Personnel service

Career highlights: WALTON FLETCHER, DFAS

1985: Began work as programmer working on what was then the Marine Corps JUMPS system.

1990: Assigned as a programming section head.

1992: Assigned as a MCTFS programming branch head.

1994: Supervisor of the year.

2000: Assigned as the branch head for newly created Order Writing Branch within MCTFS Division.

2001: Assigned as the director of MCTFS.

2003: Navy Reserve Order Writing System (NROWS) wins the Department of the Navy eGov Award.

2004: MCTFS wins a DOD Top 5 program award for 2004.

Walton Fletcher, DFAS

Susan Pfannmuller

Walton Fletcher's crew makes HR processes easier for the Marines

You won't find many state-of-the-art IT systems that are 30 years old. But that's what Walton Fletcher and his staff operate'with a few upgrades along the way. The Marine Corps Total Force Systems is an integrated pay and personnel system that was rated a Top Five DOD Program Award Winner for 2004.

'Fletcher's division has developed and currently maintains the DOD's only integrated pay and personnel system for both active and reserve components,' said William Head, chief technology officer of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. 'He ensures that MCTFS implements every congressionally mandated legislative requirement on schedule and within budgetary constraints.'

Answering the call

As director of the MCTFS division in the Technology Services Organization for DFAS in Kansas City, Mo., Fletcher's systems serve more than 498,000 active, reserve and retired Marines.

It's no small task to keep that many individuals happy while coping with a constant barrage of legislative and IT demands.

Case in point: A problem cropped up when some legacy computer systems were being converted to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. Over a weekend, the programming had to be changed so administrators could run personnel and pay entries while the NMCI issues were being addressed.

'This was a dramatic undertaking and, if not completed, over 700 administrators would not have been able to create diaries for their Marines,' said Col. Paul Bennett, director of Manpower Information Systems. 'Fletcher does not compromise his integrity, always thinks of how Marines will be impacted by change and how we can save money for the corps.'

MCTFS began as an integrated personnel and pay system for the Marine Corps in the early '70s. Further integration in the early 1990s added reserve and active-duty pay and personnel systems.

'The other services have a requirement of dual input into both a personnel and pay system'which is nonexistent for Marines, thereby eliminating the potential for inconsistencies between the systems,' Fletcher said. 'There is no transferring data from one system to another.'

As MCTFS director, Fletcher leads four branches, consisting of 147 software engineers, in the development and delivery of six enterprisewide finance and accounting systems for DFAS, the Marines, Navy, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. MCTFS processes more than 17 million transactions a year and computes an average gross payroll of $238 million per semi-monthly pay period, totaling $5.712 billion in payments annually.

The Marine Corps, in fact, is so satisfied with MCTFS that it recently said it will not migrate to the Defense Department's Integrated Military Human Resources System unless DOD can prove it's better than MCTFS.

Instead of chaotic patches and changes, Fletcher oversees a twice-yearly software release program to cover all upgrades, revisions and legislative requirements. He also is active in sustaining the division's achievement of the Software Engineering Institute Capability Maturity Model Level 3 rating. This places the division among the top 15 percent of software development organizations around the world.

'Fletcher looks at his division from a process improvement perspective,' said Bennett. 'His dedication to achieving a CMM Level 4 rating is a true indicator of a 'practice what you preach' mentality.'

Getting to CMM Level 4, in fact, appears to be likely this year. A successful internal assessment of the organization was recently completed, and an external review prior to full Level 4 certification has been scheduled for June.

Team effort

Fletcher said this certification will further enhance quality and solidify the division's ability to manage projects by instituting better processes.

He stressed, though, that MCTFS is very much a team activity. He characterizes his management style as letting able people do their jobs and avoiding micromanagement.

'If there are issues to be dealt with, no matter what time of day it is or whether or not it's a weekend, these folks are there to take care of the issue,' said Fletcher. 'They go the extra mile because that's what it takes to give the Marines the service they deserve.'

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