Huntsville Center workforce anticipate record breaking fiscal year

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published Sept. 18, 2014
Huntsville Center's Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate's year-end clock counts down to Sept. 30 and the end of FY14.

Huntsville Center's Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate's year-end clock counts down to Sept. 30 and the end of FY14.

The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville is on its way to a fantastic fiscal year. As of Sept. 26, the organization had executed actions valued at more than $1 billion. The actual figure is $1,753,908,925 and is expected to go up past $2 billion the last week of September.

This is why teamwork at Huntsville Center is never more important than it is every September as employees work to obligate funds. Charles Ford, Programs Director at Huntsville Center, oversees all programs and projects at the organization. He said collaboration is integral to having a great fiscal year.

"I am proud of the Product Delivery Teams, especially how they are aiming for optimal customer satisfaction," Ford said. "Our organization's success is largely due to their ability to meet the customer’s need – everything we do is customer-driven."

The PDTs, made up of program and project managers, engineers, resource managers, architects, contract specialists, lawyers and other technical staff, work together to get all expired funds off the books and obligated before the end of the fiscal year, Ford said. The PDTs are co-located throughout the Center, and that plays a large role in their success.

According to Ford, this will be the Center's largest year overall and largest year-end, for the amount of actions and the size of those actions since 2002.

"We have already obligated a half billion dollars more than we've ever done by this time in past years, and we've done it with less expense. It also seems to be one of the smoothest fiscal year ends we've ever had," Ford said. "I can attribute this success to number of things: the PDTs’ ability to work project issues early on, streamlining processes, having more cohesive PDTs and extra collaboration between the members of the PDTs. When I talk to contracting officers, program managers, the various technical leads and our resource management, everyone is confident they will execute everything."

Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate projects make up the majority of the workload in Huntsville Center when you consider the number of people (Engineering, Contracting, Resource Management staff, etc.) touching ISPM-generated products.

Valerie Shippers, ISPM director, said in overall obligated dollars ISPM obligated more than $1billion – or 66 percent – of the Center’s total obligation of $1.7 billion in FY 2013.

Shippers said having a successful fiscal year-end takes a tremendous planning effort. Program and project managers usually coordinate new business for Huntsville Center, working closely with potential customers throughout the year. However, during September, the roles are reversed and it is often the customer making the initial contact with Huntsville Center.

"We try not to turn down any new projects, if possible,” Shippers said. "Sometime taking on a new project, or one that is unfamiliar, is hard to do at year-end. Making the decision to take on a job close to Sept. 30 is a PDT decision that requires input from Resource Management, Installation Support, and Contracting and Engineering directorates. The Office of Counsel and Small Business Office also get involved.”

Shippers said ISPM takes on a large portion of their projects during the fiscal year-end. The team takes calls from customers up to Sept. 30. She explained that customers find out they have to obligate their funds before they expire.. They often rely on ISPM to take in their funds when they get money at the last minute and take advantages of projects Huntsville Center has already identified and is ready to award.

"The deadline for taking in new contacts at year-end has changed,” Shippers said. “In the past, there wasn't any special guidance for accepting bids, so the contracting officers on the PDTs helped them work through any challenges. Now, a change to a Federal Acquisition Regulation requirement involves allowing adequate time (30 days) for the bid process. We must comply for fair competition, so we try to explain any risk involved in this process to our customers. Even with this set in place, we expect to exceed last year's actuals.”

Colleen O'Keefe, director of the Contracting Directorate, is responsible for more than 240 contracting professionals whose job is to provide advice on acquisitions and recommend innovative contracting solutions. O'Keefe said she is eager to take part in what will be her first fiscal year-end at Huntsville Center.

"By getting CT folks involved early in the acquisitions process, we've been able to streamline our processes to execute early on. Our contracting officers have a solid foundation, are knowledgeable and are empowered to work with the PDT to come up with the best solutions. We are willing to work hard and put in long hours to support the mission – we'll get it done!" O'Keefe said.

Shippers said her team can't have a successful year-end without also having other USACE enterprises in the districts on board to get the work done, performing quality assurance and contractual oversight in the field.

The Center's Resource Management Directorate owns the process that receives all the funds into Huntsville Center. Darrell Davis, Resource Management director, said program and project managers work closely with budget analysts to track funding. A timeline is established in advance to reach necessary milestones at fiscal year-end. Keeping track of all these funds is no easy task. Project managers rely on resource managers to keep track of contract actions and accept money into the system as long as there is a means to obligate expiring funds. Davis said this keeps his staff very busy. Since 2002, Huntsville Center has never obligated the amount of funding for projects during one fiscal year that they are currently working on for FY14.

Samuel McManus, chief of Ordnance and Explosives Directorate’s International Operations Division, said he thinks a smooth year-end is achieved through planning, communication and teamwork.

"The impact of year-end funding is huge in that we award the majority of our projects in August and September. The Sept. 30 push and the resulting contract placement are vital to the life of the program. These projects are vital to the success of our program and will help keep us in business for the next couple of years," McManus said.

The countdown on Sept. 30 is intense. As task order acquisitions near the end of the process and proposal evaluations are completed, his team’s role changes while Contracting and Resource Management directorates’ staffs complete the remaining tasks.

"On the last day of the year, the project managers and technical staff chip in to help our CT and RM staffs wrap up their work. We make copies, run documents and supply the Popsicles – whatever is needed," McManus said. "We're all in this together – so the PDTs won't leave the Center until all funds have been obligated by Contracting Directorate, and the books have been reconciled. The owner (project manager) of the money can't leave until all their accounts are cleared and the designated analyst in RM lets them know all funds are clear."

"It takes a team effort! I think no one at the Center wants to fail our customers, so we work hard to get the job done," Shippers said. "If it's within our control, we're going to make it happen!"