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News | Oct. 18, 2022

CARES Council renews charter, vision for future

By Misha King DCMA Public Affairs

The Defense Contract Management Agency CARES Council renewed its charter Oct. 6, officially welcoming a new chair and two new team members.  

Sonya Ebright, DCMA’s deputy director, became the council’s leader in May when she was selected as the agency’s second in command. Already a CARES team member prior to becoming the chair, Ebright said her vision for the council’s future includes having workplace oversight and keeping the programs that take care of DCMA’s people sustained so they’re meaningful to the team members in the field.

“We want to have a series of programs that people can use, and the CARES Council is responsible for that piece of it,” she said. “We are accountable for that oversight, that insight, and making sure it’s up to date, current and usable for our 11,000-plus people.”

Ebright said the council will always have subgroups and integrated project teams, and she encourages employees in the field to play an active role in developing CARES initiatives.

“[The Council] is a DCMA-wide program, so it shouldn’t just be somebody at headquarters deciding what the rest of DCMA needs,” she said. “We are wide-open for and welcome ideas and help from any team member around the globe.”

In this charter update, the council added American Federation of Government Employees union representation. Renee Brown, a DCMA Information Technology management analyst and president of AFGE Council 170, said the goal is to establish a highly effective relationship and create a communication channel in which employees’ voices get heard.

“This communication channel has the potential to produce substantial benefits for all parties,” Brown said. “These benefits include delivering improved services to our DCMA team members, improved mutual understanding, and an opportunity for participants to contribute their experience and ideas toward developing and implementing workforce policies.”

The charter update also brought the Anti-Harassment Program under the CARES Council umbrella. The recently published DCMA Manual 4201-26, Anti-Harassment Program, establishes agency-wide procedural requirements that set forth responsibilities to maintain a harassment-free workplace and to take prompt and effective action when allegations of harassment arise.

“The goal of the program is to ensure employees and supervisors are aware of the procedures for reporting and responding to harassment,” said Nicole Dandridge, the agency’s anti-harassment program manager. “DCMA is committed to fostering an organizational culture in which harassment is not tolerated, and in which respect and civility are promoted. This goes hand-in-hand with the CARES Council’s mission.”

Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, DCMA’s director, said it’s an important step for the agency to show it is sincerely and promptly addressing the things that can become corrosive to the workforce and its culture.

“The CARES Council is perhaps the most visible demonstration of that concern and gives our employees a single place they can come to and get access to the support services they may need,” he said.

In addition to union and anti-harassment program members, the council comprises participants from other lead caring organizations and programs such as Equal Employment Opportunity, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, and the Employee Assistance Program. Bassett reinforced the importance of these organizations working cross-functionally to support DCMA team members.

“When we first started looking at the idea of a CARES Council, all of those functions obviously existed within our agency to greater or lesser extents,” he explained. “We found there is a lot of benefit to having people from each of those functional areas talk to one another, learn from each other and discover trends, patterns and connections that exist across those areas.”

Bassett said suicide prevention in particular is an example of how these cross-functional teams brought great value to DCMA.

“The agency had not yet taken meaningful steps toward addressing this area of concern,” he said. “In response, the CARES Council formed several cross-functional teams for this initiative, which resulted in the deployment of a comprehensive Get Help webpage and an always-present Get Help desktop app that provides quick access to mental health resources.”

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Adam Rising, DCMA’s senior enlisted advisor and council member, said the Get Help webpage and desktop app are only a first step in making caring for ourselves and our teammates more accessible across our diverse and dispersed agency.

“We can do more to support our workforce, and part of that effort includes hearing and understanding our workforce’s needs as trusted professionals,” said Rising. “That’s why we’ve updated the charter to add union and anti-harassment program representatives to the cross-functional team. Their voices and insight will help guide the council’s path forward.”

The CARES Council was officially stood up Sep. 14, 2021, with a mission “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.”