Archileti retires after more than 37 years of service
FORT LEE, Va. (June 7, 2016) – Vicki L. Archileti's dedication to government service is perhaps eclipsed only by her fascination with "The Wizard of Oz," the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland. Her office decorations were usually dominated by reflections of that Hollywood classic.
"My favorite part of the 'Wizard of Oz' is the moment she goes from sepia in Kansas to the colorful splendor of Oz," Archileti said. "It's that whole change, you go from one to the other – that transformation. It's like that for all of us. We are all on a journey; we all want to get home to that comfortable place. We need to have courage to get there, we need a brain, and we need a heart; you need all three to get there.
"However, when you arrive at your comfortable place, you need to open the door and begin the transformation all over again because you cannot stay in that comfort zone or you'll be stuck in time. That's the message for all of us in the Defense Commissary Agency as we transform this benefit for our patrons."
Since June 3, Archileti isn't in Kansas anymore. The outgoing executive director of Infrastructure Support retired after more than 37 years of federal service. With her retirement, the directors of acquisition management, engineering, information technology and logistics report to DeCA Deputy Director Michael Dowling until the agency selects her replacement.
"It is bittersweet to say farewell to Vicki. She has long been a devoted and faithful civil servant with the U.S. Army Troop Support Agency and with DeCA, and her outstanding achievement and successes have benefited the agency and countless military families who depend on the commissary benefit," said DeCA Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu during Archileti's June 2 retirement ceremony, where she received the DOD Civilian Career Service Award.
"Although she is renowned for her knowledge and experience in the world of government contracting, I would be remiss if I didn't mention her groundbreaking role in corporate planning for DeCA," Jeu added. "A difficult task, she was charged with anticipating and planning for challenges yet unknown. And she fulfilled this role brilliantly, conceiving and creating the agency's governance process which ensures corporate decisions are focused on investments that will move the agency toward its vision."
Archileti split two tours as director of corporate planning, 2004 to 2008 and 2009 to 2012, with a brief period as DeCA's acting chief of staff. She was appointed to the Senior Executive Service in July 2013 leading to her position as executive director of Infrastructure Support, where she led the agency's information technology, logistics, engineering and acquisition management directorates.
"Some people don't see the impact of infrastructure support on the surface. But you can see it clearly when you realize what's needed to keep a commissary going," Archileti said. "Engineers, contract specialists, IT specialists and logisticians all coming together; it's wonderful to see the crosstalk between my four directors and see how they get things fixed. The thing that I'm the proudest of all with Infrastructure Support is the recognition that it's truly a supply chain function and not just a subset of being a commissary.
"We've weathered a lot such as last year's West Coast port slowdown and the poultry embargoes overseas. We've done it professionally, and I'm real proud of my folks for doing that." Archileti began her federal career in 1979 as a U.S. Army contracting intern at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. Later, she would join the Army's Troop Support Agency as a contract specialist in TSA's Southeast Commissary Region at Fort Lee, where she worked from 1980 to 1991.
When the military services' individual commissary operations merged to form DeCA in 1991, Archileti was part of the transition team that did the groundwork for that consolidation. During that period, she was credited with developing a universal model for logistics and contracting that eventually saved DeCA millions of dollars annually. This would prove to be the start of a series of "firsts" throughout her DeCA career.
After working as DeCA's director of acquisition from 1998 to 2004, Archileti was tasked to cut the ribbon on another inaugural venture: setting up the agency's standalone strategic or corporate planning directorate. Along with strategic planning came the Lean Six Sigma mission, a legacy that continues to this day under the change management directorate.
"Setting up strategic planning and making something of it and trying to get the agency to think differently was definitely a tough sell," she said referring to her tenure as the director of that directorate. "It's interesting because a lot of the things we presented, starting in 2004, have come to pass. We brought programs to the table such as e-commerce, mobile commerce and five years later, suddenly, it's the thing to do for mainstream grocers."
While in strategic planning, she also developed and managed the Organizational Assessment Survey's "Get Well" plan for DeCA. This campaign helped raise employee response scores on the survey from 24 percent in 2010 to 61 percent in 2012 – at that time the highest agency response rate ever.
Archileti graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration (1979) from James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is also a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute, Leadership for a Democratic Society (2001). She has earned the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Superior Civilian Service Award and three Meritorious Civilian Service Awards.
As Archileti, closes the door on nearly 40 years with the government, she cannot help but think of her favorite movie, "The Wizard of Oz," as a metaphor for change.
"Anytime you change a business model, it's big," said Archileti of the agency's future that involves tests of variable pricing and private label. "I think we've come a long way and we recognize that it's really about the cost of the product. People love to shop the warehouse club stores – not because they're beautiful or they're a happy place – but because they are getting good product at good prices.
"We need to stay viable and stay relevant and put a full court press on our innovations and make them happen – maximizing all that the [Enterprise Business Solution] can bring, because the millennials like their time and driving out to a commissary isn't something they like to do.
"I always equate change as that start down the yellow brick road for Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. They marched off on their adventure and faced all the obstacles along the way. But together, as a strong team, the four of them got through it."
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit and make no profit on the sale of merchandise. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. By shopping regularly in the commissary, patrons save thousands of dollars annually. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.
Kevin L. Robinson
(804) 734-8000, Ext. 4-8773