USAMRMC Decision Gate 2011 Awards Highlight Teamwork
The awardees for the 2nd annual U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Decision Gate program were announced at a ceremony held here at Fort Detrick, Md. Oct. 19. Through much collaboration and teamwork, the Decision Gate process continues to be an important means of medical product development oversight for the military.
In 2004, the Decision Gate process was developed to help meet the stringent standards of the DoD's acquisition process requirements. Four years later, responsibility was transferred from the U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity to USAMRMC HQ, as the command recognized the process as being critical to the success of its acquisition program.
"The Decision Gate process helps the command implement acquisition requirements by providing forums for Research and Development groups to come together and effectively work towards getting a product quickly to the warfighter, which is the primary goal of the MRMC," said Rob Steigerwald, Decision Gate coordinator.
Winners of USAMRMC Decision Gate 2011 were chosen via nominations from sources which included the Research Area Directorates, Project Management Offices, and senior leaders.
The sole two-time award recipient among this year's nominees, Col. Julia Lynch, was honored once again for her work on the Planning and Lifecycle Review Committee. Lynch serves as the director of the USAMRMC's Military Infectious Diseases Research Program, which coordinates efforts to produce successful vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics among other products for both military and civilian use.
Lynch said, "The PLRC could not do what it does if the IPTs [integrated product teams] weren't doing their jobs effectively; so we have a commitment at the level of the investigators that allows us to be successful -- from the lab all the way up to headquarters -- in moving products forward and shaping our processes toward good decision-making."
Harry Coffey, chief of the Decision Gate Support Office, cited Lynch's dedication to Decision Gate as being vital in securing her second award.
"Col. Lynch's processes are very well developed," Coffey said. "She brings teams into her office to rehearse their presentations, rather than to communicate via email, so that when they present their work to Dr. [Kenneth] Bertram, they have it down pat."
Awards were presented by Dr. Kenneth Bertram, the Principal Assistant for Acquisition, and Dawn Rosarius, director of Plans, Programs, Analysis and Evaluation, to winners in the following seven categories:
- Maj. Jeannie Geyer, Rookie of the Year
- Louis Jasper and Capt. Steve Savarino (tied), Integrated Product Team Chair of the Year
- Col. Julia Lynch, Planning and Lifecycle Review Committee Chair of the Year
- Col. Russell Coleman, Advocate of the Year
- Dr. Sam Chuevront, Best DG Brief of the Year
- Gerard LoSardo, Best DG Staff Support
- Dr. Charles Hoke, Best DG Integrated Product Team Member
Taking a cue from his "Advocate of the Year" award, Col. Russ Coleman, commander of USAMMDA, had many good things to say about the Decision Gate process.
"Recognizing that a key part of MRMC business is actually filling capability gaps by fielding products, Decision Gate plays a critical role in that it really helps us make good decisions when it comes to some of the products under development, " said Coleman. "If you can deliver a product years quicker, or millions of dollars cheaper, it's certainly well warranted -- I'm a big fan of Decision Gate."
USAMMDA had four winners.
"What's most flattering is the recognition of USAMMDA as a whole. While I'm just a small piece of it, my team members are doing all the right things, and using the [Decision Gate] system as it is intended," Coleman said.
Dr. Bertram said, "We've really had folks who've approached this not only with excellence, but with a sense of zeal and enthusiasm, which has helped us to pick out the number ones in each category. But as our most recent round of Decision Gate meetings have clearly shown, the command is beginning to understand the value, importance, and utility of this process, and we're seeing marked improvement across the board. Therefore, we'll be challenged even more next year in picking the winners from the list of nominees."
Although he believes it is important to recognize these outstanding individuals, Bertram emphasizes the involvement of the multitude of command personnel in ensuring that all checks and balances are in place for a successful end result.
"At some point, most of this 6,000-member command is involved somehow in Decision Gate," he said.
"Decision Gate is designed to ensure that the products developed by MRMC meet the needs of the Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine. Is the money that we're spending being spent in a responsible way ... [and] giving the American taxpayer and the DoD the best value for their dollar?"
Considering that Decision Gate is so well regarded as being effective, it appears very little, if anything, goes unnoticed throughout the product lifecycle, from initial concept to use on the battlefield.
As Gerry LoSardo puts it, "In my 30-plus years of service, both in and out of uniform, this is the first organization where I've seen the IPT work. The Decision Gate process is the engine that makes the IPT work."
LoSardo, winner of the 2011 Best Staff Support award, speaks from much experience regarding IPTs. As a member of logistics support for USAMMDA, he currently sits on 13 IPTs.
"The Decision Gate process brings order and organization to the entire acquisition process here within USAMMDA, and it is very effective," LoSardo said.
Apparently, it is very effective -- from many aspects.
While the main objective of the Decision Gate process is to create successful products, a very important secondary aim is to ensure that unwarranted products are terminated quickly to avoid wasting valuable time, effort, and funds.
"A real objective of Decision Gate is ... to terminate efforts that, for whatever reason, will not be successful," says Coleman.
"We should be terminating products as early as possible based upon good information [via the Decision Gate process] that these are not going to meet a need, or there is little or no chance that they would ever be fielded -- to avoid spending money on something non-worthwhile."
Considering the country's current economic state, saving money remains at the forefront of the minds of most Americans.
When it comes to spending critical taxpayer dollars, most would agree that managing both time and money while keeping the welfare of the U.S. warfighter at the top of the list is a good thing.
As Steigerwald says, "The value of the Decision Gate process is being accepted and is proving itself because so many areas from across the command are involved, and it benefits all of the people involved in the process -- with the warfighter in the field gaining the greatest benefit of having a critical product delivered in a timely fashion."
This theme rings out often.
"Ultimately, it is about delivering the product, which is the most important part," says Bertram.
USAMRMC's Decision Gate process appears to be working very well for many -- from the American taxpayer to the DoD at home, and from the command to the warfighter on the battlefield -- and this should serve as solid proof that effective teamwork will likely lead to great success.