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Work boom expected, ESC leaders say in 'State' address

Jan. 29, 2007 -- Vice commander, executive director offer assessment, future outlook

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (Jan. 29, 2007) - Speaking before a mixed industry and government audience during the annual State of ESC address, ESC Executive Director Fran Duntz said the Electronic Systems Center can expect continued funding increases tied to heavier work requirements.

"We're expecting our funding to increase every year," she said. "The business is just going to keep on growing; there are going to be more opportunities for every one in this room."

Mrs. Duntz and ESC Vice Commander Maj. Gen. Arthur Rooney shared the floor to provide this year's address, filling in for ESC Commander Lt. Gen. Chuck Johnson, who was called away on other pressing business. The presentation was sponsored, as it is each year, by the Lexington-Concord Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. It came at the conclusion of the chapter's New Horizons Symposium, which was held at the Bedford Glen Hotel in Bedford, Mass.

General Rooney stressed that the center, and its partners in industry and academia, are constantly working in support of the Global War on Terror. He offered examples that included efforts to reduce the improvised explosive device, or IED, threat in Iraq.

"With the Army and our intel folks, we're taking a tool modified by MITRE and working real time to defeat these IEDs," he said.

Other examples included the Interim Capability for Airborne Networking added to the Joint STARS fleet and a NORAD Immediate War fighter Need that provides a single picture between fighter and air defense sectors.

"There's a lot going on here every day directly engaging this war on terror, a lot of really good things being done," he said.

Both the general and Mrs. Duntz spoke about all the people from the center, including many civilians, who are directly supporting the war efforts through deployments.

General Rooney read a letter from an ESC deployer, a staff sergeant from the Cryptologic Systems Group, Lackland AFB, Texas, stationed overseas with an Army unit. She wrote explicitly about traveling with that unit on convoys, "two of which were blown up." She went on to describe a suicide bombing attack that blew up a Humvee her unit was traveling in and seriously injured two of "her soldiers."

"It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen, and I mean that in a negative way," she wrote.

This kind of support - and sacrifice - provided by Airmen, including members of ESC, often goes unheralded, the general said. But he stressed that the Air Force has been and continues to be a major player in virtually all aspects of the war effort.

Both leaders trumpeted the many successes the center had over the past year and looked ahead to upcoming challenges and priorities. They discussed five priority areas specified by General Johnson: acquisition excellence, customer value, 'One Command,' operational excellence, and a competency-based workforce.

Regarding acquisition excellence, the two senior leaders stressed the need for process reengineering and using Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, or AFSO21, to enable ESC to set the Air Force acquisition benchmark.

ESC is working in strong support of the Air Force Acquisition Executive's "Going Green" program, and has made great strides in moving many of its own largest programs in that direction, they said. ESC's Acquisition Category One and Two programs both saw significant improvement in 2006, in terms of moving into the green, on-track category. Its smaller Category Three programs, however, showed somewhat reduced success in 2006.

"That's the area where we sometimes have our less-experienced program managers, where some mentoring could, in some cases, really help," Mrs. Duntz said. "And that's the area where we're really going to target in terms of process re-engineering."

Mrs. Duntz also spoke, as General Johnson often does, about the need for speed in acquisition. Addressing the so-called little-R, big-S chart, on which elephant jockeys are contrasted with race car drivers, she talked about the need to package requirements and capabilities into smaller, more manageable chunks, enabling much faster delivery.

Customer value, the two leaders said, means consistently delivering on cost, schedule and performance promises. One way to do so, General Rooney said, is to fully understand the costs of doing business. He pointed to a comprehensive study being undertaken by ESC Comptroller Col. Ricky Valentine aimed at doing exactly that.

The 'One Command' priority is taken directly from Gen. Bruce Carlson's vision for the Air Force Materiel Command, which he leads.

"One Command is NOT another re-organization," General Rooney said. "It's a mindset." It's about standardizing business processes and tools across the command, he added.

The priority of operational excellence means becoming a leader in non-acquisition business processes, the general said. He spoke about the need to succeed during Hanscom's upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection. He also stressed the value of focusing on the Four Pillars of Wellness and the Voluntary Protection Program.

The priority related to a competency-based workforce is about making up-front investments in the center's employee base, using focused recruiting, training and education opportunities.

Because of the cuts associated with the Air Force's compelling need to recapitalize its aging fleet, ESC's organic workforce is being reduced, primarily through active-duty military cuts. However, the center is very much on the look-out for talented individuals.

"We're hiring," the general said plainly. Mrs. Duntz, too, spoke of the need to recruit, as well as to train and retain ESC's current workers.

This is critical, she said once again, because of the anticipated workload growth. "Our programmatic effort is going to keep getting bigger and bigger," she said. "That means more work for all of us - and for all of you (in industry)."

CONTACT: Chuck Paone: (781) 377-5078; charles.paone@hanscom.af.mil