By Michael Ard, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Public Affairs
PORT HUENEME, Calif. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command Commander and Chief of Civil Engineers Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg visited NAVFAC Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center April 5.
During his visit, he briefed his NAVFAC mission and vision contained in the recently published Strategic Design 2016-2019 to the EXWC Executive Steering Group. Muilenburg stressed that NAVFAC would still maintain its course and speed while serving its customers.
"Our Strategic Design is not a change in direction; rather, it is a sharpening of our strategic focus," said Muilenburg. "It's a way to strengthen our NAVFAC team."
After receiving updates on various EXWC programs, Muilenburg toured several EXWC facilities, seeing firsthand some of the newest technology EXWC is developing, testing and fielding for the Navy and the warfighter at its Naval Base Ventura County location. Site visits included the Seawater Desalinization Test Facility, Motor Vessel Independence, Reversible Solid Oxide Fuel Cell project, and an update on the Seismo-Hydroacoustic Data Acquisition System.
At the conclusion of his visit, he sat down with EXWC Public Affairs Officer Michael Ard for a Q-and-A session about the new Strategic Design and EXWC.
Ard: Let's begin with the newly released NAVFAC Strategic Design. Is this the first time you've presented it to a NAVFAC Command?
Muilenburg: I've visited probably three or four other commands and talked about the strategic design in its draft form. This is the first command I've visited since we finalized the product and published it. It has now been posted to our Intranet Portal, so this is the first visit since we've reached that milestone.
Ard: Are there some specifics for EXWC in the Strategic Design that come to mind after seeing some of the technologies and innovations being explored?
Muilenburg: Yes, it was my goal in developing this Strategic Design that every command in NAVFAC could see themselves, because we all do many things in support of our Navy and Marine Corps. And so this is our guiding document that will light the path on the things that are important for all of us.
There are six focus areas that are very important, three of which deal internally with how we run NAVFAC and the things we need to really concentrate on. The first is working on our financial transparency and auditability procedures so we're able to explain and gain the trust and confidence of all other Department of Navy stakeholders.
A second thing in the internal look is a focus on our people. That is, our ability to project the workload to determine how many billets we need, and then hire very qualified people for those positions. We also need to continue to train and develop our people over the course of their careers. That's very important for us to carry out our mission, the best we can.
And the third area of the internal look would be better capability with our analytics. I see a need for us to understand the business of running our own business a little better, and we just have to raise our expectations for how we do that.
Our external focus areas come under NAVFAC's mission of enhancing naval shore readiness. The first area is providing cost effective products and services through collaborative partnerships or relationships with our supported commands.
The second area is called infrastructure readiness. In other words, really understanding what we've got in the Navy in terms of facilities, the shape they're in, how critical are they to the mission, and are they protected from the cyber security perspective?
The third focus area externally is energy security and resiliency, and that's a continuation of the effort we've been on to incorporate renewable energy projects on our bases with energy intensity reduction, thereby eventually getting to the point where we have networks of smart and protected grids that can manage that power.
If you look at all six focus areas, you'll find EXWC as having a major role.
Ard: You've been in your position as the NAVFAC Commander and Chief of Civil Engineers close to six months, what has surprised you, and what has impressed you so far?
Muilenburg: It's been a fast six months, I'll tell you. I think what has surprised me is the number of operational commanders and stakeholders that we support from within NAVFAC. It really indicates to me the number of people who are interested in what we're doing for them. It really tells a story of our broad reach and the important tie we have to so many Navy missions. By the nature of our business, we are an enabler to so many other commands and missions. Perhaps in my previous jobs, I just didn't have the visibility to see them all. Now I'm in a place where I can see across all of our commands and see who we are interacting with, and that's truly quite impressive.
Ard: What is your perspective of EXWC's technology and warfare capability; would you agree that EXWC is a unique command?
Muilenburg: I entirely agree that EXWC brings unique capabilities to NAVFAC and the Navy. NAVFAC has 14 commands. Set headquarters aside, you have 11 of them that do kind of the same thing, the day-to-day normal work at Navy and Marine Corps bases, our typical products and services. Then we have two specialty centers, the Navy Crane Center and the Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center, so you're one of our two special commands. I think what EXWC brings, and it's hidden to so many people, is very professional knowledge on the procurement and management of our expeditionary logistics systems, and a lot of people don't know the degree to which EXWC does that. EXWC also brings a high-end engineering competence to specialized facility issues, whether those are highly technical structures and facilities that are already fielded and in use, or exploration, testing and research into the next generation of facilities that will help us carry out our mission.
Ard: One of the questions I heard you ask the subject matter experts during your highlight tour of innovative EXWC projects was, "Is this technology available now off the shelf?" and "How far off is this project from being available?" Is this a future role you see for EXWC, providing new technology across NAVFAC?
Muilenburg: Yes, I do see providing new technology as a future role for EXWC. As EXWC comes up with these great ideas and gets them to the point where they can be tested and fielded, and maybe become part of the normal shore infrastructure at any base in the world, I'm very interested in how EXWC communicates that to the rest of NAVFAC, so that at the right time, we don't miss the opportunity to pass it to the field, and help us accomplish the mission.
Ard: Hiring qualified personnel in a timely manner is a subject that comes up often. Do you have any insight into the NAVFAC hiring process?
Muilenburg: I think hiring is one of our most frustrating issues. Not just at EXWC, but across NAVFAC. I think what has happened is we have a civilian personnel hiring system that's built for normal circumstances and times, not a period when we suffered from sequestration, and hiring freezes, and other kinds of constraints, which caused us to have a deep hole of vacancies that we're still trying to climb out of across NAVFAC. It's frustrating to all of us, I know, but it is one of the six focus areas for us to keep a steady push on and try for new ideas and authorities that will allow us to compete with the private sector for personnel talent, and most important, be able to process their applications quickly and get them on board in a reasonable period of time.
It's a lot of hard work and we've been working at this for several years, but we just have to keep after it.
Ard: Thank you for your time, Chief.