Rolling into 2012, the U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC) was struggling with an organizational difficulty. Authority between civilian contractors and the military command had gotten out of synch. There was redundancy, and sense of mission had gotten blurred.
A January command reorganization aimed to put the house in order and five months down the road, leadership is seeing results.
The reorganization has tightened up the lines of command, setting out clear distinctions as to where civilian activities leave off and military oversight begins, said John Thackrah, executive director of MSC.
MSC has the responsibility of resupplying, refueling and prepositioning all Navy ships at sea. It’s a significant undertaking: In 2011, MSC delivered 8.8 million square feet of dry cargo and 2.1 billion gallons of fuel.
Cargo management is a government function, coming out of MSC’s Washington headquarters, while civilian contractors working out of Sealift Fleet Support Command in Norfolk, Va., handle fuel and prepositioning.
As the same time, many overlapping functions such as legal, finance and engineering had been running scattershot out of both commands. Leadership decided to reorganize and streamline the system by creating two separate leadership channels. The new structure has two Senior Executive Service (SES) leader, each with his own realm of responsibility: One handles the military side, the other oversees contractors. Under the bifurcated structure, leadership and mission focus can be more clearly defined.
This new structure makes sense, Thackrah said, since the military and civilian organizations need to operate in very different ways.
“With a contractor you have a skill set of people who are in the business of doing market surveys, contract negotiations, contractor oversight. This allows us to go to the marketplace,” he said. On the government side, managers focus on such elements as workforce screening and training, security clearance and secure communications — functions that are inherently governmental.
By putting each under its own SES, it’s possible to bring greater clarity to the roles while eliminating redundancies.
So far the new command structure appears to be getting the job done. “It’s a much more simplified way to support the afloat infrastructure, which is ultimately why we are here,” Thackrah said.