Interview with Jeffrey Parsons, ACC executive director
September 22, 2011
--What are your parting thoughts as the Army Contracting Command's first executive director?
The one thing that strikes me looking back is the success of the ACC workforce. Our contracting professionals and our support personnel across the entire command stood up a two-star command and two one-star commands in less than two years. We brought the organization together and moved our original headquarters from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Redstone Arsenal, Ala., all while providing seamless support to the Soldier. We accomplished this move in 18 months. It continues to amaze me how mission-focused our people are in supporting our Soldiers and their families.
--What are the greatest challenges ahead for the command?
Our challenges, now and in the future, will always be resources. In the past, the Army didn't recognize the importance of contracting and failed to provide adequate resources.
The Gansler Commission highlighted the need for contracting, the under appreciation for contracting and the under resourcing for contracting. That went a long way in establishing and resourcing the Army Contracting Command.
The challenge now, as we see budgets decline, will be a tendency to think that contracting doesn't play as high a priority as it has over the last couple of years. I think this would be a huge mistake. As pressure to downsize the Army continues, there will be an increasing need to ensure we can support expeditionary operations and not repeat the contracting mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need a properly resourced and supported contracting capability.
The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. (Peter W.) Chiarelli, the undersecretary of the Army and the secretary of the Army along with Gen. Dunwoody at the Army Materiel Command recognize that we must have a robust contracting capability now and into the future.
--What do you consider your greatest achievement at ACC?
First, that the ACC became fully operational within less than two years. This speaks volumes about the people that work in the organization and the hard work that took place to make it a reality.
Second, we now have an expeditionary contracting capability. We need to ensure it continues to be funded and resourced so that we do not repeat the mistakes that were made in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Expeditionary Contracting Command, and actually the entire ACC's ability to respond to the Haiti operation last year clearly indicates that we've got things right when it comes to putting together an enterprise that can support expeditionary operations. I think that's a real testament on how we can harness and leverage the enterprise to support operations anywhere around the globe.
--What is your biggest disappointment or regret -- something you hoped to achieve but didn't?
My biggest regret is that we did not establish a separate contracting corps. We need to have a contracting corps and its designation as a basic branch. We need to ensure contracting is recognized as a priority and a key capability to fight future wars and support future conflicts. That was one of the recommendations from the Gansler Commission. The Army did not agree with the recommendation and kept contracting within the Army Acquisition Corps.
I think the depth and breadth of experience that our contracting personnel need in a deployed environment to meet the requirements of an expeditionary force are far more complex than envisioned. We need Soldiers that are properly trained and, most importantly, experienced in not only contracting but on how to run a contracting operation in an expeditionary environment.
To do that, we really need our military contracting personnel to start their contracting experience much earlier in their careers than they do today. We need to follow the Finance Corps model to grow and develop our military contracting capability ensuring contracting is a corps competency in our Army.
--With budget cuts looming, will ACC continue to grow and share its expertise within the Army?
Yes. In fact, the vice chief of staff of the Army is convinced that contracting needs to be a priority in the Army and needs to be properly resourced. We have requested additional resourcing in terms of civilian and military personnel despite declining budgets. I think there is recognition by not only the vice, but the undersecretary and secretary of the Army, along with Gen. Dunwoody, our commanding general, that we should not take any cuts. In fact, we need to reallocate resources to make sure that we have a robust contracting capability.
As a result, I see growth in both the military and civilian positions over the next several years.
I think the Army will need to decide whether we need to increase our workforce as much as some of us are forecasting and that will be accomplished through yearly evaluation of metric data.
I think having a robust contracting capability makes a lot of sense because as our money becomes tighter -- it's even more essential that we get the best value for every contract dollar we spend. The only way to ensure that is by making sure you have an adequately resourced and trained contracting workforce.
--What will you miss most about ACC?
I will miss the ACC and most importantly, I will miss the people in the Army Contracting Command.
The largest reward I've had is watching how our military and civilian contracting and support personnel have grown and blossomed over the last several years in support of this very important mission area.
It's clear to me that our ACC personnel have embraced the vision that contracting must become a core competency in our Army. Everyone is working hard to make that a reality. They understand that ultimately it will translate to providing better support to our Soldiers and their families.
I can honestly say that when I take a look at what the personnel across the ACC do, they probably touch Soldiers and their families in more ways than any other functional area in the Army.
That clearly has been a huge reward for me and yes, definitely, I will miss the Army Contracting Command.
--What are your future plans?
Many already know, that for family reasons, we have decided to stay in Springfield, Va. I'm going to end my 34 years of government service and move into the private sector.
I will not be divorced from the defense industrial military complex. I'll just be on the industrial side working for the private sector. I hope to continue providing support to the Soldier. That's my motivation -- knowing we make a difference in their lives.
--Is there anything else you'd like to say to the men and women of ACC?
Remember that all that we do is ultimately to support the Soldier and his or her family. No matter what challenges and obstacles come our way, always strive to provide that support.