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By Patrick Tremblay
DCMA Public Affairs
“Change is coming to the agency whether we have a vision or not,” Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett told Defense Contract Management Agency leaders at a two-day Vision 2026 Summit in September. About 100 people gathered in person here and virtually to mark six months since the agency’s ambitious restructuring kicked off.
Announced in March, Vision 2026 is an aggressive three-year plan to evolve DCMA’s organizational structure to match the agency’s unique skills with the specialized needs of its customers across product aligned and geographic offices.
Bassett opened the summit likening the agency’s current structure to an inheritance, where the team has been given something that works, but isn’t ideal for its intended purpose. Created in 2000, DCMA has evolved differently than its customers, primarily military program offices and buying commands. The growing disconnect from the warfighters it serves, increasingly specialized contract administration work and budget realities all reached a tipping point about three years ago. At the same time, the pandemic strengthened and normalized the remote and hybrid capabilities that would enable significant change. This led to the start of a two-year study of the agency’s structure, with comprehensive recommendations resulting in Vision 2026.
“I believe if we started fresh today, creating DCMA to go operational in 2026, we would never arrive at the structure we have,” said Bassett. “We’ve made it work with increasing difficulty, but we inherited it after a generation of changes, shifting requirements, good intentions and inertia. It’s time to build the DCMA of 2026, structured by choice, not by inheritance, and it’s up to the leaders in this room to make it happen.”
At the core of the vision is reconfiguring the agency through office consolidations and realigned reporting structures creating two major continental U.S. commands. One of these will be aligned toward products or systems, the other will cover geographic areas, and each would have five to seven subordinate offices. The outcomes would be a structure that aligns closer to the rest of the Defense Department, matches DCMA’s specialized team to the right work, and right-sizes the agency’s management and physical footprint for efficiency.
Three significant office consolidations quickly followed the March kick-off. Two large geographic offices now perform the work once done by nine smaller offices; and in August the first new systems-aligned office, DCMA Space Enterprise, began to consolidate all agency work related to space. The new office provides a clear interface for Space Force and other federal agencies with related contracts, fostering the type of relationship DCMA hopes to replicate with future systems offices.
Using the lessons learned from these consolidations, teams are now in planning phases for a dozen more proposed consolidations, with four anticipated to be completed this fiscal year. Comprehensive updates on each of these formed the bulk of the Vision 2026 Summit.
Walt Eady, executive director of DCMA Portfolio Management and Business Integration, is the Senior Executive Service member leading restructuring implementation. He’s quick to say that the initial vision has already seen significant changes as it moves toward reality, and is continually being refined and polished.
“We’ve actually increased the pace of execution over the past few months,” said Eady. “The first three consolidations showed us clearly the bigger challenges. Some things are easy, or can be overcome quickly. Likewise, there are established timelines and procedures for general orders and working with our collective bargaining unit. As we move along, we’re building templates and processes that make each one go more smoothly.”
Eady said maintaining support for the agency’s workforce is paramount. “It’s taken us decades to build this team, so we have to do everything we can to minimize disruptions to their work, and to reassure them that everyone will have a place in the new structure. Forming an agency that supports our people into the future is a core purpose of Vision 2026.”
Agency leaders project budget constraints will require the DCMA civilian workforce to settle at about 9,000 people by the end of the decade, a decrease from about 10,000 today that will be managed through normal attrition. The Vision 2026 reorganization will let the agency maintain mission effectiveness without adding work to a smaller team of functional specialists.
“I’ve been pleased with how on-board most employees have been with the changes,” said Eady. “It shouldn’t be surprising, they see first-hand where our potential lies, and since March we’ve really opened up communication on where we’re going. Lt. Gen. Bassett has done a great job of explaining the ‘why’ for the vision.”
Bassett said discussions at the summit will be the foundation for an update to the Vision 2026 white paper he published in March to start the process. The update will show the DCMA team how the initiative has evolved, and how those planning the DCMA of tomorrow are using lessons learned today.
“We can’t lose track of enduring things, and chief among these is how we value our employees,” said Bassett. “We’re going to treat them with dignity and respect throughout the process. To keep faith with them, we have to be open, transparent and honest throughout.”
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