Rear Adm. Katherine L. Gregory, P.E., CEC, USN
The new Commander of NAVFAC and Chief of Civil Engineers outlines her goals for supporting the warfighter and working with industry to deliver necessary infrastructure.
PHOTOS COURTESY NAVFAC
TME: Please provide insight on what you would like to accomplish during your tenure as Chief of Civil Engineers and Commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC).
GREGORY: First of all, it is a privilege and an honor to serve our Navy and our nation as the Commander of NAVFAC and Chief of Civil Engineers. I am humbled to follow a long line of visionary Navy leaders who have shaped NAVFAC; and I appreciate the opportunity to lead a talented, experienced and diverse team of Civil Engineer Corps officers, Seabees and NAVFAC civilians during this dynamic period. It’s an exciting time to serve our nation, and I’m proud to be part of the Navy and NAVFAC team.
My top priority as the NAVFAC Commander is to enable the Department of the Navy’s success by ensuring that the shore infrastructure meets today’s and tomorrow’s mission demands and that we have an able, proficient and ready Civil Engineer Corps and NAVFAC workforce.
I plan to continue to build upon the firm groundwork that my predecessors have laid, including strengthening the readiness, capability and sustainability of our infrastructure; finding opportunities to reduce costs; and continuing to develop the engineering and construction workforce.
TME: How do you see the functioning of the Seabee organizations as the First Naval Construction Division transitions into the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command?
GREGORY: It has been six years since Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) was established to provide a single Type Commander for all expeditionary forces, including the Naval Construction Force.
During the past two years, changes have been made to strengthen command and control between Navy organizations. I’m excited about the new relationships within NECC. I think the alignment between the Seabees and the other expeditionary commands in NECC will be stronger, and synergy at all levels will be greater.
TME: Do you expect the reduction in the number of Seabee Battalions to impact the accomplishment of the Seabee mission?
GREGORY: With the end of the Iraq War, the drawdown in Afghanistan, and evolution in the Navy’s strategic focus, the Navy has made force structure changes. This includes reducing the number of active and reserve Seabee battalions and regiments.
Despite these changes, the Seabee presence throughout the world remains strong. Seabee capabilities have been leveraged as key enablers to support major combat operations and Theater Security Cooperation Program goals of preventing conflict, promoting regional stability and protecting coalition interests. From the renovation of schools in South America to drilling water wells in Africa to combined military engineer training in the South Pacific, Seabees continue to improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of people while strengthening relations with partner nations. Seabees will continue to participate in various joint and combined exercises worldwide, gaining valuable training and long-lasting bi-lateral experiences with the local populace and military forces of their host nations.
While accomplishing their mission during this drawdown, Seabees will continue to maintain all of their core capabilities in order to ensure support to the Navy and Marine Corps team during both wartime and peacetime. Simultaneously, we will continue to take care of our Seabees. Upholding the covenant with our Seabees and their families by providing the support needed to navigate through the personal impacts resulting from sustained combat operations and force reductions is a top priority.
TME: NAVFAC has just completed record years in military construction (including Base Realignment and Closure work). How will reduced Department of Defense construction budgets impact the NAVFAC organization?
GREGORY: We have focused our strategies over the years to be an agile and flexible organization so that we can respond to the changing operational requirements of our Supported Commanders. This is true even in times of fiscal uncertainty such as we are experiencing today. Our Supported Commanders depend on us to get the work done, and we will do that.
Though the possibility of future budget reductions exists, NAVFAC is structured and prepared to evolve our capabilities to meet the needs of our Supported Commanders. Bottom line: We have plenty of exciting work for the NAVFAC team and our industry partners.
Furthermore, because we leverage our industry partners to execute the majority of our design work—and virtually all of our construction work—we will continue to be able to be agile as budgets decrease, or increase for that matter.
NAVFAC, working with our industry partners, will find new and innovative ways to deliver more facilities for each budget dollar. And we will do this in a manner that minimizes total ownership cost, fully supports the Navy and Marine Corps critical missions, and takes care of our warfighters and their families.
TME: What changes do you see in NAVFAC acquisition in the near future?
GREGORY: Our nation’s current economic challenges requires NAVFAC to improve our business practices to ensure we deliver quality, timely and cost-effective products and services to enable the warfighter and our Supported Commanders.
We will be placing greater attention and focus on accountability, on affordability and on total cost of ownership. We will evaluate our acquisition methodology to ensure that, working with industry, we provide the most cost-effective facilities and services needed to achieve the mission. Additionally, industry will see increased competitive actions to ensure more opportunities for small businesses are engrained in our acquisition strategies.
TME: SAME changed its governance in 2011 and established the Uniformed Services Advisory Group (USAG), with the goal of maintaining an effective partnership between SAME and the Engineering Chiefs of the uniformed services. What are your views on the USAG and the role of SAME in supporting the military engineer community?
GREGORY: SAME has made valuable contributions to the military engineer community for decades. The organization’s efforts providing mentor-protégé relationship opportunities, publicizing trends within the military engineering industry, and building awareness of military engineering careers are the most critical elements of the SAME-DOD team.
USAG is a fantastic way to continue fostering the SAME-DOD relationship. By working together in a non-voting capacity, the Engineering Chiefs have a greater capability to interact with industry leaders, advise SAME’s leadership and ultimately team with industry on programs far beyond engineering and construction services alone. USAG also provides an excellent working group for discussion on science, technology, engineering and math outreach programs as well as for promoting the countless scholarship programs that SAME supports.
As we move forward through the many contemporaneous challenges facing the military and our nation, USAG’s goal is to team with SAME to adapt to the changing times and continue to provide beneficial support to the engineering community.
[article first published in the March-April 2013 issue of TME]