Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, USN, became Commander, Navy Installations Command in March 2017. A native of Wimberley, Texas, she previously served as Commander, Navy Region Southeast. Among other assignments ashore, she was Executive Officer and subsequently Commander, Naval Station Norfolk, Va.; Chief of Staff to Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic; and Flag Secretary to Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Atlantic Fleet. At sea, Adm. Jackson has served in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets with deployed operations in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and Western Pacific areas of operation. Assignments included Assistant Operations Officer and Navigator on USS Willamette; Operations Officer on USS Briscoe and USS Vella Gulf; and Executive Officer of USS Stout. She also commanded USS McFaul, which served as the flagship for Combined Task Force 158 and Commander Destroyer Squadron 50 in the northern Persian Gulf. Adm. Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1988 with an emphasis in Oceanography. She holds a master’s in Engineering Management from The George Washington University
TME: How have different assignments during your career influenced your leadership style and prepared you for your position leading Commander, Navy Installations Command?
JACKSON: I often like to say that we are a product of where we came from. In my first 20 years of service in ships, and as a ship commanding officer, I was a customer of everything the shore provides. In the past seven years serving in the shore enterprise as an installation commanding officer and a regional commander, I was responsible for the shore. The two are intricately linked.
The U.S. Navy’s day begins and ends with the shore enterprise. We are a critical enabler to warfighting readiness. Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) is responsible for delivery of effective and efficient readiness from the shore. Leading an enterprise that spans across the 11 regions and 71 installations around the globe, I focus on three areas: Sustaining the Fleet, Enabling the Fighter, and Supporting the Family.
Sustaining the Fleet. Navy installations are foundational to the fleet. The shore allows our ships to get underway and our aircraft to take flight. The critical requirements necessary to maintain shore services to our deployable fleet are complex and operationally critical to our national defense—everything from force protection and infrastructure security to piers and runways.
Enabling the Fighter. CNIC sailors and civilians are not where the team stops, but where the team begins. People are our foundation. Our bases provide training facilities, galleys, bachelor housing and programs for Morale, Welfare and Recreation. We also invest in valuable resources such as sustainable energy that increases our energy efficiency and resiliency across the enterprise and ultimately provides better support to the warfighter.
Supporting the Family. CNIC is responsible for providing services that enable our families to thrive and successfully manage home and family life when servicemembers deploy. Fleet and Family Readiness Programs bring quality of life programs for sailors and their families that maximize the physical, mental, emotional and social well-being of the Navy family.
TME: Describe the role of CNIC and how it helps the Navy to carry out its missions.
JACKSON: The Navy shore enterprise has never been more operationally relevant and vital to the defense of the nation. The mission of CNIC is to deliver shore-based products to sustain the fleet, enable the fighter, and support the family. We organize, man, train, equip, and maintain assigned Navy base operating support functions and infrastructure that support current and future fleet readiness.
CNIC’s priorities are aligned with Navy’s mission. For example, we continue to prioritize and improve policies and execution for port and air operations, security, fire and emergency services, emergency management, and safety. Our installations contribute to all four of the Chief of Naval Operation’s Lines of Effort, articulated in the Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority.
Navy installations are foundational to the fleet. The shore allows our ships to get underway and our aircraft to take flight.
The shore enterprise manages and oversees execution of facility condition assessments, improvements, and repair and modernization projects to ensure our bases meet customers’ requirements. In addition, CNIC provides support to military families to ensure our sailors’ peace of mind as they execute their demanding operational missions.
TME: From an installation perspective, what trends or challenges are you seeing with respect to readiness and sustainment, and what are CNIC’s priority areas for managing the shore infrastructure platform?
JACKSON: The Navy’s shore infrastructure is a critical enabler to military readiness, combat power projection, and security of equipment, personnel, and family members. Importantly, many of the Navy’s platforms plan, train, launch and reconstitute from our installations; some perform their entire mission from our bases, highlighting the shore as a key readiness enabler to the fight.
While competing budget requirements compel the Navy to find cost-effective, creative solutions, leadership is mindful of the impacts these decisions have on the shore infrastructure’s lifecycle requirements and our ability to meet ever-evolving mission requirements. Assessing infrastructure in the context of mission dependency and criticality, along with condition-based maintenance, are a focus as we holistically evaluate the entire portfolio.
When there are insufficient funds, we make risk decisions with the warfighter as the number one priority. Installation operational forces must be nimble enough to confront new threats and challenges while meeting the demands of a modernized fleet in an environment of constrained resources.
For example, one way the shore is addressing and improving the proficiency and effectiveness of our security forces is our Navy Security Forces training and certification program. Another key project in the shore is the regionalization of emergency dispatch centers. Prior to this effort, we had dispatch centers at every installation. The shore enterprise is about to complete its fifth region dispatch center, saving tens of thousands of dollars, garnering significant manpower efficiencies, and retiring decades-old equipment in favor of updated, more efficient, industry standard capabilities.
TME: With cybersecurity and other modern threats facing the Navy, what role does industry play in helping to provide technological solutions to those needs?
JACKSON: More so than ever, our industry partners play a vital and active role in developing new capabilities that can be used to execute missions with greater efficiency and effectiveness. A primary means by which we leverage industry is through CNIC’s close relationship with Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), which serves as the shore systems command. That said, we need to figure out how to be more agile in this space and to move faster. Identifying alternative delivery methods for our services and leveraging Intergovernmental Service Support Agreements, Enhanced Use Leases, and Public-Public or Public-Private Partnerships are a priority—and the opportunity is now.
TME: As the services continue to operate in a joint environment, and on several joint bases, how does CNIC work with agencies such as Army Installation Management Command, Air Force Installation & Mission Support Center, and Marine Corps Installations Command to ensure services and support are provided for warfighters and their families?
JACKSON: CNIC is very proactive and maintains ongoing support for the Department of Defense Joint Basing Program by continuing to partner with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations & Environment, and the respective installations representatives of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard, as well as other government agencies for the effective oversight and management of our combined resources at 12 joint bases, four of which are Navy led. Base Operating Support at those joint bases is delivered in a manner that is consistent with most service mission support.
Identifying alternative delivery methods for our services and leveraging Intergovernmental Service Support Agreements, Enhanced Use Leases, and Public-Public or Public-Private Partnerships are a priority—and the opportunity is now.
CNIC has developed close working relationships with all branches of military services to ensure our organization provides outstanding support and services for warfighters and their families. As our forces evolve so do most our programs and services. As we transform our Navy, CNIC will continue to progress and provide the enabling capabilities and support necessary to sustain the world’s most powerful and capable Navy.
TME: How can professional organizations like SAME support the needs and requirements of CNIC and the Navy?
JACKSON: CNIC continues to work in step with NAVFAC as well as a variety of other infrastructure experts, including the Society of American Military Engineers, to bridge gaps between Department of Defense capabilities and private sector facilities and engineering support in order to meet the needs of the Navy and the nation.
We expect to continue working to leverage industry forums and professional organizations to gain insights and to explore applicability and sustainability of emerging technologies across our 71 installations worldwide.
[Interview first published in the January-February 2018 issue of The Military Engineer.]