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What’s “Smart Power”? DynCorp’s Tony Smeraglinolo on six best practices

Tony Smeraglinolo_DynCorp International“Smart power” “” ever since Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined the policy in a 2008 speech, it's become the emerging tenet for how the United States should approach global security initiatives. Through a mix of military strength and nation-building activities, the aim is to keep “fractured or failed states,“ as Gates put it, from teetering on the brink of war “” or from requiring the US military, already stretched thin in Iraq or Afghanistan, from having to intervene further.

The urgency for smart power has only grown with the Obama administration's call for $39.4 billion in funding for civilian foreign operations in fiscal 2011. Now comes the hard part: Determining how smart power can be implemented effectively to address global challenges.

Tony Smeraglinolo is working to cut through that uncertainty. As president of Global Stabilization and Development Solutions for DynCorp International, Smeraglinolo offers up this succinct definition: Smart power requires the application of three D's “” Defense, Diplomacy, and Development.  Since assuming his role in April 2009, Smeraglinolo has helped structure his division at DynCorp to provide all three core competencies. In the process, the division has doubled in size. Here, Smeraglinolo shares six ways to implement smart power on behalf of defense customers:

1.) Build local capacity. That comes through knowledge transfer, which takes the form of training, mentoring, and development activities. “Whether training police or hiring locals to help us in construction “” not other third party nationals, as some of our competitors do “” the ultimate goal is to transfer our knowledge, as a corporate entity and as a nation, to another country as the foundation of nation-building,“ says Smeraglinolo. Current efforts include teaching local nationals to carry out demining in countries such as Turkey, Cambodia, and along the Syrian border; abatement and removal of obsolete and dangerous weapons in Bulgaria; and security services in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. “Wherever the location, when we leave, those skills remain with local nationals,“ says Smeraglinolo.

2.) Ensure alignment with customer. That requires having a “lean forward“ approach, says Smeraglinolo. “If we know there will be a ramp-up of Afghan police training, it is not unusual for us to ramp up our recruiting process prior to being tapped contractually,“ he says. “Because,“ he adds, “we know that we need to lean forward “” we know things are time-critical.“ Understanding a customer's objective is also key. In Iraq, for example, DynCorp is supporting US Forces One (formerly, “Multinational Security Transition Command“). The initiative involves mentoring and advising interior and defense ministries in building institutional capacities. Recently, in an effort to control crime and bombings, an Iraqi edict was passed stating that police uniforms could no longer be sold on the open market. That measure is a result of DynCorp advisers who encouraged several different government offices to compare data within crime incidence reports.

3.) Integrate expertise. That entails offering global solutions, not just services. “We look for a more holistic approach to global challenges versus just selling one particular competency,“ says Smeraglinolo. That philosophy is reflected in a key structural change within the company.  In April 2009, DynCorp reorganized a division, International Security Services, to become, Global Stabilization and Development. DynCorp has also expanded its core competencies through its recent acquisition of Casals & Associates, which specializes in building up legal systems and public-health infrastructure in developing nations. “Casals & Associates had distinguished themselves in the USAID marketplace where they addressed local governance, anti-corruption, and rule of law “” all building blocks for a country to go govern themselves,“ says Smeraglinolo.

4.) Offer best value. Implementing smart power “” development, diplomacy, and defense “” in difficult environments requires a best value, not necessarily the lowest, cheapest, “cut corners“ cost, says Smeraglinolo. “That's what's needed to make smart power work and that's what we focus on “” the best value,“ he says. “The basis for winning any job is understanding the customer's mission and their problems in detail so that you can bring a discriminating solution,“ he adds.

5.) Be ready to think big “” and follow through. Imagine this: Your company is called upon to support the brunt of the surge against US forces in Southern Afghanistan. Your support will require you identify, recruit, and employ 7,500 employees “” all within a 90 to 100-day period. Putting employees in the field will also require the installation of IT, communication, and accounting systems. “That's the type of challenge we take on,“ says Smeraglinolo.

6.) Do sweat the small stuff. It comes down to a focus on the micro. That, says Smeraglinolo, is the most important part of the equation. “Though we have to employ 7,500 people, each one is an individual, with their own unique training “” and life “” needs,“ he says. “Whether an employee is injured in the field, whether it's the family back home, whether it's employee assistance “” you can never lose sight of the micro,“ says Smeraglinolo. In keeping with that corporate value, DynCorp recently established DI Care Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a corporate-wide effort to assist employees in events of serious or life-threatening injury. Says Smeraglinolo: “DI is working intensively to support its customers as they implement new smart power initiatives, and has the track record and expertise to do so comprehensively. We will accomplish this by delivering high-performing teams that will deliver not only performance but compliance and conduct.”

What’s your definition of “smart power?” Share your comments here.

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