NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 8, 2022) – The commanding general, division and center commanders, district engineers, and Senior Executive Service leadership recently met in Music City to work on “building a stronger” Corps of Engineers during an Executive Governance Meeting.
Leaders at the “EGM” meeting Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 discussed an array of “top level” topics, including small business goals and objectives, workforce safety, and retention and recruiting efforts as the Corps of Engineers seeks to employ the very best talent to deliver engineering services for America and customers in more than 130 countries worldwide.
Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, commanding general and 55th chief of engineers, said getting leadership together to address priorities with civil works, military construction, and even emergency operations in the aftermath of several hurricanes, is especially significant.
“There is a lot going on right now in the Corps of Engineers, and you get to crosstalk some issues that are very important,” Spellmon told leaders at the beginning of the meeting held at “Spark,” which is Lipscomb University’s Idea Center in downtown Nashville.
For the first time in several years due to COVID-19 concerns, district commanders from around the world attended. Several commanders were charged to share best practices that could be applied corporately to improve processes such as quality initiatives, small business practices, project management, data and business intelligence, partnering, project delivery, and contracting.
For example, Col. Cullen Jones, New Orleans District commander, shared a database and dashboard system his team developed that provides a common operating picture from multiple other software systems. The system makes it possible for project managers and project development teams to handle change management, scheduling, budgeting, and reporting in a one-stop shop.
Jones, who is also a former Nashville District commander, explained during his presentation that the system being utilized in New Orleans benefits the organization and command in a number of ways, but notably with early indicators of schedule and budget issues.
Another benefit of this “EGM Meeting” involved getting a unique leadership perspective from a prestigious policy maker responsible with establishing policy direction and supervising Department of the Army functions related to all aspects of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works Program.
Michael L. Connor, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, leads the conservation and development of the nation's water and wetland resources, flood control, navigation, and shore protection, all important aspects of the President’s climate resilience priorities.
He took the opportunity to communicate directly with Corps of Engineers leadership to share his priorities, which include upgrading the nation’s waterways and ports to strengthen supply chains and economic growth; building innovative, climate-resilient infrastructure to protect communities and ecosystems; modernizing civil works programs to better serve the needs of disadvantaged communities; and investing in science, research and development to deliver enduring water-resource solutions. He also stressed the importance of being proactive to strengthen communications and relationships to solve water resource challenges such as current low flows on the Mississippi River.
“I think it’s important just to let you know what is going on, what we’re trying to accomplish, some of the things in the works,” Connor said.
The quarterly “EGM” meeting provides a forum for strategic direction and commander’s guidance, and to address ongoing issues affecting the organization. The meeting also facilitates and encourages crosstalk that ultimately drives change and solves challenges and improves processes across the Corps of Engineers.
Alex Dornstauder, USACE chief of Strategy and Integration, said it’s good to periodically have leaders altogether in the same grid square at the same conference several times a year to discuss things that materially impact the Corps of Engineers, and what things the command needs to focus on in short, medium, and long terms.
“One of the conversations we had was, ‘how do we solve and win the war for talent when we have this huge increase in workload, and the people who are going to potentially execute and manage that for us are fighting with industry, other districts, and headquarters, because there is a limited number of qualified folks to do the work?”
Dornstauder said those are the kinds of problems that are discussed at an “EGM” meeting, and they can be very complex. When district engineers attend the meeting, he said it’s important for them to hear the concerns, the challenges, the best practices from other commanders that are experiencing similar issues and may have valuable input.
“It’s a very deliberate process,” Dornstauder explained. “These meetings have by and large been very successful at sort of coalescing people around issues and at least understanding what the issues are.”
The Nashville District served as the host district for the event and provided logistics and administrative support, and communications, visual information and sound system assistance.
Lt. Col. Joseph Sahl, Nashville District commander, said a lot of time and effort went into planning and then executing this critical support to hundreds of leaders that participated.
“The whole team worked extremely hard to ensure the right people were in position and equipment set up as needed so this event would be successful,” Sahl said. “I’ve received a lot of positive comments about it and I’m very proud of everyone in the Nashville District that performed superbly in support of the EGM.”