson to tell me his vision. If he tells me his vision for how his base ops should run, I’ll tell him the programs we can provide.

“But if we start with, ‘Which program do you want,’ and that’s the only conversation, he might not know all the options we can make available. The better conversation is ‘what is your vision,’ Hurley said. “Let us figure out how to get there.”


Huntsville Center is a unique U.S. Army Corps of Engineers organization. The Center is not defined by geographic boundaries; its missions provide specialized technical expertise, global engineering solutions, and cutting edge innovations through centrally managed programs in support of national interests.

Huntsville Center’s more than 1,000 employees manage nearly 3,000 ongoing projects at any given time.  These projects fall into one of five portfolios:  Medical, Facilities and Base Operations, Energy, Operational Technology, and Environmental.  The portfolios comprise 42 different program areas, as well as six mandatory and six technical centers of expertise, and 17 centers of standardization.  Projects are generally broad in scope, require technical expertise, centralized management or are functions not normally accomplished by a Headquarters, USACE organizational element.