Q&A with Brig. Gen. Ted Harrison (Part II)
January 14, 2014
The Army Contracting Command 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 2 of a 2-part series. Part 1 is available at http://www.army.mil/article/118018/.
How will the ACC get to the right size workforce?
As the Army and the budget gets smaller there will be fewer dollars spent on everything, including contracts. As the contracting workload is scaled back, we are going to have to reduce our resources. That said, we don't plan to take a salami slice approach. In selected areas there may be growth. For example, foreign military sales is an area that's growing. Army Cyber Command is a customer whose mission is increasing. Where we need to grow to properly resource our contracting operations, we're going to do that. However, we expect that in most areas our workload will be reduced. We're going to be leveraging the Virtual Contracting Enterprise and other tools to perform work virtually where it makes sense. We're going to take a hard look at the number of offices we have in ACC, currently at 103. In some cases we have several offices within a very small geographic area so it may make sense to consolidate operations at certain locations.
I guess what I am saying, bottom line, is even though overall the Army is getting smaller and the budgets are getting smaller, there will be certain places where we may grow at certain locations but overall we probably will get smaller because the budgets are coming down and our workload is going to drop.
Why are we integrating ACC and Expeditionary Contracting Command Headquarters?
Unfortunately, when the ACC and ECC headquarters were originally stood up they were not resourced with a robust staff. One of the things we found out very quickly was that we were going to have to take advantage of our co-location and share staff resources to be able to operate at peak efficiencies.
We integrated several of the staff sections over a year ago and what we're currently doing is completing that process. Integrating the staff doesn't mean integrating the mission command of the two organizations. Yes, we share the staff but ECC still retains mission command for its contracting support brigades that are forward deployed and I don't see that changing. ECC has an incredibly important mission to provide contracting support to the Army's overseas installations, forward-stationed units and deployed forces. We expect to have the staff integration completed by the third quarter of this fiscal year.
Is a smaller ACC a step backwards?
That's what we don't want to do. We don't want to undo great progress we've made in implementing the recommendations of the Gansler Commission which include standing up the ACC. The commission put a very high premium on proper resourcing of the contracting mission and the training, stature and professional development of ACC's Soldiers and civilians.
I don't think adjusting to new budget realities and the Army's future end strength has anything to do with the commission's report. I think what we want to strive to do is to continue to uphold the tenants that the commission came out with. They are:
•Increase stature, quantity and career development of contracting personnel, military and civilian (especially for expeditionary operations) -- maintaining the focus on our people.
•Restructure organization and restore responsibility to facilitate contracting and contract management in expeditionary and stateside operations - some of that has already been done. When we stood up the ACC, ECC and the Mission and Installation Contracting Command, we accomplished this.
•Provide training and tools for overall contracting activities in expeditionary operations -- we're continuing to do that. The fact that we have to transform ourself to support Army 2030 and operate more efficiently doesn't mean that we will quit pursuing the right set of business tools to support both CONUS and expeditionary contracting. It doesn't mean we are going to quit training. In fact, we're currently conducting the largest Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise training ever at Fort Bliss and we have plans to do the same exercise in the Pacific region in 2015. The Department of Defense and Army have continued to show unwavering support for those efforts, so I don't see that changing.
•Obtain legislative, regulatory, and policy assistance to enable contracting effectiveness in expeditionary operations -- that continues. I met with some congressional staffers about three months ago and we talked about operational contracting support. There continues to be a lot of support within Congress to make sure we have the right legislative, regulatory and policy provisions to support contracting, especially in expeditionary operations.
These are the main tenants of the Gansler Commission Report and I think we are continuing to implement and even improve upon their recommendations.
Does it appear that employees have a low morale?
One of the things I have to say is, boy, if you look at the last year and you are a brand new federal employee, you have to be scratching your head because it was a crazy year. What I would ask employees to do is to put it in perspective. Those of us who have been around the Army, either as military or Department of the Army civilians, know that Army contracting is a truly great career field. In terms of being able to serve your country; to be able to travel to different places and work with different people. There's a work ethic and a sense of mission accomplishment I think that you get from serving your country that you can't get anywhere else.
I've served in ACC organizations during seven assignments, my first being in 1988 at Letterkenny Army Depot, Chambersburg, PA. There's not a better group of individuals than those who serve in ACC and that goes back to my previous statement on what a great career field this is. Contracting is a job that touches every single functional area of the Army. Whether its logistics, public affairs, medicine, weapon systems development, information operations, cyber warfare, transportation or special operations, they all rely on contracting support. You can pretty much pick any kind of unit or function and contracting supports it.