By Clay Cole, Mission and Installation Contracting Command deputy to the commanding generalNovember 27, 2017
In the almost two years since becoming your deputy to the commanding general, I've been extremely impressed with the level of commitment to our mission by the entire Mission and Installation Contracting Command workforce. Each of you have an incredibly important job to provide what our Soldiers need, when they need it.
What the MICC provides is not just contracts. We deliver vital materiel readiness to our Soldiers when and where they need it. Our mission requires the full effort of every member of our team, and I am fully aware of the effort and dedication it takes from MICC Soldiers and civilians in every specialty. I cannot thank you enough for the tremendous work you do for our nation.
Let me take a moment to congratulate Col. Bill Boruff, for his selection to brigadier general. We will hold a promotion ceremony on Dec. 15 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as Maj. Gen. James Simpson, commanding general for the Army Contracting Command, will preside over the ceremony and put the star on our commanding general.
We are in a transition period now as we restructure the command to best support our customers, and that can be a high-adventure and high-anxiety timeframe from what I've seen throughout my 44 years serving in the Army. The overall purpose of our command is not going to change. We are still required to execute contracts for our Army and Soldiers.
We will look to empower our people to the greatest extent possible, realizing that with empowerment comes accountability. Also with empowerment comes a responsibility from the command to give our workforce the necessary tools so we can power down the workload within our constraints. We have pushed more authority down to the brigade and field directorate office leaders so that they plan and execute at the tactical level. The headquarters will continue to maintain a strategic focus to manage output and the organization, to include strategic sourcing.
It is my intent to not look at strategic sourcing as large enterprise contracts when we try to make a single, large contract fit a variety of situations. The strategic management of smaller contracts is similar across the organization. Take, for instance, the base operations contract for an installation. It's not practical to execute an omnibus or enterprise base ops contract, but it is practical to standardize a format and practice of how these are managed while establishing a portfolio at one or two installations to administer base ops contracts. Instead of base ops contracts being executed at six to 10 installations, there will be only one or two installations that specialize in these kind of contracts for our customers. The same is true for the Army Sustainment Command food service contract.
Our workforce should also understand the philosophies of the MICC and Army leaders they follow. My philosophy is that of a servant/leader where every leader has a responsibility to serve the people that he or she leads. I expect leaders to communicate clearly and to be as transparent as possible.
Transparency does not mean to signal every single detail. There are ideas and concepts that take place in a leader's realm of responsibility that may never come to fruition. Once a concept moves toward execution, then transparency is key. A good leader needs to explain to his or her workforce why an action is taken and how it benefits the organization.
For instance, when you build a house you have to develop the plan and blueprints prior to doing any construction. You may adjust your house quite a bit before you start building. And even sometimes after you have poured the concrete and started putting up the walls, you realize you want to add a door or window. Because the house is not done yet, you can adjust and refine the plan to make sure everything is the best it can be once it is complete. Sometimes you want to change the dining room into a larger kitchen, and modifying the plans will have second and third order of effects to the overall plan. There needs to be analysis to discuss the facts, costs and overall impact before a change takes place. Changes need to be made not because the initial decision was wrong at the time, but sometimes circumstances change over time. You may not be able to see course corrections at the start of a project, but they become evident later that requires changes to occur. And they sometimes come with a cost.
Hindsight being 20/20, maybe our decision to reduce the number of 1102 contracting professionals and increase the number of 1105 purchasing agents wasn't the most perfect long-term solution for the MICC or ACC. At the time, we were working under a restricted budget and had to reduce the overall number of employees or risk the chance of not being able to continue functioning at the same rate. Now, two or more years down the road, we have been able to review the original analysis and assess the impact to the MICC. The net result, the MICC may need to modify the numbers of our civilian employees in the 1102 and 1105 career series and adjust our hiring practices accordingly. As always, no jobs will be endangered as the MICC will make workforce adjustments through normal attrition. We will make sure the entire workforce understands the final outcome once a decision is made.
Another thing a good leader should do is be able to empower the people you lead. In a rules-bound organization, that is difficult to do. We don't have sweeping latitude in some of the things that we do. We have to perform certain reviews at certain levels. A good leader understands the left and right limits and accepts risk by allowing people to use their own judgment. Being a rules-bound organization, we tend to be risk averse. However, perfection is not always necessary. Sometimes the 80-percent solution is the best solution. Some situations require 100-percent solutions with zero risk. Leaders must assess each situation and act accordingly.
A good leader also has a team of confidants. They don't need to be "yes" men. They need to be people who will give you real and honest assessments. Individuals who you trust and can tell you if a new idea is a bad idea. And a good leader is always learning. The more senior you get the less of a specialist you become as you mature into a generalist. In this business, you have to learn your trade craft early in your career. If you are fortunate enough to move up in the ranks, maintain your association with those who chose not to move up but mastered their craft. I have folks who I call who are masters of the craft and are willing to answer my specific questions. You have to find those masters of the craft and trust those who give you good advice, and that applies all the way down to the contracting officer level.
I also expect leaders not take themselves too seriously, and believe in something bigger than themselves. Serving in the Army, we all must remember that your family is always important. There are times when the job can consume us, so remember that family is crucial to success. Find someone who can be a mentor or adviser who can guide you along your career. And take care of yourself and your health. Being in good physical shape benefits you and the Army in so many ways. Granted, I need to heed my own advice.
Whether you are a Soldier or a civilian, this is an Army operation. We have a vital mission to the Army to provide goods and services to our Soldiers every day, and we should operate in an Army mode with military expectations. If you are a leader, you need to learn about the Army and how it operates.
Get out and visit your supported commands. Brigade and battalion commanders are good at doing this, and we need our civilian office directors and contracting officers to get out and sit down with our supported commands as well. I know folks have a boatload of work on their plates, but we all need to get out and see who we are supporting and what we are providing.
In closing, I'd like to again thank every MICC member for all the hard work and sacrifices you make as we support our Soldiers and the Army. We are one team, and together we will continue to be the Army's premier contracting organization while providing acquisition excellence for our Soldiers.