By ANDRICKA THOMAS AND REBECCA SHINNEMAN, CECOM LCMC (Forward)July 23, 2009
During a deployment, Soldiers know what it takes to conduct split-based operations in the desert, in the mountains, virtually anywhere duty calls. However, when Congress decides to relocate an organization made up primarily of civilians responsible for complex technological systems, executing the move without interrupting support to the Warfighter becomes a critical priority.
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law dictates that Army Team Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance relocate its organizations and functions to Aberdeen Proving Ground "without disruption of their support to the Global War on Terrorism or other critical contingency operations" and with safeguards enforced "to ensure that necessary redundant capabilities are put in place to mitigate potential degradation of such support, and to ensure maximum retention of critical workforce."
In plain language, BRAC law dictates that the mission will not be interrupted, said Col. Augustus L. Owens, deputy commander, CECOM Life Cycle Management Command (Forward). He added that as Army Team C4ISR organizations relocate to APG, there will be an urgent need to maintain support to Warfighters---including the delivery of systems, equipment and services to the field.
With that requirement in mind, an Army Team C4ISR BRAC Task Force was developed in August 2007 to plan and develop an integrated strategic concept plan to determine and set conditions for a successful relocation to Maryland.
Owens arrived in July 2008 to set up the CECOM LCMC forward operation at APG; his mission -- to take care of the workforce.
Maj. Gen. Dennis L. Via, then commanding general, CECOM LCMC, tasked Owens with organizing an effective forward operation and managing the smooth relocation of personnel from Fort Monmouth and other locations during the BRAC transition. Establishing an effective in-processing system there was at the top of Owens's list.
"We have come a long way in our in-processing procedures," Owens said. "We've developed procedures that ensure a CAC card [Common Access Card] and computer access are available to incoming employees here within their first week of arrival."
Presently, the Fort Monmouth headquarters arm of Army Team C4ISR organizations handles the planning, technical, resourcing and funding aspects of organizational operations, according to Owens. He views his Forward team effort as an opportunity to transform and improve business practices while organizations are in the process of relocating.
"We haven't dropped the ball once during this move, and that is the pattern we will continue as we see this move to fruition," he said.
Owens stressed he has been receiving an incredible amount of support from his Fort Monmouth counterparts.
"It's a team effort. Even those employees who will [eventually] not move with their organizations remain supportive of our efforts," Owens said.
For most CECOM LCMC (Forward) and Army Team C4ISR (Forward) employees, their leadership and supervisors are still located at Fort Monmouth. Given this long-distance separation and their dynamic work environment, all those employees are expected to function as self-starters in support of their missions.
As the deadline of Sept. 15, 2011, approaches for the full implementation of BRAC law, the mission of advanced party personnel will shift more and more from setting up new processes to managing technical functions.
Working in a split-based environment isn't a new experience for some C4ISR members.
The CECOM LCMC Software Engineering Center has historically engaged in split-based operations as part of its normal organizational alignment, according to Nelson H. Keeler, director, CECOM LCMC SEC. The SEC organization has components located throughout the world to include Forts Belvoir and Lee in Virginia; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Huachuca, Az.; and locations in Korea and elsewhere.
"In many aspects, the SEC organization already operates in a split-based mode and will capitalize on that experience while making the Fort Monmouth and portions of SEC-Belvoir transition to APG," Keeler said.
"Instead of looking at what functions I can move to APG, I looked at what functions I can't move from Fort Monmouth to APG," said Keeler, who was assigned to APG upon becoming the director of SEC. He said excluding the work dependent on access to their unique labs at Fort Monmouth, most other SEC functions can operate in other locations.
A key element contributing to the success of split-based operations is providing the tools needed to increase communications between different locations and organizations, according to Keeler.
"You not only have to provide leadership during a transition such as this, but provide the necessary tools to get the job done successfully," he said.
With that purpose in mind, Keeler increased the SEC's video-teleconferencing capabilities; enabled some workstations to engage in Web video conferences; and bought more air cards for Internet accessibility on laptops to provide workstation capability in multiple locations. He also purchased three government vehicles to curb the costs of business trips to Fort Monmouth; encouraged his personnel to obtain government drivers' licenses; and increased the number of cell phones and laptops issued to employees to further enable communications off-site.
Keeler believes in leading by example, which is why he has encouraged SEC senior leaders to volunteer to move to APG early to set the example for the SEC workforce.
"As this transition progresses, I want our personnel to feel welcomed and taken care of as they move to Maryland," Keeler said. He provides a sponsor for each SEC relocating employee to help assimilate them to APG and the community, whether or not they have had a chance to request a sponsor.
The CECOM LCMC Logistics and Readiness Center (Forward) started the transition last July when it hand-picked an advanced party team to scout out facilities and capabilities available at APG.
Jim Meredith, director, CECOM LCMC LRC (Forward), was one of those hand-picked to relocate to APG to establish a forward operation for the LRC. He credits the success of the LRC forward team to the pro-active, pioneer spirit of the advanced party staff members.
"Whatever the task or obstacle, our team here finds a way to overcome it and press on," said Meredith. He said the forward team works hard to maintain continuity of functions as they negotiate the move to APG. Currently, most of the functions remain at Fort Monmouth. However, the LRC forward team maintains close contact with the headquarters in New Jersey through video-teleconferencing, common databases and other communication tactics to function as a single team for seamless service to their customers.
"We were sent in a reconnaissance capacity to validate that this area was a suitable place for the LRC to effectively function from, and we've found that it is," explained Meredith. He said the move to APG is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reorganize and change the way the LRC does business.
"Our director, Dave Sharman, has developed a reorganization to streamline the support to the PEO [Program Executive Office] community," Meredith said.
Effective July 19, the LRC's weapon systems directorates will be reorganized into functional areas, according to Meredith.
"Each functional area will be self-contained, to provide the maximum support possible to the customer, and in turn the Warfighter," he said.
Sharman, director of the CECOM LCMC Logistics and Readiness Center, is set to relocate to APG this summer to lead split-based operations and reconstitution of the Army C4ISR mission at APG.
A member of the Senior Executive Service, Sharman will be the senior CECOM LCMC Army civilian member of the command's advance presence at APG responsible for leading all split-base operations, reconstituting the CECOM LCMC mission, and maintaining mission continuity until relocation of the command headquarters.
Commenting about Sharman's new role, Via said, "We're very pleased that Mister Sharman has accepted to take on this new role and associated duties at APG to provide continuity of our C4ISR mission until relocation of the command headquarters in 2010. With [more than] one-thousand C4ISR personnel anticipated to be at APG by the end of fiscal year 2009, [his] new role will be a critical component of our split-base operations there."
Regarding his selection, Sharman said, "I look forward to this new opportunity and the challenges it presents, and we are committed to building a solid foundation for the future command that will stand the test of time."
Reconstituting the Army Team C4ISR mission will require preparation for the transition and eventual relocation to the new campus, mission continuity and operational oversight at APG.
Sharman explained split-based operations as doing business in two geographic locations where people have roles and responsibilities not defined geographically, adding "the customer's experience should be seamless."
Sharman also said "his role at APG will be to seamlessly integrate APG-Forward C4ISR operations with Fort Monmouths to build the future foundation for the command and set the conditions for successful relocation."
He will work closely with Edward C. Thomas, the deputy to the CECOM LCMC commanding general, in conducting and executing split-based operations for the command at APG.
Thomas will continue his overall global operational oversight of the CECOM LCMC from Fort Monmouth until his transition to APG.
In the near-term, together with Sharman, he will work to assure that C4ISR functions and personnel transition seamlessly from Fort Monmouth to APG.
Sharman will also work closely with Owens, who will continue his role of taking care of people, providing new employee orientation, and assisting with the in-processing of new or relocating personnel.
"I look forward to continuing my exceptional working relationship with both Mister Thomas and Colonel Owens," Sharman said.