Team Focus Brings Synergy to Warfighter Support

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., March 8, 2011 — Not every­one at Fort Mon­mouth, N.J., was hap­py in 2005 when the announce­ment came down that the post would close and that most of its mis­sion would move here as part of the Base Realign­ment and Clo­sure Com­mis­sion plan.
But fast-for­ward six years, and the new arrivals at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground say they’re already see­ing the wis­dom of the plan and its ben­e­fit to warfight­ers on the bat­tle­field.

BRAC is bring­ing major changes to this his­toric post, with the exo­dus of the Army Ord­nance Cen­ter and School and the influx of thou­sands of high-tech orga­ni­za­tions that are mak­ing it a tech­no­log­i­cal hub.

The largest group of new ten­ants hails from Fort Mon­mouth, for­mer home of Army Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Elec­tron­ics Com­mand and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions-Elec­tron­ic Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter. It’s made up large­ly of senior-lev­el sci­en­tists, engi­neers, researchers, acqui­si­tion pro­fes­sion­als and logis­ti­cians focused on devel­op­ing, test­ing and field­ing cut­ting-edge com­mu­ni­ca­tions and elec­tron­ics sys­tems and equip­ment for the fight­ing force.

Before BRAC, they had been shoe-horned into more than 90 build­ings scat­tered across Fort Mon­mouth. Often, they were miles away from their col­leagues and rel­e­gat­ed to sub­stan­dard work­spaces made avail­able to sup­port the expand­ing mis­sion.

“There was a lot of retro­fitting,” said Joe Coc­co, deputy prin­ci­pal engi­neer for the project. “You squeezed into a build­ing and made that build­ing fit the mis­sion, or maybe you spread the mis­sion over three or four dif­fer­ent build­ings. Each orga­ni­za­tion was in their own build­ing or own area of a build­ing.”

BRAC promised to change all that, bring­ing togeth­er these func­tions at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground and orga­niz­ing them in a way that threw tra­di­tion­al orga­ni­za­tion­al charts out the win­dow.

In addi­tion to the Fort Mon­mouth activ­i­ties, the state-of-the-art cam­pus built to sup­port their activ­i­ties also would bring togeth­er oth­er key part­ners in their mis­sion that pre­vi­ous­ly had been based at Red­stone Arse­nal, Ala., Fort Huachu­ca, Ariz., and Fort Belvoir, Va.

Col­lec­tive­ly, they would be called the “C4ISR Materiel Enter­prise” — for Com­mand, Con­trol, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Com­put­ers, Intel­li­gence, Sur­veil­lance and Recon­nais­sance. And as they began mov­ing into their new “C4ISR Cen­ter of Excel­lence” here, they were orga­nized more like a pri­vate-sec­tor cor­po­ra­tion than a mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion.

Team C4ISR is built around “busi­ness domains,” each focused on a dif­fer­ent project or pro­gram, Coc­co said. “With­in each of those domains are sev­er­al of the orga­ni­za­tions, all mixed in each of the build­ings and work­ing togeth­er as an enter­prise.”

“A domain is built around a sin­gle prod­uct devel­op­ment line,” such as a new radar sys­tem, explained Army Col. Andrew Nel­son, deputy gar­ri­son com­man­der for trans­for­ma­tion.

Com­po­nents of all those ele­ments that sup­port the mis­sion are in there, all now clus­tered around their com­mon lab­o­ra­to­ry.

“They work for three dif­fer­ent boss­es, but they are all work­ing on the same domain – the same prod­uct – with the same objec­tive to pro­duce the next ver­sion of that radar or radio sys­tem,” he added.

That’s a whole dif­fer­ent way of doing busi­ness than what the staff had at their pre­vi­ous posts. “In the old sce­nario, they were all sep­a­rat­ed,” said Army Col. Bill Mont­gomery, CECOM’s chief of staff. “The engi­neers were in one build­ing. The safe­ty peo­ple were in anoth­er. The project man­agers were in anoth­er build­ing. That worked OK. But imag­ine if you got those enti­ties togeth­er in a room. Think of the dif­fer­ence that could make.”

Nel­son agreed. “That’s the beau­ty of what’s hap­pen­ing here using the domain con­cept,” he said. “You get the syn­er­gy of var­i­ous team mem­bers, all work­ing togeth­er with a com­mon objec­tive. It’s a big improve­ment over how they did busi­ness before.”

It also speeds up the process that gets new sys­tems and equip­ment to the field, Mont­gomery said. “When you bring the dif­fer­ent peo­ple involved [in a pro­gram] around the table, with all of them con­tribut­ing their own expe­ri­ences and exper­tise, it helps us get things done quick­er, because you are not going through four or five dif­fer­ent offices in dif­fer­ent build­ings,” he said.

With more than half of the C4ISR team’s 7,200 employ­ees already set­tled into their new cam­pus here and the rest to fol­low before the con­gres­sion­al­ly man­dat­ed Sept. 15 dead­line, Mont­gomery said he’s already see­ing clear indi­ca­tions the new orga­ni­za­tion is work­ing.

Employ­ees are enjoy­ing the bright, open spaces of the new C4ISR cam­pus that rivals the most mod­ern cor­po­rate tech­nol­o­gy parks, he said. The envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly build­ings are built around court­yards and green space that even includes a grass-cov­ered audi­to­ri­um.

And no longer are C4ISR staffers rel­e­gat­ed to cramped work­spaces. When the sec­ond phase of the project is com­plet­ed in the next month or so, the full com­plex will include 2.5 mil­lion square feet of new space spread across 13 build­ings.

But sell­ing the new facil­i­ty — and the move to Aberdeen — was­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly an easy task. Short­ly after the BRAC deci­sion, Coc­co trav­eled to Aberdeen to walk the grounds that would become the new C4ISR cam­pus. He was part of a team that worked tire­less­ly with plan­ners at both Fort Mon­mouth and Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground to sort through the thou­sands of tiny details involved in build­ing a first-class new facil­i­ty, and mov­ing an entire oper­a­tion with­out dis­rupt­ing its imme­di­ate wartime sup­port role.

As con­struc­tion con­tin­ued on the new com­plex, Coc­co host­ed numer­ous bus trips so Fort Mon­mouth employ­ees could see Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground and its sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties. Most of all, Coc­co said, he want­ed them to see the build­ings being read­ied for them and entice them to make the move to Aberdeen.

Ulti­mate­ly, about half of the Fort Mon­mouth work force opt­ed to do so – far more than the 20 per­cent typ­i­cal of pre­vi­ous BRAC moves, Nel­son said.

While many of the C4ISR employ­ees have relo­cat­ed to Mary­land, some have retained their New Jer­sey res­i­dences and com­mute between the two states. Among them is Richard Wittstruck in the office for intel­li­gence, elec­tron­ic war­fare and sen­sors, who com­mutes four and a half hours, roundtrip, between his home and Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground.

Liv­ing through his sec­ond BRAC – the first took him from Mary­land to Fort Mon­mouth — Wittstruck said he’s worked hard to ensure his peo­ple under­stand that clos­ing Fort Mon­mouth was strict­ly a busi­ness deci­sion.

BRAC is a very per­son­al thing,” he said. “The first thing you have to do is con­vince the work force that it’s not a reflec­tion of their per­for­mance. It’s not as if they failed at their mis­sion and were closed.”

Wittstruck cred­it­ed the efforts plan­ners made to retain employ­ees, recruit new ones to replace those who opt­ed not to move to Aberdeen, and pro­vide the infra­struc­ture to sup­port them at their new post.

Already, he said he sees the pay­off in being able to coor­di­nate activ­i­ties across func­tions, with peo­ple able to step out­side their offices rather than run­ning across an instal­la­tion to col­lab­o­rate with their col­leagues.

“There is going to be an intan­gi­ble dif­fer­ence in the type of syn­er­gy and inter­ac­tion that you are going to see,” he said. “But to be prac­ti­cal, it is going to take time. It is going to take time to syn­the­size and syn­er­gize that.”

As that evo­lu­tion takes place, with C4ISR employ­ees shar­ing spaces at their new desks and lab­o­ra­to­ry facil­i­ties, or gath­er­ing at food courts expect­ed to open in the com­ing months, Mont­gomery said, they’ll help to trans­form the way the Army does busi­ness.

“This is huge,” he said. “We’re get­ting back to the way things used to be done, which is just talk to each oth­er” rather than rely­ing on tele­phones and e‑mail.

“This new facil­i­ty and orga­ni­za­tion real­ly gives us the capa­bil­i­ty to get togeth­er and talk around the table and dis­cuss the work we’re doing,” he said. “And ulti­mate­ly, that’s going to have a huge impact on how we sup­port the warfight­er.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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