Leading through change: Senior civilian adapts to SDDC leadership role
November 20, 2009
- Michael K. Williams, a member of the Senior Executive Service, is the new deputy to the commander of SDDC.
- Williams previously served as director of the Transportation Engineering Agency and the Joint Distribution Process Analysis Center.
- Since June, Williams was acting deputy to the commander while still fulfilling his two director roles.
- He first joined SDDC as a GS-5 engineer, and has seen the command evolve over nearly 23 years.
By the close of his second week as deputy to the commander of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, Michael K. Williams had met with SDDC transportation leadership from around the world, co-chaired a general officer steering committee on the Defense Personal Property Program, assisted in the preparation for a meeting on container security for general officers, and was preparing for a flight to NATO HQs - to name a few missions.
Compared to the preceding months, it was a slow couple of weeks.
Williams, a member of the Senior Executive Service, served as acting deputy to the commander beginning in June, until his appointment was announced Nov. 8. During that time he still served in his previous positions as director of both SDDC's Transportation Engineering Agency and the United States Transportation Command Joint Distribution Process Analysis Center.
As deputy to the commander, he is responsible for facilitating continuous improvement and innovation in the development of distribution policies, plans, and programs supporting the global mission. These responsibilities impact Joint Service force deployment and logistics operations.
The challenge of splitting his time among three crucial roles in transportation kept Williams on his toes, but as he settled into his new office, he expressed a combination of relief and gratitude to those who made the long transition as seamless as possible.
"That was fun," Williams said. "It was pretty hectic for a while. I was only able to do it because I had Curt Zargan, the deputy director of TEA, Sandy Baker, SDDC executive officer, and Col. Scott Cusimano, deputy director of the JDPAC, keeping track of the day-to-day missions that needed my attention."
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and serving as a military police lieutenant, Williams began his career with TEA as a transportability engineer in 1987. Over the course of his career, he has seen the strategy of the Department of Defense shift through the lens of the agency's emphasis.
"When I first started as a GS-5 engineer, infrastructure was the big thing," Williams recalled. "Then, when the military started buying new equipment, the emphasis shifted to transportability. After Operation Desert Shield, the focus shifted to speed of deployment."
With Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Williams saw more work being done on worldwide infrastructure, including standing up ports in the AFRICOM theater of operations. The changes during Williams' tenure also included the renaming of Military Traffic Management Command to SDDC to reflect the expanding and changing role of SDDC within USTRANSCOM and the military as a whole.
"The biggest shift, from an organizational perspective, has been the change of emphasis from terminal operations to end-to-end distribution operations. As MTMC, we spent a lot of time focusing on our mission as single port manager," Williams said. "When USTRANSCOM became the Distribution Process Owner, the command and its service elements struggled for a while with what that meant. Gen. [Ann E.] Dunwoody, when she was SDDC's commander, recognized that what we do is more than just port-to-port and changed our name to reflect that. It's a significant change."
Amid the myriad challenges since the renaming in 2004, to include Base Realignment and Closure, which moved the command to Scott AFB, SDDC's workforce has continued to grow to meet new roles and responsibilities. A Strategic Business Office was stood up June 1, 2008, to leverage commercial transportation capabilities globally. In many instances commercial trucks can move through areas where Army green trucks can't, to include the distribution of cargo to landlocked Afghanistan. The needed growth of SDDC's capabilities has been made possible by the continuing efforts of the command's team of service members, civilians and contractors, Williams said.
"If we're going to operate end-to-end, it requires a different skill set and culture. Our directors and staff recognize that need and have leaned forward. We are doing things now that I couldn't imagine doing ten years ago," Williams said. "The strength of SDDC is the mix of military and civilians in our workforce. The civilians maintain continuity in the command, and their experience complements the expertise of our military workforce."