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News | Aug. 14, 2023

All Commanders Conference explores ‘presence with a purpose’

By Patrick Tremblay DCMA Public Affairs

All of the Defense Contract Management Agency’s commanders and component directors met in person earlier this month, marking the first time in more than four years the group had physically assembled. While in-person gatherings of DCMA leadership used to be commonplace, they were largely pushed online, and often aside, due to travel restrictions. The two-day All Commanders Conference here was a welcome opportunity for change.

“Our being here today is an example of presence with a purpose,” said Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, DCMA director, noting that he assumed leadership of the agency just months after the government went to maximum telework due to COVID-19. “We’ve developed technology that lets us meet anytime, from anywhere. But there’s real value in being in the same room to build the relationships necessary for our work, and to have the candid and personal discussions that make our work meaningful.”  

While many mission-related topics were covered at the event, from data management to how the agency resources its work, all sessions were framed around optimizing a hybrid workplace, and growing a culture of informed, engaged team members.

“DCMA’s hybrid workplace isn’t going away,” said Cory Rosenberger, DCMA chief of staff. “It’s become integral to our work and to our workforce. It has great benefits for our people, but it also requires them to develop new skills and approaches to their work. We need to help shift that culture from the top.”

Event organizers made several deliberate choices to encourage open discussion; everyone wore civilian clothes, and seating was purposefully random to facilitate networking. Most of the agency’s operational offices are commanded by military service members, typically as a three-year assignment, so it was the first face-to-face contact for many, though they communicate almost daily.

Earlier this year, DCMA began a major restructuring to make the 10,000-person combat support agency more efficient and more closely aligned with its customers — primarily military services. This initiative, called Vision 2026, will affect almost every employee across the U.S., and its implementation has become an agency-wide focus. Not surprisingly, an update and discussion on implementing Vision 2026 was a significant part of the event.

“You’re the front line of these changes,” Walt Eady, initiative lead and DCMA’s executive director of Portfolio Management and Business Integration, told the commanders and directors, who themselves represented more than 75 offices around the world. Under Vision 2026, dozens of smaller contract management offices across the U.S. will be consolidated into larger offices, with two of these established earlier this year. Many other offices will combine along product lines. The first of these new offices, DCMA Space Enterprises, will be activated later this month. 

Regardless of topic, discussion always came back to the talent and skills of the workforce, and the importance of communication in keeping them informed and engaged in their work.  

“We’re here to talk about culture, and ultimately our people are who we need to reach,” said Sonya Ebright, DCMA deputy director. A former agency regional commander herself, Ebright stressed the power of local leadership, down to first-line supervisors, in transforming the agency. “It’s important that you all know that though there are really only a few commanders in the agency, success of our strategic changes lies with you. You as commanders are really the ones who hold our culture in your hands.”

Bassett closed the event with a reminder that purposeful, in-person work has many benefits, and is essential to the long-term health of the agency and its people. As his retirement date nears, Bassett also encouraged the agency leaders to make the most of their commands, and to cherish their time in service.

“Every minute counts,” said the agency director, drawing an analogy to the women’s World Cup soccer tournament, where days earlier Colombia beat Germany in extra time. “Many of you, like me, may be nearing the end of your time with the agency. I could use the additional minutes I have with DCMA to play defense and wait for the draw, or, like Colombia, continue to work toward the win. Always go for the win.”