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Prioritize, Synchronize, Mobilize

August 2006
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

 
Brig. Gen. Carroll F. Pollett, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Army Signal Command (NETCOM), speaks with Col. Michael S. Yarmie, commander, 11th Signal Brigade, in the field. The general believes that incorporating staff input about short- and long-term objectives is crucial to the success of the NETCOM Campaign Plan.
Army Command sets the azimuth for the future of its capabilities-based operations.

Military leaders are adept at winning wars with tanks, troops and aircraft. Now the U.S. Army is putting the final touches on a campaign plan that sets the direction for the newest battlefield weapons: bits, bytes and the systems that deliver them.    Earlier this year, the service’s single authority for information management unveiled a detailed picture of short- and long-term operational capabilities implementation. The plan aims at supporting the force, helping fight the war on terrorism and sustaining transformation. It is on target to be finalized by the end of this month.

The Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM)/9th Army Signal Command, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, designed its Campaign Plan to be more than a “to-do” list with deadlines. Instead, NETCOM views it as a holistic approach to planning that was developed with the future in mind. It encompasses a range of mission-essential tasks that touch all of the command’s responsibilities, including tactical formations and operational base capabilities. The plan also addresses leveraging new industry technologies and establishing enterprise solutions that not only can be applied to the strategic operational level but also can be embedded in the tactical formations.

According to Brig. Gen. Carroll F. Pollett, USA, commanding general, NETCOM, work on the command’s Campaign Plan began with a review of the U.S. Army’s Campaign Plan to ensure a clear understanding of the service’s vision of the future land force, including its role in the joint community. He and his staff then examined NETCOM’s role in upholding and complementing the Army’s plan so that the command will be synchronized to focus on the same objectives over the long term, he says.

Although the plan is designed with the future in mind, the meat of it consists of current requirements, dozens of near-term goals and the action plans necessary to obtain those goals. “This plan is very, very detailed. I think it’s very important that we go out to where we want to be 10 years from now and we backward-plan so that we create our short-term objectives. Then under those, we create our action plans—all of that aligned with the resources that our Army is able to allocate to us as we set our priorities and synchronize the efforts,” Gen. Pollett states. Short-term objectives are those that can be achieved in the next three to four years; long-term objectives focus on what can be attained in eight to 10 years.

The general explains that NETCOM’s holistic approach differs from other documents such as 500-day plans that primarily meet identified requirements. It is not just about accomplishing specific tasks but rather about collaborating and integrating to meet objectives. This involves more than technologies. Doctrine, training and resources as they relate to the work also must be addressed, he points out.

As a big-picture outline, the general and his team created a mission essential task list (METL) that enumerates NETCOM’s overall goals. These include items such as the ability to rapidly project trained and ready expeditionary forces to conduct joint and combined operations; to operate, engineer, integrate and sustain the LandWarNet enterprise communications capabilities at all echelons; to conduct network operations within the joint community framework; and to deliver interoperable global enterprise services and standards. Additional goals include integrating emerging technologies and transforming to a modular and capabilities-based force; executing and leveraging enterprise processes through best business practices; and enhancing the well-being of the force.

“We created this mission essential task list that was very far-reaching in terms of addressing every function and capability within our command that we have to be able to accomplish. The METLs provide every echelon of NETCOM/9th Army Signal Command the ability to see their part of that strategy so they can hook onto something that allows them to be able to underpin what we were trying to do,” Gen. Pollett states.

The general notes that one element that differentiates the new campaign plan from business as usual involves industry. The command has been working very closely with companies in terms of commercial solutions at the tactical and operational levels. However, the plan coordinates the work so that NETCOM can look at its contracting mechanisms and processes to ensure that they are synchronized. In addition, an enterprisewide approach will facilitate the integration of capabilities into tactical formations or one of its operational- or strategic-level formations.

“As our Army transforms, it’s something that is becoming a critical core competency for our leaders because you have to ensure—with the resources that you’re allocated—that you are maximizing the efficiencies that you gain out of the capabilities you’re acquiring. You can’t just say more is better because there’s not enough money to do everything you want to do. So the question is how to optimize those business processes so that you can leverage the very, very best capabilities out of the dollar,” Gen. Pollett states.

But the campaign plan goes beyond addressing technology management; it also enables accountability in the area of program management and allows Gen. Pollett to stay abreast of projects in progress. On a regular basis, he can choose a particular area that he has been tracking and question staff about issues such as where they stand on short- and long-term objectives, if they need his help and whom they are partnering with in the Army or another service. This supports integration of effort and keeps him up to date not only on progress but also about which items require his attention to shape and influence results, he says.

Gen. Pollett points out that review sessions both help to ensure that programs are on track and breed agility. When commanders and warfighters identify a new requirement, or when a new technology becomes available, plans can be modified to meet needs and exploit new capabilities.

The campaign plan includes a set of matrices so the general, his staff and all NETCOM personnel can do more than just get a feel for where work stands. This feature is particularly important in an environment that demands that the technologies the service acquires fully meet its requirements. “It all comes back to resourcing. When you look at our matrices, every action is tied to time and resources that have been established within the Army POM [program objective memorandum]. It can’t be just another good idea. If it is a good idea, then how does it replace or get integrated into the resourcing processes and the contracting processes so that it complements the objectives that we’re trying to reach?” the general says.

 
During a war game at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, a first sergeant from the 25th Infantry Division calls in his unit’s status. Addressing training issues is an important component of NETCOM’s Campaign Plan.
Recently, the command launched an information dissemination management effort to merge its three Web sites into a single collaboration site that will be accessible to most audiences and that will provide targeted content based on user roles. Ultimately, the goal is to transition the campaign plan performance matrices and status reporting into a fully collaborative review and analysis capability. The executive dashboard will provide commanders and leaders with a corporate-level assessment of progress against goals and will identify the decisions that need to be made. Action officers will be able to update matrices automatically, modify the status of tasks and identify the impact to supporting campaign plan initiatives using this tool.

“This capability will allow us to create collaboration for this intellectual capital among the staff and the commanders so it doesn’t become buried in hard drives and personal files. It becomes a knowledge base for us all to be able to draw from so that we are tracking what we’re doing to reach the objectives,” the general notes.

And this type of collaboration—facilitated by technology—is very important to Gen. Pollett. He emphasizes that the intelligence within his staff must be shared to reach a common understanding of funding strategies as well as to assess how workload can increase and creep into major efforts. “You may be spending a lot of your people’s energy doing something that’s not a priority. One of the objectives in this campaign plan is setting the priorities. We have to ask, ‘Is this really the priority? Is this what we need to expend our energy on?’ As leaders, we have to be very careful that in the process of synchronizing we prioritize what we want to leverage our work force against—whether they are civilians or military—so that we optimize and gain the greatest capabilities out of what they can produce,” he says.

Personnel are the general’s top priority, and it is evident in the campaign plan design. His intent was to create a plan that would belong to the NETCOM staff and a mechanism for them to execute the command’s mission. To this end, the NETCOM leadership staff began sharing the details of the plan with every level of the command immediately after it was unveiled. The goal was to generate the plan not just from the top down but from the bottom up so that all staff members feel vested in its success. “We got it out to all of our subordinate commands worldwide to give them a chance to staff it so they could determine whether or not their equities will properly reflect it at the higher headquarters as we move forward with the war effort as well as with transformation,” Gen. Pollett maintains.

The general stresses that the commercial sector also is integral to the campaign plan’s success; however, it is up to NETCOM to do a better job of defining its requirements. “We have to quantify what it is that we expect from them and then we have to set good standards of measurement of the results of the capabilities that industry provides,” he says.

To better convey its expectations to contractors, the command routinely meets with its industry partners. In what are called “100-day checks,” NETCOM staff members make sure they have clearly explained their requirements and clarified or prevented misunderstandings. They also review firms’ work based on the stated requirements to ensure they match.

“This is a tough business and we’ve got a lot of smart people, and we’ve got to bring these folks together so that we can truly identify the challenges and shape the solutions to address those challenges. The truth changes. That’s why it’s so important that we keep the intellectual capital engaged. If we do, we may not get it perfect, but I think we’ll get it close to right, and that will allow us to make the adjustments that are required to improve on what we’re after.

“The Army has the right focus. The chief’s focus on jointness is helping our army. If you look at what we’re doing in the current fight, we’re integrated with joint forces; we’re integrated with coalition and combined forces. We’re trying to figure out how to collaborate between those forces and allow our leaders to be able to make timely decisions that help us continue to win this war and protect our people,” Gen. Pollett states.

Web Resources
U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Army Signal Command: www.netcom.army.mil
U.S. Army Campaign Plan: www.army.mil/thewayahead/acp.html