Ft Huachuca, Ariz.--Army MARS Chief Stephen G. Klinefelter announced a major leadership realignment at a conference of the auxiliary’s Region Directors Sept. 12-14. Under the terms, volunteer hams assumed day-to-day management responsibility previously exercised from the MARS headquarters at Ft Huachuca.
"You will tell us if you can take on a task and you will tell us the resources you need," he told the leaders at their meeting in Dallas."Our responsibility at HQ will be to provide the training and the resources and to support you."
Specifically, each of the auxiliary’s 11 regions (10 in the U.S., one overseas) will be under command of its director. Together the 11 directors will form a policy-making "governance executive board" for the auxiliary as a whole. It’s a striking revision of the military’s traditional top-down chain of command, and it was symbolically activated at the first national leadership conference in the Military Auxiliary Radio System’s 87-year-history.
There was no formal vote of acceptance, but the "RDs" (as they’re known), left little doubt. They immediately set about reviewing and updating policy and enlarged the "Chief’s Special Staff" of volunteer specialists..
In a closed session, they were briefed by a Department of Defense staffer on recent Army MARS mission enhancements. An Executive Order issued by President Obama on July 6 had mobilized the entire federal establishment to tighten up preparations against cyber intrusion.
Like battalion and company commanders in the active-duty Army, the Region and State Directors (the latter will carry much of the load of leadership) are circumscribed by Army-wide policy. Also, there was no discussion of changing HQ control of State and Region Director appointments. Their status is enhanced, however, by being volunteers themselves and thus representing membership interests to the chain of command above.
Mr. Klinefelter’s innovative region-centric architecture doesn’t just reconfigure administration, it spotlights Army MARS as a survivable last-resort communications tool in any national-level calamity. A regional command that is accustomed to operating on its own in normal times is unlikely to be sidelined if cut off from HQ communications in time of crisis. That "self-healing" capability was said to have figured in the auxiliary’s updated DoD tasking.
Army MARS reports to the Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) which manages Army computer networks and communications systems worldwide. Chief Klinefelter, who retired as a full colonel in the Signal Corps after 31 years, returned to NETCOM as a senior civilian employee and is Deputy Operations Officer G3. He added the MARS post last spring.
"The Dallas conference greatly exceeded my expectations," Mr. Klinefelter said. "This one being our first, there were no guarantees that the board would work together. Until you do it, you don't know. Now, we are all looking forward to the future of the program, not just
the next meeting."
Mr. Klinefelter had previously constituted the RDs as his "MARS Government Executive Board (MGEB)" which he described as a more appropriate decision-making mechanism for volunteers than the Army’s traditional top-down chain of command.
"That was never the vision of this proud volunteer auxiliary program," he said. "The program was always dependent on what the volunteers brought to the 'table' which the government then felt was valuable enough to cultivate and organize if possible.
"Those valuable things on the table are (1) that they are already integrated into communities and states throughout the country, (2) that they are already sharing a common interest, equipped, interoperable, and trained to a certain extent, and finally (3) that they are a self motivated and patriotic group perhaps willing to take on a little more training and organization for a common purpose.
‘It is only fair," Mr. Klinefelter concluded, "that they have great say in the operations of
the organization since they bring so much."
Among other actions the panel adopted a fresh approach for managing support relationships with civil agencies. Three new volunteer leadership posts were created: Winlink 2000 liaison officer, chief technology officer, and overseas liaison. Tightened admission standards for new members and participation requirements for all were reaffirmed. These include obtaining general class FCC license and completing a package of FEMA courses.
The third and final day brought an unscheduled program initiative from the board itself. Michigan State Director Dave Bock, representing Region 5, outlined a method of organizing training programs and tracking the results that the Army has used.
Looking ahead , Mr. Klinefelter had a couple of priority to-do’s for his board: build "seamless" interoperation with Air Force and Navy-Marine Corps MARS and "recruit younger members."
"You’re in charge," Mr. Klinefelter told the RDs. "You’re responsible."