By Rachel V. Goodspeed
WIESBADEN, Germany — Engineers from across the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District gathered together to discuss priorities, process improvements and future workload at the district's annual Area Engineer/Resident Engineer Workshop here Feb. 14-16, 2012.
"We use this time to gather all the AEs and REs together in one room to discuss priorities and issues brought up during the [German-American] partnering and customer workshops," said Michael Bosley, chief of the district's Contract Administration Branch. "This is an opportunity to review how we do business and find ways we can improve."
Engineering and Construction Division leadership brings together engineers from as far away as Israel and Turkey to review business processes and verify standard operating procedures in contract administration, funds utilization and other construction operations. This year, future workload and staffing weighed heavily on participants' minds.
"One of the things we're trying to do is make sure the workforce and workload is balanced," said Col. Christopher Larsen, North Atlantic Division commander, speaking to Europe District engineers present. "The most important thing is taking care of our people."
Recently, the Defense Department announced plans to adjust land forces in Europe in concert with overall military transformation, according to a U.S. Army Europe press release. While staff reductions are included, officials are utilizing normal attrition with upcoming retirements and employees returning to the U.S.
Although unsure of how future fiscal year budgets will play out, Larsen said USACE leadership is looking for growth outside of military construction, such as interagency and international construction.
"With the potential drop in military construction funding in the upcoming fiscal years and an increased reliance on international programs such as foreign military sales, it becomes even more imperative to focus on efficient project delivery and customer satisfaction," said Terry Bautista, chief of the district's Engineering and Construction Division. "These customers don't have to come to us for construction and engineering services so it's up to us to ensure they have a reason to come back."
Other topics included lessons learned from area offices and field office operations.
Three days is not nearly enough time to come up with the all the solutions to the issues brought up through the customer and partnering workshops, but it does provide a starting point, Bosley said.
"These are open, frank conversations to allow for ideas to flow back and forth between participants. The solutions are a work in progress," he said. "Sometimes we see results in six months; other times it takes three years. Our ultimate goal, though, is improving the Europe District."
During the district's annual Customer Partnering Workshop, USACE engineers, project managers and program managers hold open forum discussions with customers based upon customer feedback surveys.
The district's annual German-American Partnering Workshop assembles senior district leaders and representatives from German state and federal ministries, as well as local construction agencies, to discuss new initiatives and ongoing projects.
All three conferences also allow for district members to improve partnership opportunities and relationships, as well as construction and project delivery procedures, said John Curtis, deputy chief of the Engineering and Construction Division.
"The customer workshops are designed to educate our customers on the rules, regulations and processes we have to follow in order to execute a construction project in Germany, as well as elsewhere in Europe and Africa," Curtis said. "It also gives us the opportunity to gather our customers' concerns and take that to the partnering conference where we can discover and develop process efficiencies within the German system. And finally, we bring this all together in our AE/RE conference to adjust how we do business to better serve our customers within the regulations and systems we have to follow."