Q&A with Brig. Gen. Ted Harrison (Part 1)
January 9, 2014
The ACC NewsBlast editor recently sat down with the ACC commanding general to get his thoughts on the command, events and the future of military contracting. (This is part 1 of a 2-part series.)
What are your command philosophy and priorities?
Harrison: My command philosophy centers on the people in ACC who are our most valuable resource. They constitute our biggest investment in terms of dollars and underpin everything we do to support our mission.
Creating an environment where people can succeed is my number one priority. That includes fostering an environment of dignity and respect. The other big part of my philosophy is to build a climate of trust. There's a book I recommend called "The Speed of Trust." Its premise is that organizations are more effective, efficient and profitable when they operate on a higher level of trust. It's somewhat intuitive; when you trust the people that you work for, work with and who work for you, you can get more done with greater speed. You're less worried that people are doing what they should be doing and more focused on communicating goals and getting results.
My other priorities are supporting the war in Afghanistan -- especially the transition as we reduce forces over there, and potentially transfer the contracting mission to the Army post-2014 and transforming ACC to be able to support the Army in 2020.
We currently operate from 103 locations around the globe. The Army is changing its footprint. We're becoming a less forward-stationed Army and a more expeditionary Army. So we're taking a look at ourselves, leveraging technology and looking at different ways we can do business. We're looking at how we organize ourselves potentially along customer lines, functional lines (types of contracting) and geographically. We have an integrated process team looking at what ACC should look like and how it should support the Army of 2020.
Another initiative is to develop a viable business model for resourcing ACC. Right now we operate within a framework of some direct funded positions and some reimbursable positions. Most of our reimbursable customers are Army customers but others are Department of Defense and a few are other agency customers. We need to better understand who are our core customers are and how we should be organized and resourced to support them.
The last priority is developing the right set of e-Business tools to support Army contracting in the future. That's related to our transformation effort because it's just one of the ways in which we'll effectively support the Army in 2020. We're working with the Department of the Army and Office of Secretary of Defense to develop an Army Contract Writing System that will replace Procurement Automated Data Documentation Systems and Procurement Desktop Defense.
We have also developed the Virtual Contracting Enterprise; a suite of automation tools that supports our contracting processes. It includes a paperless contract filing system, a contracting officer representative management module as well as a workload management tool that enables us and our customers to have visibility on contracted requirements throughout the procurement process.
That will help us manage milestones and schedules. There are also a number of other business tools we're developing for the future in order to make our contract specialists and contracting officers more productive.
What do you see as ACC strengths and challenges?
Harrison: Our strength is the quality of our people and their resiliency. The fact that they are able to continuously get the mission done shows they are absolutely mission-focused. If you think about all the things they've gone through this past year -- sequestration, furloughs, the government shutdown -- and our folks still hit it out the park. We met all of our obligations and small business goals as well as supported our customers. That was an incredible effort by everyone in the ACC.
One of the things I think we need to continue to improve is the coordination and synchronization between ACC headquarters, the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology and the program executive offices. I think that at the contracting officer and contracting center level we are doing a pretty good job of it.
The center directors know who their customers are and have good relationships with their supported program managers, but I want to do a better job of synchronizing strategically across the major weapon systems procurement community. I want to be able to standardize our procurement processes and provide better information across the enterprise in order to enable the Army Materiel Command and ASA(ALT) to make better business decisions.
Related to this is the stand-up of a single integrator for major systems contracting as part of the single head of contracting activity study. This is one of the Honorable (Heidi) Shyu's (Army Acquisition Executive and Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) key initiatives for Army acquisition and one in which ACC will play a key role.
Another area ACC is continuing to work on is developing our expeditionary contracting force structure and doctrine. We've done an incredible job over the last three or four years in standing up the Expeditionary Contracting Command. We continually get superb feedback from operational commanders regarding the great work our contracting support brigades are doing in providing contracting support to forward-stationed and deployed forces.
What we need to do now is to make sure we are aligned correctly with Army corps and divisions here in the continental United States and that we have a sustainable model for deploying in support of joint operations. We've made a lot of progress, but as overall Army force structure comes down, we are going to have to find that equilibrium where we are sized to effectively support the Army.
What do you see in the future for ACC?
Harrison: I think we're going to have to do a better job of articulating what resources are required to adequately perform our contracting mission. It's one of those things that we've been wrestling with for years in the Army; what is the right resource level for Army contracting. There are a number of models out there.
We have to get this right because if you don't adequately resource the contracting process, the risks often don't manifest themselves right away. We certainly don't want to find out two years from now after a Department of Defense Inspector General inspection, Army Audit Agency audit or a Government Accountability Office audit that we failed to adequately resource contract administration, contract oversight or quality assurance.
We are not going to have the luxury of working in an unconstrained environment so we've got to strike the balance between reducing risk and operating efficiently. To do this we're going to need better insight in measuring the health of our contracting processes. We're going to have to articulate what resources it takes to properly perform the entire contracting mission from requirement generation and acquisition planning through receipt and acceptance and contract closeout.
Look for the conclusion of the question and answer session with the ACC commanding general in next week's NewsBlast.