The challenges and complexities of any Mega-Project are great, and the Next NGA West – known as N2W – project is no different. From the beginning of this military construction program for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, USACE’s leadership wanted to attract a diverse and talented group of professionals.
Leadership knew they needed flexibility to attract individuals varying from recent graduates, the private sector, and throughout USACE to assemble the best team possible in St. Louis. The current team reflects the consideration put forth to balance diverse experience, backgrounds, and skill levels; the group of over 50 employees includes 12 veterans, over 125 combined years of private sector experience and more than ten USACE districts represented.
Gene Morisani, Next NGA West Program Manager, said, “Striking the right balance between the private sector, recent graduates, and career USACE personnel in assembling a team is key for a successful Mega-Project like the Next NGA West. For this reason, it was important to utilize the recruiting tools available to us and know the motivating factors for joining the team such as return rights, a better work/life balance, and gaining real hands on experience when recruiting individuals.”
Conversations with the current team revealed they agreed that the challenges and complexities of the project attracted them professionally, but other benefits of the program that leadership considered at the outset gave them the confidence that joining the N2W team was in their best interest.
Recent graduate Abby Eifert said, “In college, I was looking for opportunities to apply what I was learning in the classroom to real life and came across the DOD SMART Scholarship Program. The program seemed to offer everything I was looking for. In the Summer of 2018, I joined the team as an intern and started full-time after graduation as a mechanical engineer in August 2020. I feel fortunate to be a part of the N2W program because it continues to allow me to learn from dozens of professionals about all of the work that goes into delivering a world-class Mega-Project while providing a foundation of knowledge for a successful career in engineering.”
Brittany Webb, another SMART hire, said, “Being a part of the N2W project exposes you to all aspects of engineering from Design, Project Management, Construction, and Contract Administration. You learn something new every day. This is my first experience working as an engineer, and it is amazing to get to work with a group of people with such diverse skills and backgrounds.”
Attracting talent from the private sector is also a vital step in assembling a diverse and highly functional team with the unique skillsets that private sector experience brings to the project. While the Corps of Engineers is the technical expert in engineering, individuals from the private sector provide valuable insight into how contractors apply RFPs in real life. Being able to have this insight on your QA team is invaluable for successful oversight so it is important to understand motivations for joining the N2W team from the private sector.
Jason Duncan said, “Working in the electrical/HVAC industry in St Louis for over 15 years, I knew about the upcoming construction project for the NGA building from the news and colleagues. A neighbor told me that she heard that USACE was looking for people in the trades to come work for them on the project, so I decided to apply. The consistent regular schedule is refreshing after years of the hectic irregular days of electrical/HVAC life.”
Jon Bruner, the Quality Assurance chief for construction, said, “After 25 years of experience on the private side of construction, I was burned out. I’m enjoying being a part of the mega-project because it is helping U.S. security, the state of Missouri, and the City of St. Louis. It’s also refreshing that senior leadership’s primary goal is to provide a quality product, rather than a profit.”
The final tool used by USACE leadership in attracting talent for the N2W project is offering return rights for USACE employees to go back to their home district after the completion of the project. The N2W team attracted unique skills and processes of each USACE District with this tool in place.
Team members also took the opportunity to grow their own skills by joining to N2W team.
Andrew Miller, N2W scheduler, said, “I knew to become a better engineer I was going to need to expand my horizons. This was the best place, a mega-project, starting from the beginning that has such unique requirements and a diverse team that is fully integrated in one location was an opportunity that I could not pass up.” Andrew moved from the New Orleans District to St. Louis in 2019.
Genny Walters, the Engineering & Design section chief, said, “Having the opportunity to work on another Mega-Project after my time in SAJ on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program was something I could not pass up. The pace and energy of a Mega along with the knowledge you pick up as engineer is priceless. Couple it with having return rights to St. Louis District, I decided there was only upside with joining the N2W team.”
Thoughtful consideration of USACE team members is only one portion of the N2W construction program. Next NGA West is a large-scale construction project that will build a new facility for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in St. Louis, Missouri.
This $1.7B project is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and executed by McCarthy HITT Joint Venture, with oversight by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Air Force. The 97-acre project site is located in the historic St. Louis Place neighborhood at the intersection of Jefferson and Cass avenues.
When complete, the campus will include a 700,000-square-foot office building, two parking garages, a visitor center, a delivery inspection facility and secure entrance/exit points. The staff of 3,150 will move from their current Soulard, St. Louis, location to the Next NGA West in 2025.