HUNTSVILLE, Ala--In fiscal 2018, the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville executed more than $3 billion in contract actions, a 50 percent increase from what the Center accomplished in the previous fiscal year.

The person who oversees all programs and projects at the organization said this year's increase is due to two contracts Huntsville Center obligated for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' electrical restoration efforts in Puerto Rico after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria.

"It (this increase in the Center's fiscal year obligations) was strictly due to Puerto Rico," said Chip Marin, Huntsville Center programs director.

"If you back out the $750 million (contracts for power restoration) from the $3.3 billion, we're down to about $2.6 billion," he said.

Marin said other Center programs have performed consistently over the last five years, but this year the Center's program numbers were closer to fiscal 2013 when it obligated $2.5 billion.

"We're right in the ballpark of where we normally would be," Marin said.

The Center accounted for more than 10 percent of all contract actions across the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its obligations represent more than 13 percent of the Corps' total obligations.

The Center's Installation Support and Programs Management (ISPM) Directorate closed the fiscal year by executing more than $2.5 billion in obligations with more than 3,500 completed contract actions. This represents approximately 90 percent of the total obligations for the entire Center.

Of the six divisions within ISPM, the largest amount obligated this year was executed by the Facilities Division with more than $1 billion via 276 contract actions.

Regarding 4,996 contract actions the Center made this year, Marin said much of the increase was due to the Center's ability to meet the expanding needs of the customers.

The Center's Ordnance and Explosives Directorate, Marin said, has seen an increase in obligations due to its support of the ballistic missile defense arena.

Huntsville Center has always been the central program manager for the Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency. In fiscal 2018 the Center also became central program manager for U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command too.

"We took it (the SMDC request) to headquarters (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) last spring and received direction to take on SMDC as well," Marin said.

Environmental work at the OE directorate also picked up last fiscal year and OE took on the task of replacing the hazardous Aqueous Film Forming Foam used at most military installations with a flying mission. The Air Force replaced AFFF contained in aircraft hangar-fire protection systems in conjunction with hangar renovations, and OE was heavily involved in the steps taken during that process.

"So from an environmental program perspective that was a big add on for the directorate and our environmental folks did such a good job with the Air Force project, the Navy has since come to us and we're picking up a lot of the Navy work now as well," Marin said.

More environmental work came to the Center in 2018 with Environmental and Munitions Center of Expertise taking on the Army Installation Management Command efforts to comply with National Environmental Policy Act policies and goals.

"NEPA is a part of executing many DOD projects and the EMCX ensures the USACE geographic district understands the NEPA rules and regulations and, on behalf of IMCOM, the EMCX assists them in developing NEPA plans and reviewing those plans to ensure they meet local, state and federal rules and regulations," Marin said.

Marin cited increases in obligations to the Engineering Directorate's Control System Cybersecurity program becoming a mandatory center of expertise. He said he envisions the program growing exponentially.

"As the DOD, the Army and the Corps begin understanding control system cybersecurity requirements and how to meet those requirements, work increased in the cybersecurity arena," Marin said.

Of the Center's fiscal 2018 obligations, more than $800 million went to small businesses, an increase of more than 28 percent from fiscal year 2017.

Marin said a concerted effort has been made over the last several years to use the Small Business Administration and General Services Administration contracts to look for small businesses that are capable of doing the Center's work and use them as first option when possible.

"We ask ourselves the question, 'Can they (small business) do this?'" Marin said.
"If the answer is yes, we keep pursuing down that course of action, so it's just a change in thinking of using small business as a course of action and that will continue."

Marin attributes the success of the Center not just to the volume of contract actions or funds obligated, but on the volume of quality, certified employees the Center retains willing to take on additional customers and projects.

Most of the major subordinate commands and geographic districts across USACE hover at the 80-90 percent in personnel position strength, Marin said. However, Huntsville Center is at 101 percent of its positions filled.

"We grew our human capital office from two people to a staff of five people and it's making a difference in our ability to recruit, and when we recruit we can take on additional work because we have the human capital resources to do the work," Marin said.

Marin said although the Center's human capital office is doing an excellent job filling positions, it's the Center's supervisory staff that ensure positions are filled.

"It's the outstanding effort by the Center's supervisors to know when someone is leaving or retiring, to get a recruitment action in well before that occurs, and to physically get a new person onboard has gone up drastically -- and that's why we're up 101 percent capacity for personnel."

Col. John Hurley, Huntsville Center commander, said stakeholders are much better off on Oct. 1, 2018 than they were on Oct. 1, 2017 because of the Center's employees' "tremendous accomplishments."

"Not only did they execute this year's programs brilliantly, but they set the stage for fiscal 2019 by hiring the talent we needed, staying current on training and professional licenses, developing the next generation of acquisitions and executing sound fiscal management," Hurley said.

Hurley said the Center's workforce is focused on maximizing the value of every dollar to support our nation's Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and that support ensures they are more lethal to win our nations wars and return home safely.