Editor’s note: this is the first of two installments in which Brig. Gen. Werner discusses his first 100 days in command. Part two will publish approximately one week from now.
DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. – Brig. Gen. Darren Werner assumed command of the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in a unique ceremony that was live-cast on the web. The audience at the ceremony was small, consisting of immediate family members, a few other TACOM leaders and a couple of visitors representing the greater Detroit civilian community. Social distancing due to COVID-19 concerns had become the new normal.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Werner to learn a bit more about his thoughts on his first 100 days as TACOM commander and having launched his command in unique circumstances.
Sir, you took command of TACOM during a challenging time, due to the fact that we were in the middle of global pandemic and much of the state of Michigan was still locked down 100 days ago. From your perspective as TACOM commander, how has our community fared in terms of COVID response?
Werner: First and foremost, I'm extremely proud of what has been done throughout this period of time, whether it's our arsenals and depots and the way they've responded in support in manufacturing, equipment for COVID response at Rock Island, the storage that's going on out at Sierra, or the leadership here at the headquarters, providing support to the Army to ensure that the industrial base is contributing back to their nation. That's been incredible.
That, in and of itself, is well worth mentioning and highlighting to not only internal to our workforce and to our teammates, but also to our community, and that this organization, along with the subordinate depots and arsenals, are contributing in ways other than just building more material, (we’re also) building material for the safety of our community. So that's a great part.
Secondly, I have not been to the Detroit Arsenal with a full complement of people. Since I've been in command. I've never seen, you know, the full workforce here on the ground. So I don't know what I'm missing. But I can tell you, based on what I'm seeing, we're still delivering. We still are meeting all the requirements. We're still providing the leadership that the arsenals and depots require in order to be effective. The arsenals and depots are delivering on their promises and doing exactly what they have to do. They're also (delivering) on time and to the quality that's required.
Wherever we do have some slips, the slips aren't always our fault. There are some (instances) because some other manufacturers aren’t delivering, but, in some cases, we have some stoppages that that have been a result of the COVID impact on our workforce.
What I would tell you is that there are two things that I've taken away from that. One is that we've got an incredible group of people (who) are working here that are delivering on time and just doing great things. But the second (takeaway) is the technique that we use to work probably needs to be relooked. I think the overhead associated specifically here at the headquarters probably could be reduced just by the fact that we’ve proven that, in a telework environment, we can be effective.
I was a little skeptical of telework being a guy who’s been in the field for most of my army career. When you talk about telework, it's really hard to visualize a Soldier teleworking. Boots on the ground is not, you know, in your study taking care of business from your house; you’ve got to physically be there and that's ingrained in me, but what I've learned from this COVID experience is, if you resource telework properly, it can be a very effective means to deliver another alternative to what we would consider normal workdays.
I think it is we assess ourselves, we can look at how we take advantage of what we've learned, the resources that we put in place to effectively manage work through the networks, capitalize on it and potentially provide a couple of things. One is a reduction in overhead. Taking a look at the amount of space we need, we have two buildings that we rent off the installation. Those buildings equate to millions of dollars a year that, potentially, we could look at reducing by one or both.
Creating opportunities for individuals to work from home on a regular basis, maybe coming in and working with their team on data one or two days a week, and maybe not having a permanent location, maybe sharing space with others in collaborative ways. (We could then) buy back some space, which would enable us to make the space more appealing to them by creating collaborative and more attractive meeting spaces (that are) a little more user friendly.
Those are the kind of things that we could consider. I've asked the entire staff to look at how we capitalize on what we've learned and turn the negative of COVID into a positive as we move forward.
How are AMC’s Top Ten Priorities implemented at the TACOM level, and how do TACOM’s Top Ten priorities differ?
Werner: The priorities for General Daly and Army Materiel Command and our priorities are nested. If you look across what General Daly's lines of effort are, he has strategic initiatives and inside of the strategic initiatives, you'll find our priorities.
Additive manufacturing is a great example. That's a strategic initiative that's nested within General Daly’s lines of effort. That's how we've taken what General Daly sees as a vision for where we're headed and what we're trying to achieve.
We’ve nested our top ten priorities, which are very similar. I've taken a few of our priorities and I've broken them down into something very specific. An example is improving the chrome facility operations at Watervliet (Arsenal). That was nested within a five year plan at Watervliet (Arsenal), but I've pulled that out specifically because it's critically important to the strategic readiness of our Army. It’s a critical capability that, if we don't effectively manage an improvement over the next months -- not years -- but months, will negatively impact our strategic readiness. So, I've pulled that out and made it a (separate) priority that I want myself and our team to be focused on.
The nesting of our priorities fit right in with AMC’s and we will move out to achieve these objectives in months, not years. We've got to focus on getting results. The investment that we make every day and the work that we do is about results. Sometimes we measure success by looking at the day-to-day activities that we do, but what we really have to be looking for is the (overall) result that we're trying to achieve. That's what we should be focused on. If you're not focused on that result, you'll get focused on those activities and then you'll never get to the result. (We need to be) results focused, not (simply) task focused.
The Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army launched Project Inclusion in June to improve diversity, equity and inclusion across the workforce. How has TACOM supported Project Inclusion, and how are we doing so far?
Werner: We understand the intent of the Secretary and the Chief of Staff, the Army, and the intent of the Army Materiel Command team. At TACOM, we've operationalized that vision and we're doing that through our collective leadership with a specific focus from the Chief of Staff, the G-1 and all of our special staff that focus in on how we measure ourselves against the local community.
They're all looking at what we've done over the past years, not just the last six months, but the past years, and how we look against the community. Frankly, we don't look bad, but we're not as good as (we) could be.
Our diversity here at the headquarters is respectable. The very first thing I did when I took command was, I pulled in the senior leaders of TACOM and we sat around (my conference) table and talked about diversity inclusion before that was a topic that was brought up by the (Army) Chief of Staff and the Secretary (of the Army) with Project Inclusion.
When I sat around this table, I sat around a diverse group – males, females, African Americans, Caucasians, people of color -- across the board; it wasn't just white males in their 40s and 50s, it was a diverse group and I was proud to see that.
I specifically asked that group how we were doing and, although our senior leadership is pretty diverse, when you dig down and you get into the mid-level, there's a little less diversity. We've got to work on that. We've got to look at some other factors that, I think, play into that, (including) how we hire people and where we go look to hire people.
We don't always look in diverse environments for our hiring actions. We use USA Jobs, and that levels the playing field to some extent, but when we (go to) hiring fairs, or when we look out into the community to hire people into the headquarters here, we pretty much go to the same wells; we don't necessarily go to different locations. We typically go to the same locations.
If you go to the same fishing hole over and over and over again, you're probably going to catch the same kind of fish. We need to spread things out a little bit and we need to look at all the great opportunities that exist not only here locally, but across the country.
We want AMC and TACOM to be the best they can be.