Joseph Gross, Deputy Product Director Combat Terrain Information Systems (PD CTIS)
Joseph Gross, Deputy Product Director Combat Terrain Information Systems (PD CTIS) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

The US Army Geospatial Center (AGC) Director’s Award for Excellence in Leadership is for demonstrated and exceptional leadership by an individual, either supervisory, team leadership, or project/program leadership which advanced the research, development, and/or operational accomplishments of the AGC and/or the US Army. This award is highly competitive and after committee selection is awarded to the recipient by the Agency Director, David Hibner.

This year’s awardee is Joseph Gross, Deputy Product Director Combat Terrain Information Systems (PD CTIS), who was nominated for this award by his leadership because of his efforts leading to the successful revalidating of requirements and securing funding for a key capability within CTIS.

The CTIS portfolio enables Army and Marine Corps Engineering, Reconnaissance, Survey and Construction Support Operations. For example, the product Instrument Set, Reconnaissance and Surveying (common name: ENFIRE) is a digital technical engineering and data collection toolset used by Engineer Soldiers to perform reconnaissance, obstacle reporting, construction management, and support to surveying operations. Precision measuring devices and other peripherals are integrated to a ruggedized tablet computer that hosts a suite of software that supports a wide range of military engineer functions. Cory Baron, Product Director, CTIS, says “ENFIRE provides warfighters with greater accuracy and precision of measurements, faster information collection, and rapid dissemination capabilities. It reduces time on target and operations from a stand-off distance reducing exposure; greatly improving safety to soldiers.”

The CTIS Portfolio also contains the Global Positioning-Survey (GPS-S) which provides navigation requirements that feed into ENFIRE, and the Automated Integrated Surveying Instrument (AISI), a survey system that is capable of precision survey in contested or denied GPS environments, which also feeds into GPS-S and ENFIRE.

“These capabilities automate processes, so most of the time when they're doing reconnaissance, Soldiers don't even have to get out of the vehicle, streamlining the surveying process by providing information to help set up or build roads, pipelines or everything that the army needs to sustain itself within multiple mission scenarios”, Gross said.

In 2018, the Army made the decision to defund the procurement lines for GPS-S and ENFIRE, limiting the CTIS funding to one line beginning FY22. This decision prompted the leadership team from PD CTIS, Gross and his team to pursue the effort of revalidating the capability requirements and to develop a resource path for the CTIS Portfolio through the Future years Defense Program (FYDP). This required direct, active, and frequent collaboration with multiple senior level Army offices as well as user representatives from the Office of the Chief of Engineers (OCE), US Army Engineer School (USAES), Maneuver Support Center of Excellence (MSCoE).

Ensuring user understanding of fielded PD CTIS capabilities, Gross engaged with the leadership from the Engineering Regiment. “They saw the value in the portfolio and in particular, the ENFIRE kit”, he said. “ENFIRE takes what was an all-day job and turns it into something that takes a couple of hours depending on distance”.

Specifically, Gross championed multiple Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) activities that lead to successful submission and presentation of PD CTIS Strategic Portfolio Analysis Review (SPAR)/Program Objective Memorandum (POM) requirements to the HQDA DCS G8 for fiscal years 24-28 and Presidential Budget (PB) submissions for fiscal year 22 and 23. This effort culminated in Equipping Program Evaluation Group (EE-PEG) Co-Chair investments of Other Procurement Army (OPA) and, for the first time in the history of the program office, 6.4 Operational Integration Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) dollars through the FYDP.

Baron credits him by saying “Mr. Gross’ expert support to the programs in no uncertain terms enabled the program management team to do the impossible”, referring to the increased funding decision which does not happen often. Gross had to respond to critical short suspense taskers to provide support and information for senior level briefings. He did this often outside of working hours, with as little as two hours’ notice. This level of dedication, leadership and support directly led to increased programmed funding and ensures the ability for PD CTIS to endure and modernize capabilities for Joint Engineers beyond 2045.

When asked about being nominated and the winning the award, Gross acknowledged how humbling it was and emphasized the importance of the entire team in the accomplishment. He credits Baron with “providing and environment where everyone on the team can flourish”. Gross also credits Jeremy Wasson, the Technical Lead for ENFIRE, for his energy and passion for “getting these tools into the hands of soldiers”. Gross also mentioned the logistics team and the rest of the acquisitions team for their dedication to the effort.

Gross was able to bring together the efforts of his colleagues, prepare materials and brief them at a high level, leading to the desired funding outcome. The award recognizes his outstanding programmatic and technical leadership to further the goals and objectives of his portfolio. When asked about how he was able to organize and achieve this unlikely outcome he says he “follows the three P’s,- be prepared, be polite and be persistent.”