By Misha King
DCMA Public Affairs
The Defense Contract Management Agency director signed the CARES Council charter Sep. 14, officially standing up the agency’s newest collaborative team focused on culture.
Coined by Andrea Benoit, Eastern Region General Counsel, CARES stands for Cultivating an Atmosphere of Respect and Resilience through Education and Support.
The council’s mission is “to openly discuss, identify, and bring to bear specific measures to eradicate the devastating impact that racism, extremism, sexual assault/harassment, workplace violence, other destructive behaviors, and suicide has on all [DCMA] personnel, in both their personal and professional lives.”
During the director’s July global town hall, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Adam Rising, DCMA’s senior enlisted advisor, said the need to establish the council stems from previous issues and dialogues regarding cultural influences that impacted the opportunity for those types of events to occur.
“We’re all painfully aware 2020 was a catalyzing year,” said Rising. “We had Fort Hood, we had George Floyd, we had riots, we had COVID and we had elections. And then, unfortunately, a stressful year resulted in some suicides within our own agency and a significant spike at large.”
In response to the national outcry on racism, DCMA conducted what Rising calls “The Talk” where leadership had candid conversations with nearly 6,000 employees about what racism feels like in the workplace, in their families and communities. Rising said the leadership group received overwhelmingly positive feedback, which led to the idea of creating a culture where everyone feels like DCMA is somewhere they want to be.
At the agency director’s request, an internal review was subsequently conducted, and the Three Corrosives Advisory Council was formed to focus on suicide, discrimination, racism and sexual assault. DCMA has several avenues to address very specific silos of concerns. However, Rising said the agency lacked a way to bring everything together in one collaborative piece to see how this “broad brush” affects the entire DCMA culture and how to broadly tackle some of the issues or concerns employees have in both their work and personal lives.
Robert Conforto, DCMA’s inspector general, emphasized the council was not established to circumvent, replace or undermine any other existing complaint or resolution channels.
“The Department of Defense has very specific instructions on how employees should report mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse, discrimination, etc.,” said Conforto. “Each DoD agency has its own defined offices of redress for those complaints, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the Office of Inspector General.”
DCMA’s director, Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, explained the council is an important asset in the agency’s arsenal in providing a healthy workplace environment for its employees.
“The CARES Council’s purpose is to provide our senior leaders with policy recommendations and strategic initiatives intended to support the workforce and their families regarding prevention and recovery from destructive behaviors,” said Bassett, who broadly defines destructive behaviors as those inconsistent with DCMA’s core values of integrity, service and excellence.
John Lyle, DCMA’s deputy director and the CARES chair, said the council is another tool to help prevent destructive behavior. “But, it won’t make a difference unless we apply it with all the other tools and work together to stomp it out,” he explained.
Conforto, who is also a member of the CARES council, said one of its strengths will be harnessing the collective knowledge and data of all DCMA’s complaint reporting processes. “Building this bridge will allow us to develop effective programs and put policies in place to ensure none of those destructive behaviors are allowed to exist within DCMA.”
Now that the charter is officially signed, the council will begin the process of collecting and analyzing agency data to identify trends and potential focus areas that align with the council’s mission and goals. The data will come from established complaint intake and resolution processes, and the Defense Organizational Climate Survey/Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey outcomes from the recent senior leaders’ strategic offsite.
The council is also creating an O365 intranet site that will include a process for employees to submit recommendations regarding the cultural impacts from racism, extremism, sexual assault/harassment, workplace violence, other destructive behaviors and suicide. Employees will be informed when the site is live.
To learn more about the council’s roles and responsibilities, check out the DCMA CARES Council Charter (internal link for DCMA employees only.)
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