By Ashley Tolbert
NORMAN, Okla. – Soldiers from the U.S. Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve gathered on July 21-23 for the Reserve Component Acquisition Training Summit, spending time in workshops and presentations from senior leadership from the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard that stressed the importance of integrating the reserve component and the active component and reinforcing the Total Force Policy within the Army Acquisition Workforce.
The Total Force Policy—an ongoing effort to integrate active-duty Soldiers, the Army Reserve and the National Guard into one operational force governed by the same policies and procedures—was originally introduced in 1973 and was most recently revamped in 2012 by then Army Secretary John McHugh. Under that directive, service components are required to “organize, man, train and equip their active and reserve components as an integrated operational force to provide predictable, recurring and sustainable capabilities.” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has emphasized that all Army components need to work together as a total force, and he has made readiness his top priority.
Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)), was one of several senior leaders who spoke at the Norman summit. “To be ready, you have to be trained, have the right equipment, and [have] leader development. All of those pieces are important for the force. … There is no way that we can have a mission that doesn’t involve the active and reserve components,” he said.
“If you look at how skill sets are broken out, the experience that people have and the size of the active Army, which is smaller today than it has been in dozens of years, we don’t have the capability without the Army Reserve and National Guard to execute any mission. The reserve component brings talent, experience and more numbers to execute our mission and be a total force.” said Williamson. He also expressed the urgency of integrating the components now rather than later. “You have to build that capability and capacity every day; you can’t wait until there’s a fight. You have to make that a normal part of business and you have to incorporate the training.”
Many reservists and National Guard members have jobs that enhance the acquisition skill set, he added, working as auditors or program mangers or in contracting. “We need to think of ways to bring them into the total force,” he said, and take advantage of those “untapped resources.”
Other senior leaders at the summit included Stephen Austin, assistant chief of the Army Reserve; Maj. Gen. James Simpson, commanding general of the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC); James Balocki, command executive officer for the Army Reserve; Cynthia Tolle, principal assistant responsible for contracting for the National Guard Bureau; Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, sergeant major for ASA(ALT); and Sgt. Maj. Jose Castillo, command sergeant major for ACC.
Simpson described the challenges that ACC will be facing in the coming years. “Between FY15 and FY19, I’m going to lose about 30 percent of my military personnel in contracting positions—that’s a loss of 287 military positions. When you take that many cuts, it impacts readiness,” he said, adding, “The only way to mitigate the cuts is to integrate the Guard and Reserve components, utilize deployable civilians and reach out to other services for support.”
Tolle shared a story about her experience as a purchasing agent in Fort Polk, Louisiana, during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. “That was the first time we ever saw, in my tenure, the reserves get called out to go support overseas. And every year after that, [the Army Reserve] role keeps becoming more and more important to the Army,” she explained. “I know Gen. Milley has made it a priority to promote the Total Force Policy. You [Army Reservists] play a critical role in that … you’re acquisition professionals, so you play an even more important role because they [the active Army component] are counting on you to help us move those missions forward.”
Austin echoed that statement. “Acquisition is a critical element of how we gain decisive advantage on the battlefield,” he said, “and contracting enables capability to how we build and sustain readiness.”
Soldiers also participated in training workshops on market research and developing a performance work statement, led by Kurt Webb and Steve Wical, both from Defense Acquisition University-South Region in Huntsville, Alabama. The workshops discussed methods of conducting thorough market research and how to write a clear, concise performance work statement.
On the last day of the summit, Soldiers participated in a team-building kickball tournament, with an acquisition application: After each inning, teams had to answer acquisition questions to earn points. More than 35 people participated in the tournament.