In February 2013, Ms. Claire M. Grady assumed duties as the Deputy Assistant Commandant for Acquisition and Director of Acquisition Services for the U.S. Coast Guard. With more than 20 years’ experience in major systems acquisition, including six years in the Senior Executive Service with the Coast Guard, her combined knowledge and expertise is a major asset for the Acquisition Directorate (CG-9).
Grady has been with CG-9 since it stood up in July 2007, coming aboard as the Senior Procurement Executive and the Coast Guard’s Head of Contracting Activity. She led the development and implementation of procurement policy and operations supporting Coast Guard recapitalization through major systems acquisition, as well as managing the service’s day-to-day contracting activity. Since that time, she has seen the directorate steadily mature its organization, people and processes.
“Initially we were very short of qualified acquisition professionals in a number of different areas,” Grady said. “We have made huge strides in getting the right people into the right programs and certified at the correct level to execute our missions and responsibilities.”
Grady cited examples of programs and processes that have enabled CG-9 to develop significantly since it’s stand-up, such as the Foreign Military Sales program and the Major Systems Acquisition Manual (MSAM).
“The MSAM has continued to mature and advance, foreign military sales has expanded and is way beyond anything we had ever envisioned. There’s nowhere you can look and not see progress,” she said. “It’s taken a lot of effort, focus and enthusiasm and the results are evident.”
Grady began her professional career with the Department of the Navy as a contracting career intern. She progressed to a number of significant positions at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), one of the federal government’s largest and most complex acquisition organizations. Her accomplishments include serving as the contracting officer for the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship and for the Standard Missile program. Grady also was the program manager for the multibillion-dollar, Navy-wide acquisition of contractor support services (SeaPort), the director of strategic initiatives for NAVSEA’s Contracts Directorate, and the deputy division director for Surface Weapon Systems.
“My background has always been in business,” Grady said. “How do we invest? Where do we go from here? When looking at capabilities, it’s not just the capability itself, we must also ask: Is this the best investment for the program?”
Before moving to the Coast Guard, Grady served as the director of strategic initiatives in the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In that position, she provided strategic direction impacting DHS’s multibillion-dollar contracting and financial assistance programs through a broad portfolio of initiatives, including acquisition policy, grants policy and oversight, strategic sourcing, competitive sourcing and acquisition systems.
“The acquisition process doesn’t stop once you deliver capability,” she said. “Everything has a service life; you have to build it, operate it, maintain it and, at some point, replace it. So, the entire timeline is all part of the acquisition life cycle and it’s important that we’re not over-emphasizing any one aspect of it. Making the right investments, balancing risk and structuring good business deals are all part of the process.”
In uncertain financial times all federal agencies, including the Coast Guard, must determine how best to apply scarce resources. One challenge for Grady and the rest of the directorate’s senior leadership is to gain a clear perspective of how best to maximize return on investment and also, how best to communicate that return to stakeholders both in and outside the Coast Guard.
“Looking ahead, we need to make sure were focusing in the right areas and delivering the right value for the service and for the directorate so that we can continue to deliver the necessary assets and services to the fleet, especially in a declining budget time,” she said.
Grady is a strong advocate for applying a complete unity of effort to the acquisition challenges the Coast Guard faces.
“How do we deliver value and make smart business deals?” She asks. “Where is the best place to invest the money; acquisition personnel, an asset, or in a capability for the future like a financial management system or a logistics information management system? Also, how will we operate and maintain those assets and services once they are delivered to the fleet?”
According to Grady, answering these questions poses many challenges, with possible solutions to be found by being knowledgeable about the market sector, and delivering products and services the Coast Guard needs. For example, Grady is a proponent of “smart business arrangements” with industry, in which the Coast Guard supports the maintenance of a viable, competitive and innovative industrial sector, with small business participation.
“We can’t just look at these challenges from an asset perspective alone; we also must look at them from a business process perspective,” She said.
More information about CG-9 leadership can be found online at: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg9/aboutus/leadership.asp