Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, P.E., USA

U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Thomas P. Bostick
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, P.E., USA, U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, addresses soldiers from the 509th Engineer Battalion at Camp Stone in Herat Province, Afghanistan, June 5, 2012. USACE Photo by Dave Melancon

TME: Congratulations on becoming the 53rd U.S. Army Chief of Engineers. Please provide our readers with your top priorities as the new Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Bostick: We still have a big fight going on in Afghanistan and in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations. Supporting this remains the top priority for the Army and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

USACE also is engaged in supporting national and combatant commander priorities in more than 100 countries outside of Afghanistan. We see this level of engagement and commitment continuing, maybe even increasing, as the National Security Strategy shifts in response to the changing, uncertain world we are in.

For the next several years our major military construction efforts will be in the Pacific, as we prepare for the multi-billion dollar re-stationing efforts of joint forces, primarily in Korea and Japan.

We will focus increased attention on supporting the Army and the nation in achieving energy security and sustainability goals. Reducing energy dependence, increasing energy efficiency, and adopting renewable and alternative energy sources are progressively more important for both the nation and our Army.

It is imperative that we increase the value USACE provides to the nation by delivering timely water resources solutions. The Civil Works program faces myriad challenges, which are prompting swift transformation in our current business model to make it more relevant in the 21st Century. The end result will be improved performance and responsiveness; increased customer satisfaction, public trust and confidence; and improved readiness.

Our current approach to planning, budgeting, delivering and managing our nation’s water resources infrastructure is unsustainable. Our aging infrastructure requires innovative lifecycle management approaches. We will continue to work with the administration, Congress and our internal team to refine the Civil Works processes in this current environment of evolving budgetary constraints and declining resources.

We must continue to enhance our interagency disaster response and recovery capability to support the needs of our nation. We also are getting called upon more frequently to assist other nations during, and in preparation for, catastrophes and large-scale natural disasters. As our nation requires, we will continue to support these international efforts.

In this current environment of declining Army resources, we must find additional methods to strengthen the teaming and partnering that occurs at all levels between USACE and the U.S. Army’s Installation Management Community to achieve the efficiencies required.

After more than a decade of war, we will all spend a significant amount of effort ensuring the Army captures the lessons learned, and ensuring we properly design, shape, prepare and organize the Engineer Regiment to meet future requirements.

Thomas P. Bostick
Gen. Bostick is updated on plans for the theater vehicle maintenance compound currently under construction on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, during a tour of USACE Afghanistan Engineer District- South’s area projects. USACE Photo by Dave Melancon

The strength of our Army and the Corps is our people. Talent Management and Leader Development are essential to our future success. How we recruit, retain and develop our talent will help develop a team that can address future challenges.

All key USACE priorities will be captured in our USACE 2020 Campaign Plan. We plan to roll out the first draft in the late fall of 2012. USACE 2020 will be nested in Department of Defense (DOD), Army and national strategic planning efforts, and will help shape the future of our organization.

TME: In years past, the engineers had a general officer in the Office of the Chief of Engineers, and during some periods of time in what is now the Installation Management Command. We see engineer talent migrating to general officer positions outside the engineer community, which is a testament to the capabilities of engineer officers. From your perspective, what are the critical positions in the Army and in the joint arena where you would like to see a general officer from the engineer community?

Bostick: Many of our Army’s general officers, who started out in the engineer branch, are valued by the Army for their knowledge, skills and abilities. This is a reflection of the education, experiences and broadening assignments they have obtained solving some of the nation’s— and the military’s—most challenging and complex interagency engineering problems. We have general officers who are members of the engineering community that could serve—and are serving—in many key DOD, Army and joint positions.

Senior leaders serve where the Army and the nation need them. The key is to develop adaptable leaders with the knowledge, skills and abilities to serve wherever the nation calls upon them to. This is important for officers in all specialties, which is why the Army leadership is focused on developing leaders with broad experiences. I believe the need for broadly developed leaders is important not only for our officers, but for non-commissioned officers and our great civilians as well.

TME: The Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond Odierno, USA, has put a major focus on the “Army Profession.” Please provide your perspective on the “Military Engineer Profession,” including the need to have degreed engineers, licensed engineers, officers with advanced degrees and other credentials that are important to the military engineer profession?

Bostick: Because of what the nation and Army expects from USACE, we must be an organization made up of military professionals, and of engineers, scientists and technicians who are considered respected leaders in their fields. The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) is one of several organizations that help our soldiers and civilians to be trained, ready and recognized as leaders in both the profession of arms and in their engineering, scientific and technical areas.

We will increasingly see teaming at nearly every echelon on the battlefield between uniformed military engineers and our civilian workforce, who are our technical and professional backbone. We will continue to value degreed engineers, licensed engineers, advanced degrees and the other credentials that make military engineering a true profession. One of Gen. Odierno’s priorities is to foster continued commitment to the Army Profession, a noble and selfless calling founded on the bedrock of trust. I think that both the Army profession and the military engineering profession are founded on much the same thing—and USACE has a strong enduring commitment to both.

As the Army prepares to drawdown in overall end-strength, it is important that our soldiers and civilians have the necessary credentials to transition to civilian careers. As an Army, we have not put the necessary focus on civilian credentials; but this is a priority for our Army and the Corps of Engineers. Whether a professional engineer, an electrician, truck driver or one of the more than 150 military occupational specialties in the Army, if there are equivalent civilian credentials, we should support our soldier’s efforts in obtaining them. Similarly, we must do the same for our civilians. Gaining credentials is not just important for transitioning to civilian careers. Credentials are part of being a professional.

Thomas P. Bostick
Gen. Bostick conducts a site visit of the Detention Facility in Parwan, Afghanistan, to determine current and future infrastructure requirements. The tour was guided by Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, (left) Commander, Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, and Col. Robert M. Taradash, USA, (right) Commander, Task Force Protector. Photo by Faiza Evans

TME: SAME recently adopted a goal of Leadership and Mentoring. You come to USACE with a reputation as an outstanding leader and mentor. Please share some of your thoughts on the importance of leadership and mentoring.

Bostick: I have often said that the Army trains soldiers and grows leaders. We grow our leaders through a variety of challenging assignments, demanding experiences and broad educational opportunities. It takes a significant investment of time and personal commitment of our senior leaders and mentors to properly grow a bench of future leaders.

Leadership is often more about how to be, not how to do. We spend our entire lives learning how to do things, but at the end of the day, it is the quality of one’s character that distinguishes the great leaders.

In the military engineering profession, we also have an added responsibility to develop engineering and technical professionals. We not only must build great people, but also strong multi-disciplinary teams to be successful in most of our endeavors. We will continue “Building Strong” through leader development, mentoring and talent management programs. I believe that we all have an obligation to mentor the future leaders of our Army, both military and civilian. This takes an investment of time, but it is well worth it. Those we mentor appreciate it, and will pass it on. I was mentored by some outstanding leaders. I also feel that I’ve been “mentored” by those junior to me. And I continue to lead and grow from my association with those very junior to me.

TME: SAME recently changed its governance to no longer have the Engineering Service Chiefs as President, as a result of stricter interpretations of the Joint Ethics Regulations. However, SAME clearly desires to keep you and the other Engineering Service Chiefs involved and therefore, has established a Uniformed Services Advisory Group (USAG) of which you are a member. Please share your thoughts on your relationship with SAME and your impressions from the first meeting of the USAG with the SAME Board of Direction this past May in St. Louis.

Bostick: The SAME Uniformed Services Advisory Group (USAG) has an almost identical make-up as the Joint Operational Engineer Board, which meets frequently. Because of this, USAG members already have a very close working relationship, and this group has a great track record of working through some tough joint military engineering issues together. SAME members will clearly benefit from the makeup of this newly created advisory group. The USAG will definitely help keep SAME connected to the military profession.

I believe that I can speak for all of the members of USAG in saying that the services gain so much technical and professional benefit from SAME.

We are steadfastly committed to both staying within the boundaries of laws and regulations and continuing to support professional organizations like SAME, which time and time again have in many ways selflessly contributed to the success of our profession, and the nation’s military engineering missions—in both war and peace.

[article first published in the September-October 2012 issue of TME]