Geiger: Civilians add continuity to Navy

Continuous Acquisition and Lifecycle Support practices have transformed naval logistics
in only a few years, according to Cliff Geiger, the service's chief logistician.


The outgoing assistant deputy chief of naval operations for logistics spent more than
25 years in the Navy before his Nov. 6 retirement. He reported to Vice Adm. William
Hancock and helped oversee an OPNAV staff of 160 with a budget of $10 billion a year.


Geiger, one of the Pentagon's top civilians, said he will take a job outside of
government but declined further comment about his plans.


Naval logistics touches everything except the acquisition of ships and aircraft, Geiger
said. It encompasses housing, supply support, maintenance, base matters and environmental
concerns.


Three years ago, Geiger was the first civilian to be named to the post of assistant
deputy to the chief of naval operations. Now he has seen civilians become assistant
deputies for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence; personnel;
training; and resources.


Geiger called his time at the Pentagon "the best three years of my career. I was
the trial horse" for seeing how well civilians and military personnel could work
together at high levels.


Civilian executives provide continuity to the service, he said, and military executives
have the latest operations knowledge. If senior civilian executives are to feel welcome,
he said, it is important for them to gain acceptance by military personnel as well as top
brass.


On Geiger's watch, naval gas turbine students at Great Lakes, N.Y., have been learning
from electronic manuals in the CALS Electronic Classroom project. Instructors can control
the classroom displays for students working remotely at desktop PCs, Geiger said.


Communications played a big role in his logistics career. The Navy has built an
asynchronous transfer mode backbone to give 80 of its organizations better communications
services.


Many commands are eliminating their personnel support structures, he said.


Geiger has worked to improve the status of logisticians from clerical to professional
grades. Besides helping to recruit more than 1,000 Navy logisticians, he supported setting
up a logistics branch in the American Society of Navy Engineers and emphasizing logistics
in the society's mission statement.


Logistics disciplines will remain crucial to the Navy's overall mission, Geiger said,
because the service needs to shift its budget resources from maintaining infrastructure
into modernization.


"Since 1993, we've tried to do that, but we've had to change plans" as
last-minute infrastructure needs took precedence over modernization, he said.


"We've been cut to the bone" by budget cutbacks and personnel reductions, he
said. "It's made us do some creative and innovative things, but I don't think it's a
good idea to cut any more."


The service has relied heavily on use of commercial products and outsourcing during
this downsizing era, he said.


Distance maintenance and training should become more important in naval logistics,
Geiger added.


"We need to make it all transparent to the sailor, so he doesn't have to deal with
a lot of different systems," he said.


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