POSITION AND UNIT: Chief, Regional Contracting Office – Wiesbaden; 409th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB) – Europe
TOTAL YEARS OF SERVICE: 5
AWARDS: 409th CSB Commander’s Award, Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award
EDUCATION: MBA from Chaminade University of Honolulu; B.S. in business and management from the University of Maryland
Contracting expert hopes to become
a long-term expat
By Susan L. Follett
Don’t look for Laurie Hull stateside anytime soon. During overseas postings to Okinawa, Japan and Portugal’s Azores while her husband served in the Air Force, Hull acquired a love for living internationally, and she’s been able to leverage her expertise in defense contracting to satisfy her travel bug.
After living overseas for several years, her work for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command allowed Hull and her husband to settle in Hawaii after his retirement. “I know it sounds odd, but even living in a paradise like Hawaii, we got antsy for international adventure, so we looked for assignments abroad.” That brought her to Naples, Italy, and back—briefly—to Virginia. Five years ago, she accepted a job with the 409th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB) and has been in Germany ever since.
Her first post was chief of the Regional Contracting Office (RCO) in Schwetzingen, where she was tasked with shutting down the office as a result of reorganization within U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR). “Most people would turn down a job that requires closing an office, but I saw it as a challenge; I had never closed an office before,” said Hull, “And it was an opportunity to live and work in Germany, which I had wanted to do for a long time.”
Closing RCO Schwetzingen “was actually a very positive experience,” she said. “Our staff stayed focused and engaged to the end. I absolutely love living in Wiesbaden and am fortunate now to work with a fantastic team of experienced contract specialists.”
She added, “Living overseas, even the most mundane tasks—going to the market, ordering dinner in a restaurant—are more exciting and the rewards, professionally and personally, that come with getting out of your comfort zone are incredible.”
What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?
As the chief of the RCO in Wiesbaden, Germany, with the 409th CSB, I oversee an office of 13, including local nationals and DA civilians, providing contracting support for U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, USAREUR and tenant organizations.
The Army couldn’t function in the Wiesbaden footprint without our office’s support: We touch most aspects of the typical day for Soldiers and their families—from facility maintenance and repair to logistics support and information technology, to name just a few. I think it’s also interesting to note that some of our contracts in terms of dollar value have the largest mission impact. For example, the annual Conference of European Armies, which brings together senior land force commanders from 38 European partner nations, the U.S. and Canada to discuss the future of cooperative European security, takes place under a contract valued at less than $120,000.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work? How do you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges our office faces is acquisition planning and getting requirements packages in time to award a contract by the customer’s need date. We try to overcome this through close monitoring of upcoming requirements starting one year out; regular communication with the customers; early planning meetings, starting at nine months out from need date; and annual acquisition reviews. The annual acquisition review, similar to an after-action review, is something we initiated two years ago with our key customers. At the reviews, we jointly outline best practices, lessons learned and initiatives for the coming fiscal year. The reviews have been very successful in managing expectations at the customer’s senior leadership level, and in allowing us to partner together with joint initiatives, such as ensuring requirements packages are submitted on time.
Another, more personal challenge is ensuring the office is staffed appropriately to meet future challenges. We recently experienced several local national retirements, and now two key DA civilians are moving to other duty stations. My goal is to hire the brightest and best qualified specialists in time to prevent a gap in positions. Through succession planning and being organized and ready to move out once we get the referral lists from the Army Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, I think we’ll be in a good position to deal with the challenge.
How did you get your start in acquisition?
I worked for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command for 15 years, providing contracting support to Navy and Marine Corps bases in Hawaii and Naples, Italy. The type of contracting support was very similar to what the 409th CSB provides today, and the challenges were similar: educating customers and seeking out new ways to streamline processes and shorten acquisition lead times. Another challenge—and ultimately a significant accomplishment—was our team’s work to develop a business management system for our office. It outlined every office process electronically, including templates, samples and flow charts, and ultimately helped streamline and standardize processes while taking advantage of best practices.
What has your experience been like? What has surprised you the most?
My experience has been very rewarding: I’ve had the opportunity to work in three different locations and in three positions since I started working for the 409th CSB: RCO chief in Schwetzingen; mission operations director (now called contract support operations) at the 409th CSB headquarters in Kaiserslautern, and here in Wiesbaden. The people I’ve had an opportunity to work with, in particular the local nationals, are dedicated, experienced and engaged.
My biggest surprise is the outstanding working relationships we have with our customers. It is not unusual in our business to have a little friction with customers over competing priorities and lack of understanding of the acquisition process. We are fortunate to have a cooperative and positive environment where people work as a team to resolve everyday issues. Although we have room for improvement, this positive environment provides the foundation for continuously improving processes and timelines.
What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army?
My greatest satisfaction with being part of the Army is how I get to directly impact the daily lives of soldiers and their families, in addition to providing some high-profile support to USAREUR headquarters.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to get where you are?
Take the challenge! Volunteer for the tough assignments and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. The rewards are amazing and multifaceted, both in work and life.
- “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 currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.
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