WASHINGTON -- It's up to civilian employees to sustain the Army's current momentum of modernization and reform, said Secretary of the Army Mark Esper Oct. 10 after he awarded the first of a new set of service pins for civilian personnel.

"We are in a renaissance … I believe it in my bones," Esper said at a Department of the Army Civilian Luncheon during the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition.

"This renaissance means we look at everything differently," he said. "We turn it upside down and inside out. We look for efficiencies. We look for better ways to be effective.

"We look for reform in every nook and cranny and every seat cushion to make sure we free up the time, money and manpower to focus on readiness and modernization."

UNITY OF EFFORT

With establishment of Futures Command, the Army for the first time has an entity in charge of all acquisition, Esper said.

"It was all over the place," he said of the legacy "Big A" acquisition system. "You had RDECOM down here, months ago you had testing up here, you had contracting over here. There was no one single person in charge."

He said experts were doing acquisition and were passionate about the Army, but no single organization was there to provide clear guidance. Now, Army Futures Command will bring unity of command and unity of effort. "We've drawn the boxes; we've tightened up the lines," he said.

In response to a question about Civilian employees worried about being forced to move, Esper said that wasn't the intent of Army Futures Command. Only the headquarters of AFC is located in Austin, Texas, and the vast majority of acquisition employees working under the command will remain where they're at.

No one has been forced to move, he said, adding the fundamental purpose of Futures Command was simply to provide unity of effort. It's not to "rip people away" or take away responsibilities, Esper assured -- rather, it's to breed collaboration.

REQUIREMENTS IMPROVEMENT

One of the big acquisition shortcomings over the past 20 or 30 years has been the requirements process, Esper said.

Unachievable requirements were requested that caused programs to go over budget and be delayed, he said.

"You have people out there saying, well, I need a tank that can swim underwater; that can shoot a round 10,000 miles … that can see at night," he quipped.

Now Futures Command and its cross-functional teams will be in charge of requirements. They will huddle at the very beginning with contractors, technology experts, budget specialists, testers and everyone involved, he said. It will be more of a team approach.

"It's no longer a relay race with 12 different people handing off the baton … nobody knows where the race began, nobody knows who slowed down and who sped up."

The new process will be more like a football team, he said. "You go in a huddle, you talk about what you're going to build, you all agree -- one, two, three, break -- you go out and run your play."

It's all about empowering people to do it well, he said, and do it in far less time. "It's all about readiness and modernization. It's about doing what is best for our Soldiers, our Civilians and their families."

NEW SERVICE PINS

One way leaders take care of people is to recognize them for the great jobs they do, Esper said.

The idea of a Civilian service pin was brought to him several weeks ago, "and it wasn't hard to decide this one, because it was such a great idea."

The idea was brought to him by Diane Randon, the senior official performing the duties of principal to the assistant secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). He called her up on stage to receive the first pin.

"It's really an important way to recognize our DA Civilians who served the Army for many years, and many decades in some cases," Esper said.

A bronze pin will be given to employees after one year of Civilian service. A silver pin goes to employees with 10 years or more of service.

The words "Army Civilian Service" on the pin circle the traditional Army emblem designed by the Army Institute of Heraldry.

A gold pin will be presented to employees upon retirement.

"The gold rays emanating from the triangle allude to the future years ahead of them," Randon said of retirees.

Zeli King of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, known as ACSIM, was presented the first gold pin. She is retiring Saturday.

John Ursel of the Army's G-1 was awarded a silver pin and Taneshia Gray of Installation Management Command at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, was awarded the first bronze pin.

"We hope Army Civilians will wear these pins in pride," Randon said.