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By Patrick Tremblay
DCMA Public Affairs
More than three dozen Defense Contract Management Agency leaders met for two days in late March to define the future of the combat support agency. The planning session will result in a formal strategic plan that will go into effect in late spring.
Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, DCMA director, presided over the session, and was joined by agency regional commanders, component heads and other operational leadership. The core group met in person at the agency’s Fort Lee headquarters, a welcome change after the past two years of limited travel and in-person meetings. “I’m glad to finally see all of you at the same time,” joked Bassett, who assumed leadership of DCMA just after the coronavirus pandemic began.
The pandemic was still felt in the room, as many leaders, including regional deputy commanders, joined virtually to maintain social-distancing limits.
The director’s planning team packed the two days to maximize the unusual opportunity for in-person attendance. To set the stage and tone for meeting, the first day began with a ceremony renaming the multi-purpose area in the DCMA headquarters — the room where the team would spend the next two days — for Anthony Acerra, an agency employee who was killed while deployed as a civilian to Afghanistan in 2011.
Bassett began the planning session by invoking Acerra and the agency’s dedicated workforce. “This is a people business,” said Bassett, reminding the group that employees, and their families, have to be a main consideration of any planning. “This strategic plan and its execution are about what the agency can do for our employees as much as it is about their work. In a lot of ways, they are our customers here. Ultimately, it’s those 10,000 people outside of headquarters who execute our mission.”
The session was the final major step in creating a formal product, the DCMA Strategic Plan, Fiscal Year 2022-2026, said Nicole Vickerie, who is preparing the document through the agency’s Strategic Planning and Analysis Division.
“This session is the culmination of months of work,” Vickerie said. “We started with guidance from the director, and met with him regularly to understand his intent and to fold in guidance from the Defense Department. At Lt. Gen. Bassett’s direction, our next step was to gather input from our operational and support workforce.”
Bassett said incorporating the expertise and culture of the workforce was paramount.
“We’ve seen some amazingly innovative, flexible, adaptive ideas coming from our workforce. We want to embrace that,” he said. “We want to celebrate where our people are creating the culture we need as we evolve. This is about creating an agency where people want to work, and where they recognize what they do matters.”
Vickerie said the strategic plan would be accompanied by an annual performance plan, which will include measurable initiatives and reporting requirements.
“The annual instrument allows for a much greater level of flexibility,” she said. “For example, as DOD releases the new National Defense Strategy, we can rework initiatives to quickly shape our lines of effort to align with that, as well as changes in (Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment) priorities.”
The strategic planning session was broken into roughly three sections. Bassett kicked things off with a discussion of the agency’s new vision, and on transforming the agency’s culture to meet the mission, budget and workforce demands of the future.
The group then dove into the core of the session, presenting four “lines of effort” that form the pillars of the strategic plan. These had been outlined in advance and shaped by multiple sessions held with agency operational workforce over the preceding months. The planning meeting was the first opportunity for the senior lead in charge of each to present their specific objectives to the larger group, and for the group to refine the final language.
The first three lines of effort are dedicated to mission-related work, and seek to modernize capabilities in quality and delivery, contract administration and payment, and cost and pricing. The first day ended with a spirited discussion on the fourth line of effort, designed to innovate DCMA’s approaches to ‘space, place, talent and technology’ and build the workplace of the future.
“This gets to the heart of our vision, and is essential to the success of the other three lines of effort,” said Cory Rosenberger, the agency’s chief of staff. “We’re coming into this with lessons learned from the pandemic and nationwide workforce and workplace trends. We have a great opportunity to reimagine, plan for and reinvent, how and where we conduct our work.”
Once the agency’s vision had been established, and the supporting lines of effort presented, the group dedicated most of the second day to a deep look at gaps in the plan, overlap between efforts, and the next steps in implementation.
Through it all, Bassett stressed the importance of outcomes, rather than processes. “We can’t be the Defense Contract ‘Monitoring’ Agency,” he said. “This is about making a difference in the defense acquisition process because we were there.”
The DCMA Strategic Plan, Fiscal Year 2022-2026, is in draft form now. After further refinement and coordination by agency senior leadership, it will go to Bassett for final approval. It is expected to be published by early June.
Concurrently, an integrated master plan and schedule are being developed to track each line of effort and its corresponding objectives and initiatives. Bassett will be briefed regularly on the statuses beginning in June.
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