Lasting bonds based on trust, respect and confidence are the foundation of the future
By Lt. Gen. Michael E. Williamson, Director Acquisition Career Management
Ninety days have passed since I assumed my duties and responsibilities as the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)) and the director of acquisition career management. I am humbled by this great honor, and especially appreciate the opportunity to serve again with the Hon. Heidi Shyu. I am also grateful for the ability to work with the first-rate professionals of the Army AL&T Workforce, whose dedication to duty and commitment to excellence are without equal.
Most recently, I served as the deputy commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, working with our partners to enable Afghan-led security by the end of this year. One lasting impression of my time in theater is the outstanding level of support the Army acquisition community provides to members of our joint force. Our story is one of warfighter lives saved and missions accomplished because of the weapon systems and equipment, products and services that we deliver—in many cases urgently.
This experience, plus the lessons we learned during more than 12 years in two theaters, make one thing abundantly clear: Today’s members of the Army Acquisition Corps and the entire Army AL&T Workforce are the most skilled in our history, and we are strengthened by our wide-ranging expertise and experience.
From analysts to contract specialists, testers and evaluators, life-cycle logisticians, information technology professionals, scientists and engineers, developers and program managers, business cost estimators and financial managers, and production, quality and manufacturing specialists, our dedicated professionals execute diverse responsibilities on a daily basis. Most importantly, we meet our warfighters’ needs—from Advanced Combat Helmets to unmanned aircraft systems to Stryker Double-V Hulls and more, including contracting for services on which our forces rely. In every program executive office (PEO) and across all portfolios, in several Army commands and organizations, there are hundreds of stories of innovative ways that we, in the Army Acquisition Corps and Army AL&T Workforce, contribute directly to the success of our warfighters. We can be justifiably proud of these achievements.
In many respects, returning to ASA(ALT) is a homecoming for me. I’ve spent a great part of my Army career in acquisition, having served as product manager for the Global Command and Control System – Army, project manager for network systems integration, deputy PEO for integration, and joint PEO for the Joint Tactical Radio System.
What I discovered early on is that acquisition is unlike any other career field. We procure products for the United States Army that in some cases will be operated by our sons and daughters and probably even our granddaughters and grandsons. So it is important that we get it right. For this reason, let me share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned—in a few cases the hard way—about meeting the needs of our Soldiers.
- Keep in mind that the program you manage or support is an Army program. It does not belong to you. You are in charge of delivering a capability.
- Develop and maintain a close, personal relationship with the user. You cannot do this by email or fiat. Be engaged.
- Be the smartest person in the room when it comes to the program you manage. Articulate clearly how the needs of the Soldier are being met.
- Our job is to manage risk and understand the critical path of our programs in every respect, not just cost, schedule and performance.
- Honesty is important in every respect, whether the news is good or bad.
- Solve the problems you can and seek immediate help for those you cannot. Delay will not control nor improve the outcome.
- Know how to assess, identify and manage risks.
- Be creative and innovative in finding efficiencies.
- Know your contract, contracting officer and Defense Contract Management Agency representative, understand what the contractor is responsible for delivering, and provide feedback to the contractor.
- Recognize the talents of your team and leverage them.
- Always seek to improve yourself and the performance of those around you.
- Maintain and promote a positive organizational climate.
- Keep up with change. Remember that life is a continuous process of learning.
Right now we are entering a period unlike any other in our history—simultaneously drawing down the force, reorganizing and preparing for the future while remaining engaged in nearly 150 countries, including Afghanistan. Some people will focus on uncertainty, but I believe our future is bright—primarily because of the tremendous talent within our workforce. Our imperative is to procure the needs of our warfighters and always support the fight.
In equipping the force in two theaters during the last decade, we brought enormous value to the warfighter. We developed solid relationships with our men and women in uniform and our industrial base partners. We formed lasting bonds based on trust, respect and confidence. These close working relationships don’t just happen. We must maintain and leverage these bonds and competencies as we prepare for the future and its new challenges. I am confident that our dynamic workforce will capitalize on this opportunity and continue to provide our Soldiers with the world’s finest equipment.
Every day, I remain mindful of the many sacrifices that you and your families make in keeping our Army the best-equipped and best-trained force on earth.
Thank you for your steadfast dedication and strong support for our Soldiers.
This article was originally published in the July – September 2014 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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