By Mr. Eric Kowal (Picatinny)June 14, 2018
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Lt. Col. Jeffrey Ivey assumed the position of Picatinny Arsenal garrison commander on June 14, 2016. On June 14, 2018, Ivey relinquished his command to Lt. Col. Samuel Morgan.
Ivey will transition to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management where he will work as a strategic planner in the Strategic Initiatives Group.
You have served in the Picatinny Arsenal garrison commander position for two full years now. What were your expectations when you first walked through the door?
"I had some level of expectations because I had been assigned to the Fort Stewart garrison for about six to eight months. While there I was able to have one-on-one sessions with key leaders inside the garrison there. I was also fortunate enough go to the World Wide Garrison Commanders' Conference to ask questions, get a better understanding of the terminology, and get a better understanding of the mission sets and challenges that we would be facing. I was able to get ahead of some of the challenges and start socializing solutions with senior leaders. Typically, it takes a garrison commander about a year to become comfortable with garrison / IMCOM (Installation Management Command) duties. I was able to get a six-month to a year head start, roughly.
"However, the conditions and the environment at Fort Stewart are different than the conditions and environment here on Picatinny. It took me a little bit of time to really understand what the mission does here (PEO Ammo, ARDEC, the PMs, etc) and what they do for the Army. Fort Stewart contains essentially the 3rd Infantry Division, which is very troop heavy and is routinely forward deployed-rotating troops to Afghanistan, Africa, Europe, and Korea. Picatinny has a different environment and set of missions. And it's important for me to be able to advocate for the mission here, to talk about the importance of what the 24 tenants do here for the Army.
"I have to fully understand what the workforce does here so I can go to IMCOM and request additional resources to help support that mission here. It took us a little bit of time to do that.
"There was a slight adjustment in terms of dealing with a primarily civilian workforce versus a military workforce. I had to develop my soft skill a little bit more. I learned the importance of subtleties, the power of suggestions, and the difference in our administrative and disciplinary systems. I had to adapt my communication and my influencing skills to be a more effective leader."
Do you feel that a two year assignment in the garrison commander position is long enough for any one individ?ual to really come in and get a full understanding of the installation, lead the organization, and make any necessary changes or adjustments before transitioning to another duty assignment?
"No. Primarily for this job, no. In a normal tactical unit two years is probably enough. When a commander steps into a tactical unit, he or she probably has the most experience and is generally one of the smartest guys (mission wise) in the room. You would sit in a conference room and you have company commanders, first sergeants, and people who don't quite have the same experiences and knowledge base that you do so you are one of the smartest guys in the room.
"However, when you get to a garrison, you're one of the most inexperienced, least knowledgeable people on these topics. Whether it be emergency management, public works, emergency services (fire, police, guards), or Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR), and how you run the golf course and the aquatic park-those were all new topics to me. So I had to swallow a massive humble pill, ask a lot of questions, and be patient with others and myself. The learning curve was steep. There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not learning something new and that's the beauty of this job. I told the garrison staff that for the first three-to-five month, I would be a drag on this organization and the installation.
"I would be depending on them to get me to a point where I can be value added to them and the installation. I was in little or no position initially to give them clear guidance to help move the organization forward. Until we get to that point, there is going to be a lot of information and briefings that I need to properly understand this operating environment and to assess the status of various programs. And to really get us to moving in a trajectory that's beneficial to everyone in a year, two years, and then five years from now."
The Senior Commander, Brig. Gen. Alfred Abramson has often referred to your positions as 'mayor and governor.' You being the mayor and he as the governor. Is that an accurate depiction?
"Usually there's not the same relationship between a mayor and the governor in politics. A mayor usually doesn't work for the governor, the mayor typically works for the people of a particular town. But there's definitely parallels to his analogy. I try to the best of my ability keep him informed of things that we are doing here. He will set me back on course if I stray from his intent. We communicate a lot via email and meetings so he can redirect me if l stray from his intent. 'Hey you are doing the right thing with this,' or 'I want you to readjust here.'
"We manage and administer the installation. He's big on getting buy-in from tenants. We make needed changes. We implement policies. We have a budget and we decide where that money goes, similar to what a mayor and a governor does, based on priorities. You get specifically colored monies and you determine how you are going to budget that money based on his intent."
What would say have been some of the biggest challenges or obstacles for your command team to overcome during your tenure here at Picatinny?
"The water issue was an extreme challenge, mainly because some people automatically assume that we are trying to hide something. To be quite honest, it is the very opposite. We are trying to be transparent. The Army is taking active steps to regulate an unregulated contaminant. Outside Picatinny you don't seen any of the local municipalities actively testing for and then publishing the results of the testing, the way the Army is doing it.
"The other issue that we have is space. It is fantastic that our mission is growing. The Army is giving tenants more money to execute the CSA's (Chief of Staff of the Army) intent, giving them more mission sets that provides for increasing lethality. However, with expanding mission sets there is an expanding need for more labs, more ad min space, more parking lots, etc.
"If you look at the growth of our on-post population and growth of missions across the installation it is has grown significantly. But what has not grown is the number of usable buildings and the amount of administrative space. So we are asking tenants to consolidate, to reorganize, so that we can continue to expand the mission without hot-cubing, without putting in long-term trailers, without making folks work in unsafe conditions. And this creates challenges. Nobody wants to move out of their office, into another building, or move into a smaller cubicle. However, its something we must do if we want to meet the challenges that have been placed in front of us by the chief of staff.
"Most of our buildings were built back in the World War I and World War II time frame. About 10 percent of our building are on the demo (demolition) list. You have about another 30 to 35 percent that are either in poor or failing condition.
"So, we have growing workforce, which leads to growing space requirements. However, the amount of safe space that is available to use is shrinking. That's a formidable problem. And again, everyone want to expand, but nobody wants to consolidate. Its human nature.
"What goes along with that is, there are buildings that we could renovate. But you have to have money and funds to do that. We simply are not getting enough sustainment, restoration, and modernization (SRM) money to restore and modernize old facilities and turn them into usable space.
"In my opinion, we have been very successful in leveraging the systems and competing for money. We received about $17 million from the Energy Savings Performance Contract. We will receive another $2 million from the state of New Jersey for energy rebates.
"Our energy team over the last couple of years successfully competed for and received a million or two dollars in energy projects money. We just received another $9 million to repair buildings 810 and 816 by competing for additional restoration and modernization money. We are getting the $41 million EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) facility for military construction. FMWR (family, morale welfare and recreation) has competed and received additional funding.
"We've leveraged our recycling projects on the installation. This year alone you see over $1 million in improvements in infrastructure in FMWR that's the Gunpowder Grill and the outdoor seating there. We did some great things at Choices-the paint, the carpet, the tables, redoing of the menu, the Guest House modifications and renovations we did. We are going to repair / redo the tennis courts this year. We are bringing in a barber shop. We continue to invest in our golf course and Cannon Gate (conference center) with a new audio-video system. We initiated some major improvements to Frog Falls, placed bike racks across the installation, etc.
"We continue to do an average of $20 - $25 million in customer funded projects in addition to the $15 million we do in SRM. We're doing massive improvements to the Forge Fitness parking lot. Everybody knows that the parking lot is in poor condition. We're bringing in a functional fitness room to the gym.
"We've done a lot of improvements to the infrastructure, but a lot more is needed. Our budget is about $64 million and we have competed for and received an additional $72 million in monies and projects this fiscal year. Through competing ... by making the logically compelling argument to IMCOM and the Army that we need additional funding or can save money by executing project X and Y, we have more than doubled the amount of monies received via normal budgeting. And that does not count the money that the mission side of the house is putting into infrastructure.
"But at the same time, our infrastructure here is failing at an alarmingly higher rate than we can fix it. We have pipes busting, roofs that are coming down, and our roads/lots are in bad condition. There's a lot challenges with space and maintaining infrastructure, and then of course we have challenges with bears, geese, beavers, bobcats. It has been fun and has presented opportunities for personal and professional growth."
The Army is prioritizing funds towards troop readiness, but how do you and your command team work through budget issues knowing that the pot of money you have available is consistently shrinking?
"The Installation Management Commander, Lt. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, has acknowledged that we are not putting enough money into the sustainment of the installation.
"In the future they are going to be beefing up SRM dollars, by about 15 to 20 percent in some cases. We do expect to get more money moving forward. It's really about having a good strategic plan and prioritizing where the money goes.
"Just like we did this year, we competed and we got $9 million for restoration and modernization projects. We are moving up in the priority in terms of getting military construction, based on the chief's priorities.
"We got one approved this year and I think we are expecting a few more in the next few years. $20 million to $40 million for access control point upgrades. But, with an expanding mission, admin space shortage is something we need to put greater focus on. The question now is what buildings can we renovate or where could we place a new building. Space is at a premium here.
"The installation converted a lot of our admin space years ago to lab space. That made sense then. But the conditions have changed. Now we need more space for the work force to plug in their computers."
Your position demands that you are on call, ready at a moment's notice. What advice would you give to an incoming garrison commander?
"I think you need to have clear information requirements. You don't want to get involved in everything-there is just too much going on. For example, public works has over 400 projects managed by only eight engineers. But if certain things reach a certain threshold-for example, life, health, safety-then I need to get involved. Mission failure is another issue that would require me to get immediately involved. I obviously would need to know that there's an act of violence on the installation. For routine things, you empower your people as much as you can to handle those things at the lowest level, but still ensuring they report after the fact. If there's something that impacts the entire installation, such as water concern or pending snow storm, then I have to get involved earlier and set clear expectations."