More than 200 inspectors general from around the Army convened virtually April 14 to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the state of the Inspector General (IG) System.
The Inspector General of the Army, Lt. Gen. Leslie C. Smith, addressed the coronavirus fight in opening the conference.
“The past month has brought challenges unseen in our lifetimes, and this is a fight we will all be in for the foreseeable future. We don’t know how long this will go on, or how it will fully pan out, but one thing is clear: We have to stick together,” Smith said.
The annual World Wide Inspector General Conference (WWIGC) was originally planned as a three-day event at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The COVID crisis, beginning in March, forced a complete revision of the plan.
Instead, IGs connected via teleconference to share trends, challenges and best practices relating to the pandemic fight.
Inspectors general from several Army commands, Army service component commands and direct reporting units participated via the internet. Most of the event dealt with COVID-related matters handled by IGs across the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve.
“I enjoyed hearing the other IGs’ perspectives on COVID operations as I found we had very similar issues,” said Col. David Sloniker, the command IG of Army Medical Command.
Col. Patrick Wempe, the command IG of Army Forces Command, said staying up-to-date is key in the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation. “Ensure that your IG team is staying current on all policies, guidance and priorities that impact your organization.”
Smith particularly stressed sharing information and best practices across the IG system and tracking secondary effects of the COVID crisis as they arise.
“Now is the time for us to remain flexible, engaged, and ready to meet the new challenges that will come out of this extraordinary event,” Smith said.
Smith reiterated the role of IGs during the coronavirus fight and the challenges that come with it. “Inspectors general help commanders and leaders see the organization. This mission is more important during COVID operations because of the distributed level of operations across the Nation and world,” Smith said.
Col. Todd Bajakian, the deputy IG of the National Guard Bureau, pointed to the challenges National Guard Soldiers face. “As of April 15, there were almost 27,000 Army National Guardsmen on non-federalized orders. The IG Enterprise should be prepared to teach and train and assist Guardsmen who have been placed on full-time National Guard duty.”
Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, the deputy chief of staff, Army G-1, presented an overview of the Army’s personnel-related measures relating to COVID. Topics included modification of promotion boards, postponing military education courses, stop-loss, retention and PCS moves.
Attendees also heard from Michael Arnold, the deputy director of Army Talent Management, who described the establishment of the Battalion Commander Assessment Program (BCAP), and other improvements to officer career progression Army-wide.
Smith also honored the three IG Civilians of the Year during a brief ceremony at the end of the conference. (see story here)
Revising the WWIGC plan in less than a month was a tall order, said John Leonard, the deputy chief of operations for the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency (USAIGA).
“The challenges were slamming on the brakes, communicating changes to the field, scoping-down the agenda from three full days to five hours, coordinating a large meeting on Defense Collaboration Service, and addressing (operational) changes due to COVID-19. There was a huge amount of time, effort, and coordination to put together WWIGC 2020. That effort helped to quickly flex to the virtual conference,” Leonard said.
Leonard credited Dr. Vern Crocker, the USAIGA chief of information resources, operations officer Maj. Star Stewart, and Sgt. 1st Class Juanita Copeland with successfully executing the event under stressful circumstances.
“Overall, the virtual conference went exceedingly well…they pulled this all together. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when (Lt. Gen. Smith) closed out the conference,” Leonard said.