Faces of the Force: Jacki Garner

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: G-6 Communications, U.S. Army Europe
POSITION AND OFFICIAL TITLE: Chief, Information Technology Theater Business Office
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 2 years, 10 months
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in information technology
EDUCATION: M.S. in computer information systems, University of Phoenix; B.S. in computer science, University of Central Texas; associate degree in business programming, Central Texas College
AWARDS: Defense Acquisition Workforce Individual Achievement Award in Information Technology; Commander’s Award for Civilian Service

Garner’s efforts streamline IT purchases for USAREUR

By Susan Follett

U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) has Jacki Garner to thank for a theater information technology (IT) acquisition process and an IT investment governance and management program that have been instrumental in saving her command nearly $6 million in IT procurements.

As chief of the Information Technology Theater Buying Office (IT-TBO), Garner manages USAREUR’s procurement of the IT supplies and services needed to support and sustain its mission. She’s been with IT-TBO since its inception in 2008, when USAREUR G-6 created it to focus on controlling IT costs. “The intent is to manage enterprise requirements holistically to ensure standardization and sustainability for the command,” Garner said. “USAREUR’s portfolio management framework aims to eliminate redundant and unnecessary IT spending and gain better pricing through consolidated procurements.”

Garner led her staff in redesigning the USAREUR IT portfolio dashboard so that it could provide functional program managers with the necessary tools and data to assist them in effectively managing their programs. She developed a theater IT acquisition process to enable the early identification of IT requirements, giving her staff time to structure IT procurements and identify the acquisition strategy necessary to ensure the most economical purchase. She directed that IT requirements be itemized and disclosed during the USAREUR annual budget laydown, which resulted in IT requirements being “procurement ready” for command approval, and identified opportunities to consolidate requirements for better pricing, thus reducing the total cost of IT.

Garner also developed a framework for tracking and disclosing current-year IT investment costs with associated future-year defense program data in accordance with Army regulations that require accountability for all Army service component command IT costs in the Army Portfolio Management System (APMS). This provided planning data for the DA chief information officer (CIO)/G-6 to better inform the program objective memorandum. Garner’s actions captured more than $160 million of USAREUR FY16 IT cost in APMS and ensured that they were properly aligned to the common user infrastructure, data center, system or application records. She also created an IT acquisition working group, which included representatives from the 409th Contracting Support Brigade and USAREUR major subordinate commands.

“The intent is to manage overall cost of IT through pre-staged enterprise contracts that provide the warfighter with a streamlined procurement process and ensures that he or she gets the right tool at the right time and at the right price,” Garner said. “Aggregating requirements at the command level gives us better buying power, enforces standardization and enables long-term sustainability. It also simplifies the procurement process, enhances the quality of the procurements and alleviates 90 percent of the workload to build a quality acquisition packet to buy the necessary IT supplies or services.”

Standing up a new organization can be daunting under the best of circumstances, but Garner welcomed the challenge. “Establishing the new business processes and framework to manage IT cost collectively from the enterprise level was appealing because it was leading edge and really had not been done before within the Army,” she said. “Carving new ground within USAREUR was exciting, as we had leadership support and drive to establish the mechanism behind IT cost management, and we’ve been able to yield significant savings across the theater.”

She and her team encountered a handful of hurdles, including establishing new and effective business processes from the enterprise perspective, ensuring that customers were aware of these new processes and enforcing the necessary participation from a policy and leadership perspective. “We used an iterative process to establish the portfolio management framework and its centralized review and governance of IT spending, incorporating feedback from our customers and making adjustments as we went along,” Garner said. They developed an information campaign and conducted unit-level site visits to educate users on the new policy and business processes. To ensure participation, the IT-TBO established a policy that requires the review of all IT procurements in excess of $25,000 through the USAREUR Requirements Validation System.

Garner’s work for the IT-TBO earned her the 2016 Defense Acquisition Workforce Individual Achievement Award late last year. “The award is reflective of the quality of my team and the leadership support I have received to date,” she said. “It really was a team effort, and I could not have accomplished what I did without the support and the technical expertise of my management and my team.”

She’s quick to note that mentors have played an important role in her career development. Chief among them is John J. Gannon, USAREUR’s deputy G-6/chief information officer. “He has always stressed the importance of professional development and involvement in professional forums and communities as a critical aspect of developing,” Garner said. “IT skillsets are perishable, and technology changes every two years. Therefore, it is imperative to embrace continuous learning as a key tenet to ensure that IT professionals remain relevant and capable to perform effectively within the IT career field. This is true of critical acquisition skills as well.”

Taking advantage of the courses offered through Defense Acquisition University has also been important. “Using what we’ve learned from those courses and applying it to real-world situations to effectively manage cost and proactively accomplish the mission allows my office to function as a force enabler for USAREUR’s mission,” said Garner. “The broader your background, the more in-depth your experience will be, and that depth of experience is critical to performing strategic IT cost management and acquisition support services for the enterprise at the Army command level.”

She’s also glad to be part of “a community that facilitates collaboration to translate new initiatives like Better Buying Power into an actual acquisition strategy that allows us to provide resources to the warfighter while still buying more for less.” For example, she said, USAREUR developed a life cycle replacement functional program, which replaces the office automation equipment for the USAREUR workforce. By consolidating requirements at the enterprise or command level, USAREUR has reduced its cost to purchase automation equipment by more than 35 percent each fiscal year.

Garner served in the Army in the mid-1980s and used the funds she received from the Veterans Educational Assistance Program to obtain her college education. “Serving in the military gave me an appreciation and respect for our Soldiers and what they do in support of our great nation,” she said. “Every day, it’s about the bottom line: Are we effectively resourcing our troops for the mission at hand?”

Garner with colleagues at USAREUR, from left to right: Col. Matthew J. Holt, Chief Information Officer/Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6; Scott Howard, acquisition lead, IT-TBO; Garner; Felicia Owens, deputy, IT-TBO. (Photo by Anthony Sweeney, Command Information Chief, USAREUR Public Affairs)

Garner with colleagues at USAREUR, from left to right: Col. Matthew J. Holt, Chief Information Officer/Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6; Scott Howard, acquisition lead, IT-TBO; Garner; Felicia Owens, deputy, IT-TBO. (Photo by Anthony Sweeney, Command Information Chief, USAREUR Public Affairs)

This article is scheduled to be published in the April – June 2017 issue of Army AL&T Magazine.

“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-664-5635.

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