Improving NAVFAC’s Facilities Construction Community

By Herman Pablo, P.E.

Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command has implemented a series of process improvements across its construction workforce to increase recruitment, validate and standardize mastery of processes and procedures, and recognize accomplishments of personnel.

As the oldest of the U.S. Navy’s systems commands, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) traces its origins to 1842, having been established as the Bureau of Yards & Docks. Today, NAVFAC provides facilities engineering and acquisition solutions for the Navy and U.S. Marine Corps through three directorates and 14 product support divisions.

The Planning, Design, and Construction Directorate delivers facilities project development, design, and construction, as well as expertise in medical facilities, waterfront structures, and ocean facilities.

Over many decades, NAVFAC has main­tained a robust training program for the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of the Navy’s community of facilities construction engineers, construction managers, and engineering technicians. Most of these TTPs are derived from the Federal Acquisition Regulation, including the inspection of construction, material and work­manship, and accident prevention clauses, which NAVFAC, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has used to develop the Construction Quality Management Program.

As a result of efforts to widen the talent pool for construction management positions, NAVFAC is now better positioned to deliver ton the dramatically increasing number of shipyard, infrastructure, repair and recovery projects. PHOTOS COURTESY NAVFAC

Facilities construction TTPs related to construction quality management can be found within NAVFAC’s Business Process Management System and the Planning, Design, and Construction Community Management Plan, which outlines the professional development and training requirements of NAVFAC’s construction field office technical employees. In 2023, to support changes to its organization and procedures, NAVFAC deployed a new Construction Management Handbook to address a field office staffing mix of construction engineers and construction managers.

Certifying Talent

In conjunction with the new Construction Management Handbook and the pre-existing Engineering Technician Handbook, NAVFAC also deployed new personnel qualification standards (PQSs) for construction engineers, construction managers, and engineering technicians. PQSs are a method of validating that the employee has effectively mastered NAVFAC construction processes and proce­dures. Each employee who completes the PQS Program will receive formal acknowledgement as a “NAVFAC-certified” construction engineers, construction managers, or engineering technicians.

Setting Standards. To emphasize the importance of the construction manager qualification standards (CMQS) and engineering technician qualification standards (ETQS), NAVFAC established a new hierarchy of construction certifications—with the ETQS as the ultimate certification standard for the community of construction engineer technicians, and the CMQS as the penultimate certificate standard for construction engineers and construction managers (second to engineering licensure).

NAVFAC recently implemented a new GS-0301 series standard position description with the aim of recruiting candidates with qualifying construction experience but who may lack an engineering degree.

This order of preference among the many construction certifications enabled team members to prioritize their training. As a result, NAVFAC now has a sustainable process for training its entire technical construction workforce and validating that personnel are adequately versed in its internal processes.

Reorganizing Personnel

While the construction industry has been successful in hiring non-engineers to perform construction management duties, NAVFAC had traditionally focused on filling the field office professional construction management role with individuals who have an engineering background. Over time, an increased workload and increased market demand for engineers resulted in a major challenge in hiring enough engineers to fulfill growing workforce needs within the agency.

In 2019, based on construction industry feedback, NAVFAC modified its focus on engineers to include non-engineer candidates with a construction background (those with training or experience in construction project management, sub-contractor management, estimating, planning, and scheduling; construction accounting and finance; construction law; construction safety; construction systems; and/or a four-year accredited degree in Construction Management).

After a careful evaluation, NAVFAC determined the GS-0301 series, Miscellaneous Administration and Program, had strong alignment with the role of construction manager. In December 2019, the agency developed a new GS-0301 series standard position description and designated it with the organizational title of “Construction Manager.” Subsequently, NAVFAC had to move all existing GS-0801 series interdisciplinary engineers with an organizational title of “Construction Manager” to a similar GS-0801 series position description—but with a new organizational title of “Construction Engineer.”

Recruitment Focus. NAVFAC’s new corporate strategy emphasized using the GS-0301 series standard position description to recruit and hire candidates who have qualifying construction training or experience but who might not possess an engineering degree.

The new policy to encourage recruitment of non-engineer construction managers was well received by industry organizations, including the Construction Management Association of America. By recognizing that non-engineers comprise an under-utilized talent pool that is highly capable of filling the role of the construction manager position, and by creatively leveraging the GS-0301 series, NAVFAC underwent a seamless re-organization of the Navy’s entire facilities construction workforce.

construction group
In 2023, NAVFAC deployed a new Construction Management Handbook to address a field office staffing mix of construction engineers and construction managers.

As a result, NAVFAC’s construction management workforce now consists of a healthy mix of 87 percent in the re-titled GS-0801 construction engineer series and 13 percent in the new construction manager series.

The enterprise is now better positioned to deliver on the dramatically increasing number of shipyard, infrastructure, repair, and recovery projects by hiring from a broader pool of construction engineers, construction managers, and engineering technicians.

Dedicated Workforce

Effective community management cannot be accomplished through a single new process. Rather, a collection of aligned processes need to be in place to drive desired improvements.

Ultimately, the totality of new processes that NAVFAC developed and implemented has resulted in measurable benefits— increasing recruitment, improving training, and recognizing hard-working personnel who are expected to deliver state-of-the-art facilities that enhance warfighter lethality around the globe.

Motivating Performance

In January 2023, NAVFAC developed and deployed a new process to recognize exceptional performance through the new Construction Hard Hat Awards. Although awards programs for construction engineers existed through NAVFAC’s annual Engineer of the Year Program, construction technical personnel tended to be overlooked. Additionally, no program actually existed for newly recruited non-engineer construction managers.

The new awards program specifies that nominees must have been actively involved on a construction project (making day-to-day construction management decisions and exercising technical authority). The process requires that after local selectees are awarded and recognized, each nomination will be reviewed by national leadership. Key areas of performance were established to align with the command’s desired behaviors and attributes, seeking to influence these characteristics over time.

In April 2023, all NAVFAC regional components and Officers in Charge of Construction successfully completed the nomination process and presented a winner in all three categories. NAVFAC HQ winners were selected and recognized in August 2023 as part of the Quarterly Awards Ceremony.

Herman Pablo, P.E., formerly Director of Construction Programs, NAVFAC HQ, is now Deputy Associate Administrator for Design & Construction, National Nuclear Security Administration (as of October 2023); planning-design-and-construction/.

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