COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Product Manager for Global Combat Support System – Army, Project Manager for Army Enterprise Systems Integration, Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems
TITLE: Product support manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 9
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 22 years
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in life cycle logistics
EDUCATION: M.S. in logistics management, Florida Institute of Technology; B.S. in liberal arts, Excelsior College
AWARDS: Army Acquisition Executive’s Excellence in Leadership Logistician of the Year; Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service; Legion of Merit; Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (2); Army Commendation Medal (3); Army Achievement Medal (7); Good Conduct Medal (3); National Defense Service Medal (2); Southwest Asia Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Korean Defense Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (2); Overseas Service Ribbon (2); the Kuwait Liberation Medal; Air Assault Badge
Ms. Susan L. Follett
Take it from someone who knows: There’s a lot of overlap between being a product support manager for an Acquisition Category I program and being a minister. That someone is Billy McCain. He’s the product support manager for the Global Combat Support System – Army (GCSS-Army) at Fort Lee, Virginia, part of the Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems. He’s also an ordained minister, having earned a master’s in divinity from Virginia Union University.
“In both vocations, I must be an effective communicator and understand the challenges my clergy and my co-workers face,” he said. “Likewise, in both professions I work with others to conquer those challenges to make a better product and a better person.” Given that perspective, it’s not surprising that he says active listening—“to listen more and speak less”—is the most important lesson he’s learned over the course of his career and something he tries to do every day. “I listen to accumulate a full understanding of the problems at hand so as to not overlook possible solutions. This way, I’m sure that my comments address the problems at hand. This conceptual approach ideally makes my input more applicable as well as credible in its application.”
He added, “In the end, both areas are about people, and both groups face a lot of change. In the acquisition world, and outside of work, we need to be flexible when changes come or when we’re faced with difficulties. It’s in times of change that learners inherit the Earth, while knowers find themselves equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
McCain leads the effort to field and sustain GCSS-A, an enterprise resource planning system that replaces aging and stovepiped tactical logistics systems with a web-based, integrated logistics and financial system. Its fielding represents the largest resource planning deployment in Army history. Over the course of five years, McCain and his team—roughly 120 government civilians and contractors—enabled the successful data conversion of more than 20,000 legacy systems to GCSS-Army in two fielding increments, improving the property accountability of over $104 billion in assets. He developed and sustained an online training center and improved help desk operations. McCain also led the effort to field 1,158 handheld terminals and train 674 users, ensuring that the terminals were compatible with the GCSS-Army software and that the Soldiers knew how to use them effectively.
“My greatest satisfaction with being part of the Army Acquisition Workforce is knowing that my efforts are arming our Soldiers with a near-real-time logistics solution while ensuring the highest operational readiness possible for our nation’s defense,” McCain said. With GCSS-Army, commanders have near-real-time visibility of all of their assets, and the accurate picture of their logistics readiness supports battlefield decision-making. GCSS-Army fully integrates information in one system, eliminating time-consuming and costly reconciliations of supporting activities, customers and the supply sources required with the legacy systems.
He noted that classroom work for his Level III life cycle logistics certification played a role in the successful fielding effort. There, he had the chance to interact with other acquisition professionals “who shared program similarities, uniqueness and challenges associated with life cycle management,” he explained. “From these similarities, I learned the importance of incorporating integrated product support elements early on into the development of our product. I also had the chance to learn about best practices for enterprise software integration, which can be applied to future increments.”
With the fielding of GCSS-Army completed, McCain’s biggest challenge is transitioning from a fielding organization to one focused on sustainment. “We need to continue to support what’s out there while also preparing for new increments,” he said. “That requires us to take a look at our staff and to identify the right mix of talent that can support both of those efforts.”
McCain became a part of the Army Acquisition Workforce in 2009, when he was assigned to the GCSS-Army program as a Soldier. “It was my first acquisition program, and I served as the government finance team lead and member of the functional integrated concept team, which aided in the development of the product.” His last job in uniform was as a combat developer with the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command, which gave him exposure to the type of work and opportunities that acquisition could offer. “Once I retired, I continued my work on this program as a civil servant, first as the government finance lead, then retail supply and material management lead, followed by the finance deployment lead, and finally as the product support manager.”
For McCain, the project’s biggest appeal and its biggest payoff have been working with others. “What appealed to me about the work was the enormous collaboration that was required to get a product from conception to implementation. Collaboration with Army leadership, trading partners, Army commands and the lead system integrator was essential in producing a flexible and efficient product,” he said. “I had no idea how rewarding it would be to be involved in this program, from the interaction I had with everyone involved to knowing that our work reached more than 100,000 Soldiers and made their jobs easier.”
McCain’s work earned him the Army Acquisition Executive’s Excellence in Leadership Logistician of the Year Award. “I was very humbled to receive the award, and I think it’s a testament to the team effort involved in the project,” he said. “To me, it’s the sign of a great organization and great personnel.” He has had the chance to advise some junior acquisition personnel, and he noted that the best advice he has given is “to face planning and problem-solving with humility, to stay humble and be flexible, and to accept and expect constant change. We are in the business of producing effective products based on user requirements that often change. We must be receptive and adapt to that change to ensure that we are providing the best product possible.”
“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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