Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused challenges and restrictions for many parts of the Army civilian workforce, for two selectees of the Army’s Enterprise Talent Management program, it presented a lucrative opportunity.
In March 2019, a policy memo from the Department of the Army G-2 stated that all Army security specialists must achieve Department of Defense Security Professional Education Development certification within two years of appointment to a position. Katherine Coviello, Army Materiel Command’s Defense Intelligence Senior Level Executive and Special Advisor for the Material Enterprise Intelligence and Security, was in search of a solution to better track the status of this workforce certification across the AMC enterprise.
“In order to understand yourself, you have to be able to see yourself,” said Coviello. “As AMC’s advisor for security and intelligence, I took it upon myself to try and get at this problem.”
In November 2020, Coviello submitted a problem set through the ETM program that aimed at developing a strategy and implementation plan to ensure the workforce can succeed in achieving this requirement. Under her guidance, an Integrated Process Team would work in conjunction across 11 geographically dispersed AMC major subordinate commands and in coordination with HQDA, defense agencies and Office to the Secretary of Defense Staff Components.
In February 2021, two GS-13s from Career Program 26, Manpower and Force Management, were selected for the ETM opportunity. Amelia Weaver, Senior Management Analyst, U.S. Army Europe-Africa in Wiesbaden, Germany, and Rob Anderson, Senior Management Analyst, Southern European Task Force Africa in Vicenza, Italy.
“I chose Career Program 26 because they know how to track spaces and faces,” said Coviello. “They know how to maneuver the databases and the Force Management System (FMS) web tool. I can teach them about security and the mission set and they can apply their skillset to solve this unique problem.”
Typically in the ETM program, these selected civilians would conduct their 90-day temporary duty travel in-person and Weaver and Anderson would travel to AMC headquarters at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. However, as a result of travel restrictions and other challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, TDY was unfeasible.
Despite the seven hour time difference and the inability to meet face-to-face, Coviello made the most out of the experience for Weaver and Anderson. With creative time management skills, modern technology and the utilization of Microsoft Teams, the team is successfully overcoming these challenges.
Coviello and Weaver developed a battle rhythm. Weaver was present for duty each day between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Central European Summer Time, which is 1:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Central Daylight Time. This allowed her to end each of her days with one-hour touch points with Coviello as the next day began.
“I made this project very lucrative in this pandemic environment. Weaver starts working at 1:00 a.m. our time, so it’s like having a nightshift,” said Coviello. “By the end of the day, you tell them what you need and they’ll have products on your desk when you come in the next morning. It’s a great model, and during the pandemic, we were able to keep safer at home.”
Weaver began working on the problem set the first of April. Utilizing the Army’s seven-step problem solving process, she broke down the problem into four phases. These phases included identifying the problem, developing criteria, generating and analyzing solutions, and implementing the decision.
The initial phase of the project involved a large amount of collaboration across AMC’s major subordinate commands. Through her experience with the FMS web tool, Weaver generated a tasker to request metrics related to 0080 certifications from each of the 11 MSCs.
“Using the Teams platform, I sent out an email letting MSC leaders know I would be hosting multiple question and answer sessions,” said Weaver. “This allowed for MSC leaders to join as they saw fit, and I think that made collaboration very user friendly.”
Weaver’s 90-day virtual TDY ended in early June and Anderson now takes over the final phases of the project. Following Weaver’s identification and research, Anderson’s responsibility is to analyze the data in order to develop and implement a solution in support of the security credentialing requirement.
“It’s on me to take the next step to problem solving methodology and start working the analysis of the data that Ms. Weaver realized in the tasker,” said Anderson. “Everybody is going to come back and tell us who has been trained, who needs the training. This will provide a lot of information, where I can then extract facts and make assumptions on how we are going to manage and track the certification process.”
Although Anderson doesn’t believe the remote work environment fully replaces in-person interaction, he does think it offers a valid solution for the team to overcome the challenges.
“The technology that we have these days has made it absolutely possible for things like this to happen,” said Anderson. “We can still work around things like a pandemic and be able to get things done. I don’t think it’s going to completely and totally replace face-to-face conversation, but it’s phenomenal how we’ve been able to adjust.”
Unlike Anderson, Weaver thinks the challenges faced by COVID actually enhanced her work ethic by limiting distractions and allowing more focus on her responsibilities.
“Regardless of location and regardless of time zone, to work a project like this you have to be a self-starter,” said Weaver. “I will tell you what COVID and teleworking allowed me to do was singularly focus without much distraction. I guess the experience just really enhanced me work ethic.”
Despite a time difference, a global pandemic, and thousands of miles separating Weaver and Anderson from Coviello, the selectees of the ETM program are not only helping AMC and Army solve a problem, but also gaining priceless professional development through a unique experience. Their efforts will go a long way toward enhancing Army workforce professionalization and overall Army Security readiness.