Leaders from the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, gathered March 23 -- the second day of a two-day off-site -- to discuss strategic initiatives that would guide the organization into the future.

Huntsville Center Commander Col. John S. Hurley opened the discussions Feb. 22 -- the first day of the off-site -- by asking: "Are there a couple of things we can work on, i.e., organizational changes, staffing, processes, that we can put in place that will put us in a better position to execute 18-36 months down the road?"

To answer the questions, the off-site kicked off with each of the directors presenting an analysis of where their programs are and introducing action items to be further researched.

Taking into account the information presented during the day, the leaders came up with 16 action areas to be explored by project delivery teams to determine which actions to pursue.

"We are going to focus on a finite number of opportunities, appoint people/teams, and give them a month to flesh out the details," Hurley said in February. "It is acceptable to come back in a month and say it isn't something we can do because of timing, issues, project, etc."

The 16 action items introduced in February yielded 13 topics for discussion March 23

"We identified the seven strategic initiatives we will pursue for the next few months," Hurley said.
Hurley said he would present the initiatives to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deputy commanding general and senior staff at the command strategic review scheduled later this summer, and talk about all the initiatives, what Center leaders learned about themselves and the results of these discussions.

The initiatives identified were Huntsville Center's governance structure, strategic engagement and communication plan, project management transition, third-party financing center of expertise, medical military construction staffing and organization, a human capital plan that includes the action plan in response to the Federal Employee Viewpoint and Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute surveys, and Acquisition Gateway. In a few months, the group will meet again to assess progress.

-The governance structure team will look at information and decision-making procedures that exist in the Center's governance structure. The goal is to have the forums and decision making bodies in place to share information, make corporate decisions and then disseminate those decisions and information, and ensure unity of effort.

-The strategic communication and engagement initiative will review the means and methods the Center uses to communicate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters, USACE Division and District commands, and key external partners and stakeholders on a regular basis. The goals are to create the most efficient and effective means of communicating with these key organizations, ensure the Center's efforts are fully integrated with other USACE and Defense activities, assess the quality of our relationships and make investments to improve relationships.

-A project management transition initiative will look at the risks and vulnerabilities inherent in the transition of projects between teams or the transition of individuals on and off teams. While looking at lessons learned is a necessary component of the initiative, this focus area must analyze and minimize the inefficiencies inherent in transitions with a goal of increasing project quality and minimizing expense.

-The Center will explore the utility of developing a center of expertise for third-party financing that any USACE activity can leverage. Because Huntsville Center's Energy Division is experienced in this type of contracting, a group will explore third-party financing other areas and collaborate with HQ and other elements of USACE in order to develop the technical expertise to use third-party financing across the enterprise.

-As the need for federal medical construction continues to grow, it is critical that Huntsville Center build the bench in medical expertise in all career fields to support medical construction programs. The Center must have qualified technical staff to be able to support USACE Divisions and Districts execute their new medical construction programs, while maintaining sufficient staff to support our medical facility renovation programs, said Boyce Ross, Engineering director.

-The leadership recognized the need to comprehensively update its human capital plan. According to Jen Haapoja, Human Capital chief, 16 percent of the workforce can retire now, and another 35 percent will be eligible to retire within in five years. Additionally, the nature of the work that the Center executes continues to adapt to the changing needs of the Center's stakeholders. As a result of these realities, the need for a robust and executable succession plan has never been greater. Further, the leadership recognized the need to ensure the human capital plan was informed by the issues identified in the FEV and DEOMI surveys. Together, this plan will position the Center for future success.

-Todd Watts, Facilities Division chief, presented how the General Services Administration's Acquisition Gateway can benefit 33 of the Center's 42 program areas.

The Center recently received the Army's only Best-in-Class Designation for its Facilities Reduction Program contract vehicles. Watts suggested taking advantage of the opportunity to expand the Center's participation before use of the Acquisition Gateway becomes mandatory and the available contracting vehicles may not meet the Center's needs.

"We will see how we are doing on these strategic assessments," Hurley said. "We are having our Command Strategic Review this summer, and I would like to be able to present our strategic initiatives then.

"I approved a minor amendment to our mission statement to emphasize our support to the Nation," Hurley said. It reads: The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville provides specialized technical expertise, global engineering solutions, and cutting edge innovations through centrally managed programs in support of national interests.

"In the vision statement, I want to emphasize to everyone the importance of certifications and our ability to be the organization that others turn to first for innovation and leadership," Hurley said.

The vision statement reads: A certified, professional work force with an expeditionary mind-set capable of pioneering solutions to unique, complex and high risk missions in strengthened partnership with the USACE enterprise, key DOD stakeholders and our strategic allies.