USACE Office of Value Expertise earns accolades at international industry event

USACE - Louisville District
Published June 11, 2022
Updated: June 11, 2022

It was nearly a clean sweep for the USACE Value Program, which was awarded six of eight honors during the SAVE International 2022 Value Summit held June 4-8 in Glendale, Arizona.
The Summit is a yearly event providing essential continuing education to individuals that practice Value Engineering by bringing together professionals from the Value Engineering industry from around the world.  

Accolades for the program included being recognized in multiple categories:
• VE Rising Star Award – Benjamin Sakmar, Pittsburgh District Value Officer.
• VE Professional of the Year Award – Autumn Ziegler, Jacksonville District Value Officer.
• Outstanding Accomplishment in Construction – Alfonse J. Dell’Isola, U.S. Development Area, Al Dhafra AFB, Middle East District.
• Outstanding Accomplishment in Management – Jimmie Carter, Office of Value Expertise, USACE.
• Outstanding Accomplishment in Government – Gordon Frank, USACE Value Program.
• Fellow, SAVE International – Jeffrey Hooghouse, Headquarters USACE Chief Value Officer.

Corey White, Office of Value Expertise team lead, said getting so much recognition for what the team does was unexpected, but also a sign that recent changes are working.

“Getting this recognition for USACE is a great feeling. As a program, we’ve been working hard over the last eight or so years to improve things in a lot of different focus areas,” he said. “First and foremost, we had to shed the idea that VE is equivalent to cost-cutting – our goal is to improve value, which sometimes doesn’t impact the cost at all. Secondly, we shifted our focus to improving value beyond the walls of a VE study. Seeing things through that different lens has helped us integrate quality and innovation into everything we do.”

“The Value Summit was surreal, though - I knew that we had come a long way, but never would I have imagined that we would nearly sweep the international industry awards like that. This tells me that what we’ve been doing is working,” he added. 

Jeffrey Hooghouse, Headquarters USACE Chief Value Officer, said it’s nice to be recognized, but the real reward is in the results the OVx produces.

“The program has seen significant improvement in the last decade or so - coming from where we were in 2012, to being recognized on the international stage validates all of the hard work, from maximizing the quality of our products and services, capturing the value we provide customers and the taxpayer, to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how USACE does business,” he said. “The OVx is a major factor in this improvement, but none of this would be possible without the dedication and commitment of the 52 Value Officers we have across the enterprise.”

White attributes his and the rest of the teams’ success to having the right people for the task at hand. 

“In both the OVx itself and the larger Value Community of Practice, the people make all the difference. The VE industry is a very small industry, and the value specialist discipline is not something people go to college for.  As a result, we have to grow that capability ourselves,” he explained. “In some ways, that makes hiring very easy – we just need the best people we can get. Personality is very important to how effective someone can be on a team. That’s why we don’t care what someone’s background is – they can be an engineer, a contract specialist, a biologist, a project manager, anything – our goal is to have a good culture of people with the right mindset that want to make things better every day.”

The Office of Value Expertise is an enterprise support team that is executed out of the Louisville District. It oversees aspects of the USACE Value Program by directly supporting both the Chief Value Officer at USACE Headquarters and the Value Community of Practice members at every District, Center, and Division in USACE.  The team is made up of five full-time staff that serve as management experts to ensure viable and effective program management at every level. This is achieved through training, mentoring, managing reporting systems, performing data collection and analysis, standardization, and running an apprenticeship program to ensure qualified people are placed in Value Programs throughout USACE.  

The USACE Value Program has been a leader in applying the Value Engineering Methodology to construction projects since 1964, solidly demonstrating Corps cost-effectiveness.  The program has resulted in construction of over $6.2 billion in additional facilities, without additional funds requests.

The basic thrust of the program is to maximize value in everything USACE does. The most common method of doing this is increasing project value by proactively searching for and resolving issues through very open, short-term workshops. By doing so, USACE can stretch precious taxpayer funds by fulfilling the required functions, delivering quality, and being as efficient as possible with the resources needed.