Civilian team helps Army exceed goals, lead Federal government in building green vehicle fleet

By John Bell, Office of the DCS, G-9January 23, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC— The Army is leading the entire federal government in its acquisition of non-tactical zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs)—thanks in great part to Gregory Spann and teammates in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9 (Installations).

ZEVs not only help the Army reduce its climate-altering emissions, as required by the Army Climate Strategy and two executive orders; they also help the service move more efficiently, he noted.

Spann, a former Marine who drove trucks in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom, serves as G-9’s program manager for non-tactical vehicles. He was recently named Employee of the Year for his achievements as a member of the G-9’s Installation Services Directorate.

It was a tough road to develop the program into what it is today. Over the past few years, the pandemic led to slowdowns in vehicle production—meaning the Army wouldn’t be able to buy enough NTVs.

The Army Strategic Plan for ZEVs is straightforward: field ZEVs while replacing gas and diesel NTVs. ZEVs can either be full-time battery electric vehicles (BEVs) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

Smashing the Standard

Leveraging his background as a Marine, a car salesperson and customer service manager, and a General Services Administration (GSA) employee, Spann worked to beat the backlog and exceed the ZEV acquisition targets set by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

And beat it he did: Even though supply chain issues caused more than 1,400 vehicle orders to be canceled, Spann’s efforts mean the Army will acquire nearly 1,100 ZEVs ordered within fiscal year 2022, which should be delivered by summer of 2023, Spann said.

DCS, G-9 LTG Kevin Vereen joins Installation Services Director Michael Reheuser in presenting Employee of the Year award to Gregory Spann, November 2022.
DCS, G-9 LTG Kevin Vereen joins Installation Services Director Michael Reheuser in presenting Employee of the Year award to Gregory Spann, November 2022. (Photo Credit: John Bell, US Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

That number exceeds the standard the White House Council on Environmental Quality set for the Army by 164 percent, he said.

The Army’s ZEV fleet is nearly one-third of the entire federal government’s fleet. In fact, of the 3,400 total ZEVs the federal government acquired in fiscal 2022, the Army accounts for over 1,000, he said. These include Chrysler Pacifica vans, Teslas, and various SUVs. Although plug-in hybrids can run on gasoline, the government considers them ZEVs, he said.

It even includes the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup. In FY22 the federal government only had 500 allotments for the F-150 Lightning trucks. But thanks to persistent communication with GSA, Spann and his team in G-9 were able to acquire more than 525 just for the Army alone.

Deals on Wheels

You would think that success would have come with increased costs. But Spann and his teammates Paul Malace, Mike Leyba, and Steve Redfearn, led by Installation Services Logistics Division Chief Tony Haager, managed to get it done while saving the Army $21 million.

Manufacturers usually require the government to pay their upfront cost, Spann explained. Last year that cost was about $43 million, but he negotiated with GSA to structure a three-year plan.

“Because of the way the team structured the pay plan, the Army paid it off in FY 2022, bringing a cost avoidance of over $21 million in FY 2022 alone.

That’s a nearly 30 percent discount.

Spann’s background is a unique asset to the ZEV program, said Tony Haager, Chief of G-9’s Logistics and Services Division.

“His experience as an Agency Fleet manager, GSA FSR [Fleet Service Representative] and working in the auto industry and now as the Army’s NTV Fleet manager—with the second-largest fleet in the federal government—brings a breadth of experience that cannot be duplicated,” Haager said.

Keys to Success

Spann pointed to a few things that helped him and his teammates make these achievements.

One was his transportation background. “I learned how to negotiate,” he said. “I learned how to stick to the facts and have those critical conversations to achieve the goal.”

Careful analysis was also important. “It’s very important to have all your data exact,” Spann said. “The best data makes the best decisions.”

And direct communication was vital—to let fleet managers know what the Army will soon be looking to acquire; to inform energy managers of the Army’s requirements; and to help budget managers ensure the funds are there to cover the acquisitions. And within G-9 it’s important to enable stakeholders to understand the capabilities and the constraints, Spann said.

That means not just data calls and emails, Spann said. “It means picking up that phone and hearing exactly what those commanders are saying regarding their mission and those vehicles,” he said. “It really makes the job much easier.”

The process of replacing a vehicle starts with the G-9 ZEV team’s analysis. When a vehicle is due for replacement, they determine if a ZEV is a good fit. They also consider the location of the vehicle to avoid remote locations that lack charging infrastructure. Spann and his teammates did this 2,300 times.

The Army’s stated goal is to replace its entire gas and diesel-powered NTV fleet by 2035. To do so, the service is focusing on light-duty vehicles first, Spann said.

To help make that happen, Spann developed a ZEV common operating picture that gives Army Senior Leaders a snapshot of the Army’s progress in acquiring ZEVs, with more than 65,000 NTVs at every installation and locations in between.

The common operating picture was so well received, OSD adopted it as the standard for the military services.

Spann’s dedication “has led to the Army ordering more electric vehicles than any other federal government agency,” said DCS, G-9 Installation Services Director Michael Reheuser.

“He combines professionalism and hard work with a great sense of humor that encourages collaboration and mission accomplishment.”