Civilian executives play key role in Navy's mission, Work says

Tuesday - 11/22/2011, 1:31pm EST

Bob Work, undersecretary of the Navy

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By Michael O'Connell
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

The budget crunch makes it even more important that agencies use everything they have efficiently. The Navy says it's putting a lot of that responsibility in its employees.

"The Department of the Navy is a global corporation," Under Secretary of the Navy Bob Work said. "We have 825,000 people divided between the Navy, the Marine Corps, on both active and reserve status, as well as about 203,000 government civilians. It's an enormous organization. Our budget is about $160 billion a year."

Under Secretary of the Navy Bob Work, left, spoke to Tom Temin of the Federal Drive at the recent Excellence in Government conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Robin Newton)

Work spoke to Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris at the recent Excellence in Government conference in Washington, D.C. He spoke about the important role civilians play in helping his department achieve its mission.

The Navy's operation mission is to do whatever the President asks them to do anywhere in the globe. As the chief management officer of the department, Work's job is to focus on the business side and get the "most bang for the buck" out of every taxpayer dollar.

"That has everything to do with our business processes, how we buy things, how we prepare things and then, of course, taking care of our people, both those on active duty as well as our civilians," he said.

Often, the military branches talk about "support of the warfighter," a concept that's difficult to imagine relating to departments like procurement and personnel within a standard "global corporation."

"Every civilian in the Department of the Navy is dedicated to this mission and making sure that our warfighters get everything they need," Work said.

The Navy Department maintains this focus by setting broad, strategic objectives, which are promulgated at every level.

"The civilians, we consider them a part of our team," Work said. "We value their work and they are tremendous patriots and professionals."

In the 1990s, the Navy outsourced much of its capabilities, resulting in a loss of civilian experience in areas like engineering and systems integration. Since then, the Navy has been trying to regain that experience.

"We have brought back about 5,000 acquisition professionals," Work said. "We're spending more money on STEM science and technology and math, so that we have a pool from which to draw from. We have internship programs. We work with colleges to try to grow talent. Acquisition excellence is one of the biggest things we can do to get the most bang out of the buck."

Work described the approximately 320 civilian senior executives who grew into their positions in the Navy, becoming experts in their field. The Navy typically pairs the civilian senior executives with flag officers or senior military personnel. This allows them to share their long-term experience with the military managers.

"The civilians provide us with enormous continuity, and we ignore them at our peril," Work said.

Click here for full coverage of the Excellence in Government Conference.