• S&T Notebook: Active Collaboration

    Dr. Scott Fish

    This is a regular column by Dr. Scott Fish, Army Chief Scientist, on activities in the Army science and technology (S&T) community and their potential impact on Army acquisition programs.

    Dr. Scott Fish gave the keynote address at Ground Day of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems Program Review 2012, Feb. 7 in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy of Army Chief Scientist.)

    The New Year continues to be a busy time for the Chief Scientist’s office. I took part in the Army Science Board plenary meeting held Jan. 18-20 at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Headquarters at Fort Eustis, VA. The Small Unit Data to Decisions Study was initiated with the full team. That study, and continued work on the Strategic Look at Army S&T Study, prepared for active engagements through the spring with various labs and S&T customers.

    On Jan. 27, I gave a luncheon speech to the Advanced Program Management Course at Defense Acquisition University (DAU), hosted by Claude M. Bolton Jr., former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. I spoke to senior acquisition professionals about my experiences in project management and observations on technology transition into programs of record. This could become a regular engagement with DAU.  

    As part of continuing external engagements related to academia, industry, and government labs, on Feb. 3, I was joined by Jeff Jaczkowski, Deputy Project Manager for the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, on a visit with members of the University of Texas Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Departments, who were working on low-cost sensing and associated intelligent processing and advanced actuation, with potential applications in robotics and human augmentation systems. Drs. Sriram Vishwanath and  Luis Sentis were my hosts, and the technical exchange with their students and staff was quite enlightening.

    COL Lary Chinowsky, my Special Assistant, Mike Perschbacher of Rovnotech, and I met with Jim Lasswell and his team at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, VA, on Feb. 2. We discussed their unmanned vehicle systems and collaboration with the Army and other services in this important area.

    On Feb. 7, I gave the keynote address at Ground Day of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems Program Review 2012. I showed a few video clips of Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) work from the past 12 years, which addressed some major success stories in UGV penetration of key mission areas associated with explosive ordnance disposal, route clearance, urban reconnaissance, and checkpoint security.

    We need to work together on an updated UGV strategy with industry to get at new business models for robots that can enable wider adoption in a time of fiscal and force structure reductions.

    Comments were also made on bringing forward our successful technology demonstration results in autonomous behaviors for ground robots into products that reduce operator burden and enhance utility for missions beyond the current baseline. I noted that we need to work together on an updated UGV strategy with industry to get at new business models for robots that can enable wider adoption in a time of fiscal and force structure reductions. It was a great session, and I’m looking forward to continued dialogue in the months ahead.

    On Feb. 14, Dr. John Miller, U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Director, hosted COL Chinowsky and me on a tour of the facility in Adelphi, MD. We had a very good session on cyber security and batteries/switches with ARL and members of  the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center. We also toured some of the labs and met with the researchers conducting amazing work in nanochemistry and power component development and early performance evaluation.

    Finally, I headed to Israel to attend the Namer ground combat vehicle operational test and evaluation senior leader brief and to visit with my Israeli counterparts on their S&T initiatives. The visit was short, but I got a tremendous amount done. This collaboration has greatly increased the U.S. understanding of the Namer and its capabilities, and the data gained from testing will inform and refine our Ground Combat Vehicle requirements. On Feb. 16, I briefed at the U.S. – Israel Memorandum of Understanding meeting, where I gave a Namer assessment update to the delegation.

    Coming Up

    For the first time, I will be traveling to Afghanistan to visit our troops and meet some of the program managers supporting the operations. I am very excited about this opportunity to go into theater. At the end of February, I will travel to California to attend the 2012 Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies Army-Industry Collaboration Conference, which is focused on our basic and applied research. I also plan to visit universities in California before heading back to the Pentagon.

    Previous S&T Notebook Articles: 

    Events Update (26 January 2012)

    Looking to the Future (2 December 2011)

    Taking the Pulse (1 November 2011)

    Exploring Partnerships with Israel (27 September 2011) 

    Army Chief Scientist to Make Regular Contributions to USAASC Publications (2 September 2011)

    Read more »
  • S&T Notebook: Events Update

    Dr. Scott Fish

    This is a regular column by Dr. Scott Fish, Army Chief Scientist, on activities in the Army science and technology (S&T) community and their potential impact on Army acquisition programs.

    Bruce Burkholder (left), Global Technology Manager for DuPont’s Advanced Fiber Systems Life Protection Group, and Dr. Scott Fish, Army Chief Scientist, examine ballistic test results on a Kevlar-based helmet prototype. (Photos courtesy of Army Chief Scientist.)

    First, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. There are a lot of exciting, significant events scheduled in 2012, and I will be updating these happenings for you in this column throughout the year.

    Since my last monthly update, DoD received an appropriation bill, and the Army’s science and technology portfolio was funded for FY12. Also, I took part in the Board on Army Science and Technology (BAST) session in Washington, DC, on Dec. 5-6. The BAST focused on “The Army’s Approach to Achieving a Common Operating Environment” (COE). We collected key comments and perspectives on the COE implementation strategy and how it might be improved by considering other large commercial efforts in which standardization of protocol across heterogeneous processing and organizational domains has been pursued. A follow-on session in February will explore options further and probably wrap up efforts in this area.

    On Dec. 7, we had the honor of Ms. Heidi Shyu, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology hosting the Army Science Board Awards Ceremony. The awards recognized the dedication and devotion of 15 members who have served for up to 14 years on the board, where they made a significant contribution in furthering national defense objectives. The 10 awardees in attendance were presented with the Superior Civilian Service Award, Commanders Award for Civilian Service, or the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service.

    The Army Science Board Awards Ceremony honored members who have made significant contributions in furthering national defense objectives, at a ceremony on Dec. 7. In front row (from left), Heidi Shyu, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, Dr. Jeanette Jones, Dr. Wade Kornegay, and LTG William Campbell (USA Ret.). In back row (from left), Robert Dodd, John Matsumura, John Entzminger Jr., Gilbert Herrera, LTG Max Noah (USA Ret.), Dr. Lawrence Delaney, and Robert Moore.

    In late November, I briefed the newly formed 2012 Army Science Board on interim observations related to S&T breakthrough areas with potential payoff for Army Acquisition in the next decade. This was well received, and valuable feedback was provided from the board’s study of the Army’s S&T Enterprise.

    As part of continuing external engagements related to academia, industry, and government labs, I visited with members of the University of Delaware’s Center for Composite Materials. Drs. John Gillespie, Shridhar Yarlagadda, Dirk Heider, and Dan Molligan were my hosts. Together, we reviewed their research and teaming partnerships and examined their laboratory and prototyping facilities.  

    The U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command’s Communications-Electronics Research and Development Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, hosted a review for me of ongoing research and field support for space and terrestrial communications. This capability within our government technical community is quite impressive, filling a valuable niche in ensuring high-quality migration of best commercial practices and unique military capabilities to our warfighters.

    I also visited DuPont’s Spruance and Magellan manufacturing plants near Richmond, VA, accompanied by COL Lary Chinowsky, my Special Assistant. The visit included an in-depth discussion of the development and current state of the art in aramid fiber technology, as well as a tour of the processing plant. Discussion extended into current trends in both the fiber and textile industries, including unique and common attributes between the military and DuPont’s commercial customers.

    Coming Up

    I will give the keynote address at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems Program Review 2012’s Ground Systems Day, Feb. 7, in Washington, DC. Again, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

    Previous S&T Notebook Articles: 

    Looking to the Future (2 December 2011)

    Taking the Pulse (1 November 2011)

    Exploring Partnerships with Israel (27 September 2011) 

    Army Chief Scientist to Make Regular Contributions to USAASC Publications (2 September 2011)

    Read more »
  • S&T Notebook: Looking to the Future

    Dr. Scott Fish

    This is a regular column by Dr. Scott Fish, Army Chief Scientist, on activities in the Army science and technology (S&T) community and their potential impact on Army acquisition programs.

    COL Lary Chinowsky, Dr. Scott Fish’s Military Assistant, presented the keynote address at the 19th Annual U.S. Army Research Laboratory/United States Military Academy (ARL/USMA) Science Symposium in Atlantic City, NJ, speaking to ARL researchers and Cadets. Here, Cadet Zackary Brownlee, U.S. Military Academy, prepares various methanol concentration solutions for fuel cells at the Army Research Laboratory. (U.S. Army photo by ARL.)

    A lot of exciting and great things have occurred since the last time I reported out to everyone. One of the most significant was the change of duty by LTC Amanda Greig back to the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center and her replacement by COL Lary Chinowsky as my new Military Assistant. COL Chinowsky has hit the ground running and has already represented me at the 19th Annual  U.S. Army Research Laboratory/United States Military Academy (ARL/USMA) Science Symposium in Atlantic City, NJ. COL Chinowsky presented the keynote address and engaged in great interaction with both ARL researchers and Cadets who are doing fantastic work in science and technology. I was pleased to hear of the quality of work, the enthusiasm, and vigor that these Cadets showed for research, as they are the Army’s future leaders.

    In October, I met with researchers at the Vanderbilt University Institute for Software Integrated Systems who are performing key elements of the META program for the Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Army is actively participating in this program as a potential future leverage point. DARPA is targeting, along with the U.S. Marine Corps, the demonstration of the overall automated design and fabrication capability for the next amphibious combat vehicle development effort.

    The  Integrated Sensor Is Structure work involved building the underlying language construct describing components, systems, and fabrication processes that will allow semantic connection of models in a rational way. For example, a transmission model must understand implicitly that it can connect to an engine model and a driveline or load, and then invoke appropriate linkages at the interfaces without user or designer interaction.

    Early in November as a follow-on, I traveled to Dassault Systems in Providence, RI, to attend the DARPA Principal Investigator’s meeting and focused on DARPA’s Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB) activity. This part of the AVM program  focuses specifically on the framework (compatible with META) for representing appropriate fabrication methods for ground vehicles. Examples would be machining, welding, stamping, and composite materials handling. Capturing these model effects is important both for planning the properties of the finished product or selecting the most desirable fabrication methods, and planning the best layout and sequencing of the fabrication process.

    ARL also hosted me in November, along with members of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center Survivability Team, to discuss the latest advancements in our vehicle blast and ballistic protection research and small arms. This dialogue was great for examining both our priorities and our methods for maintaining momentum in the face of changing threats.

    As a final note, I spoke on a “Tech Talk” Panel at the Military Reporters & Editors Conference in Arlington, VA, on Nov. 18. I joined Dr. Mark Maybury, U.S. Air Force Chief Scientist; Dr. Walter Jones, Executive Director of the Office of Naval Research; and Mr. Todd Harrison, Senior Fellow for Defense Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in providing perspectives on what’s new and what’s coming in S&T for our Soldiers. I highlighted four key areas where I expected to see emphasis from the Army in the coming years: Soldier protection, adaptive/resilient systems, advanced training, and ad hoc networks to the warfighting edge. Note was also given to the seven Army S&T challenge problems endorsed by our leadership, which form the basis of Technology Enabled Capability Demonstrations being championed by Dr. Marilyn M. Freeman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology.

    Coming Up

    The next meeting of the Board on Army Science and Technology is Dec. 5 and 6. It will address the common operating environment. The Army Science Board will hold an Awards Ceremony on Dec. 7 with Ms. Heidi Shyu, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, hosting the event and honoring outgoing Chair Dr. Frank Akers and 14 other members of the board for their outstanding contributions. I want to wish you all a safe holiday season, and remember those who are serving to keep us safe and productive.  

    Previous S&T Notebook Articles: 

    Taking the Pulse (1 November 2011)

    Exploring Partnerships with Israel (27 September 2011) 

    Army Chief Scientist to Make Regular Contributions to USAASC Publications (2 September 2011)

    Read more »
  • DACM Corner: Selecting, Mentoring, and Developing Interns

    As I look around at my fellow professionals in the Army acquisition, logistics, and technology (AL&T) community, I see a dedicated, seasoned workforce—and I wonder, who will take the place of these experienced professionals when they decide to retire?

    This is something that leadership throughout AL&T should be thinking about: Where do we find the best and the brightest young people to bring into government service, and how do we help them develop into future AL&T leaders? Fortunately, we have some very successful internship programs to guide us.

    Nealie Page, an operations research analyst intern attending PEO STRI’s Acquisition Academy, jumped from the 34-foot tower at Fort Benning’s Airborne School Sept. 8. She, along with the other interns from the Academy, had the opportunity to jump from the famed tower as part of their “day in the life of a U.S. Soldier” experience, a professional development opportunity for the new federal government interns at PEO STRI. (Photos by PEO STRI/Thomas Kehr.)

    Experience has shown us that, despite the advantages that private industry may have over government in hiring, many talented college graduates want careers in which they can serve their country. We can harness that talent and commitment without necessarily having to pay the higher salaries that industry may offer. A number of intern programs across the AL&T Workforce have succeeded in doing just that.

    ‘Hire for Life’

    The key, program leaders say, is to make the interns feel like part of the AL&T Workforce from the start, or as I like to call it, “hire for life.” Several organizations have created a boot camp program that builds a bond between the intern and Soldier to serve just that purpose.

    The Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) has seen firsthand the value of this team ethic. PEO STRI’s Acquisition Academy, now in its fifth year, is a highly competitive program with a 96 percent retention rate that needs no advertising, apart from the required posting of new openings.

    For the Academy course that began in July, PEO STRI received almost 1,700 applicants for a dozen openings. The candidates are screened through online testing and interviews with senior personnel. The competition allows PEO STRI to take only the brightest candidates, the self-starters, and then introduce them to the AL&T Workforce.

    Sarah Weston, a systems engineering intern attending PEO STRI’s Acquisition Academy, had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Sept. 8 to jump out of a plane with the Fort Benning’s Silver Wings precision parachute team.

    Every candidate has a bachelor’s degree, and many have master’s degrees. While some have prior military service, they all share an appreciation for Army values and a desire to be part of a team with the critical mission of serving the warfighter.

    But bringing good interns onboard is only the first step. Helping them map and meet their career goals should be the next major focus. This means establishing Individual Development Plans (IDPs) and then providing each intern with a variety of challenging assignments and continuous learning opportunities.

    Of course, this systematic training, mentorship, and follow-up take time out of already hectic schedules. But it is time well spent. If we want our young professionals to be all that they can be, we have to put some sweat equity into it. We must serve as mentors and advisors and guide these young individuals who are so eager to learn and contribute.

    Structure Leads to Success

    A successful internship program is very structured in this regard. PEO STRI’s Acquisition Academy, for instance, starts with 11 weeks of classroom training by senior personnel. It serves as the intern’s introduction to how the Army is structured and how the Acquisition Corps is organized. It also introduces the Defense Acquisition University courses that are needed to develop an understanding of their field, be it contracting, engineering, or some other specialty.

    By far, one of the most rewarding aspects of the interns’ experience is working directly with Soldiers who use the equipment that their organization provides. Acquisition Academy interns, for example, have the opportunity to visit Fort Benning, GA, during Tower Week, a U.S. Army Airborne School event that validates jumpers’ individual skill training in properly and safely exiting an aircraft. The interns can jump from the 34-foot tower, and some even jump in tandem with the Silver Wings precision para­chute team. They also see how Soldiers use the Close Combat Tactical Trainer and the Digital Multi-Purpose Range Complex that PEO STRI procures.

    Shi Deng, a budget analyst intern attending PEO STRI’s Acquisition Academy, had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Sept. 8 to jump out of a plane with the Fort Benning’s Silver Wings precision parachute team.

    PEO STRI’s interns are in two- to three-year programs from which they become journeymen. Though not every intern training program needs to be this comprehensive, the driving elements remain the same: Army Team values, senior-level involvement, individual attention to include an IDP, challenging work, and regular follow-up. The goal is mission success, and everyone has a role in that accomplishment.

    Top-Level Attention

    The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command’s (CECOM) Command-Sponsored Intern Orientation Program has taken a slightly different approach, starting with 3½ days devoted to educating new interns on the CECOM mission; the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Materiel Enterprise team; and military protocol and traditions.

    The CECOM Commanding General (CG), or another senior leader in the CG’s absence, addresses incoming interns on the role they will play in the Army’s mission and support of the warfighter. Since interns are typically new to the Army, the orientation program addresses topics such as the Army’s rank structure; financial planning information; work personality assessment and team building; use of C4ISR Materiel Enterprise collaboration tools; unique characteristics of the enterprise’s diverse, multigenerational environment; the culture of communication and cooperation in the workplace; personal accountability; and juggling work and life priorities.

    One of the CG’s top priorities, Human Capital, includes the development of a workforce that is forward-thinking and conscious of the impact they have in the field. This effort has multiple elements, including:

    • Specialized training courses for interns to complement their respective career programs. For example, interns have the opportunity to sharpen their communications skills to include business writing, oral presentation and organization skills, and how to deal with and resolve conflicts in the workplace.
    • Intern Professional Development Day, an annual event that provides interns the opportunity to interact with senior leaders and each other.
    • Greening, which consists of a variety of activities set up to provide insights into the CECOM and C4ISR Materiel Enterprise mission and the life of a Soldier.

    Getting Started

    So where does the money come from to pay for a successful intern recruitment and development program? As you know, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order in December (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/27/executive-order-recruiting-and-hiring-students-and-recent-graduates), ending the Federal Career Intern Program as of March 1, 2011, and establishing the Internship Program and the Recent Graduates Program. Along with the Presidential Management Fellows Program, those initiatives are collectively called the Pathways Programs.

    Additionally, section 852 funding, named after Section 852 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, can help pay for some intern costs; see http://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/852-program for more details.

    As you look around at what you can do to bring in and retain young talent, I hope you’ll find the special ingredients that will make your organization an attractive, fun, and rewarding place to work. Your efforts will pay off for the entire Army, and especially our warfighters.

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  • DACM Corner: Selecting and Developing Acquisition Officers and NCOs

    LTG William N. Phillips

    As we continue to build a world-class Acquisition Workforce with military and civilian professionals, we are faced with two equally important requirements: accessing the right skill sets to do the job and advancing career opportunities for the people who work diligently to execute the AL&T mission. All while staying focused on our vital mission to support Soldiers by getting the resources they need into their hands as quickly as possible, a mission in which we cannot fail.

    This vital mission is not possible without a robust, highly skilled, and professional AL&T Workforce that includes Acquisition Officers, Noncommissioned Officers, and Army Civilian members. The challenge is accessing and promoting talent to continue to grow our workforce.

    SSG Rickie Spivey earned the 51C MOS, Contracting NCO. “I want to obtain the most contracting knowledge I can and be confident in sharing that information and knowledge with fellow 51Cs,” she said. (U.S. Army photo by Larry D. McCaskill, U.S. Army Contracting Command.)

    Acquisition professionals can take great pride in knowing that they are a vital part of the Army workforce that bears the tremendous responsibility of providing warfighers with the very best weapon systems, materiel support, and advanced technology to maintain the decisive edge on the battlefield. For those not already in the acquisition profession, it just may be the change you need to boost your Army career.

    The Acquisition Corps is looking for enthusiastic members who live the Army’s core values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. First and foremost, we’re looking for leaders with honesty and integrity. In our line of work, we require transparency and fairness because we are entrusted with public funds and must remain good stewards of taxpayers’ money. We place a high value on teamwork and the willingness to work hard to deliver capability to our Soldiers. Sometimes during negotiations with our industry partners, we must adapt quickly to changing situations and be willing to work with other members of the Army team (e.g., requirements and resourcing) to ensure affordable and executable products meeting Soldier needs. Additionally, we’re looking for a diversity of backgrounds and abilities (military occupational skills, academic degrees, and certifications) to add to the Acquisition Corps, making it more reflective of the Army we serve.

    One example of a Soldier who took on the acquisition challenge and brought a new skill set to the Acquisition Corps is SSG Rickie Spivey, a Contracting NCO with the 683rd Contingency Contracting Team in Vicenza, Italy. From 2004 to 2008, Spivey had been serving as an Automated Logistical Specialist.  In 2008, she started looking for a bigger challenge, something that would test her not only physically, but also mentally. She found it in the Acquisition Corps, where she applied for military occupational specialty (MOS) reclassification, was accepted, and was subsequently awarded the 51C MOS, Contracting NCO. In just under a year, Spivey has supported more than 30 contracts, as well as two major missions in Uganda and Gambia. “I want to obtain the most contracting knowledge I can and be confident in sharing that information and knowledge with fellow 51Cs,” according to Spivey. “Not only do I continue to live the Soldier and NCO creed, but I strive each day to be better than the day before and to always exceed my own expectations,” she said.

    Spivey is just one of the many Acquisition members who rise to the challenge every day to provide our Soldiers with what they need to help them prevail in every confrontation with the enemy.

    Over the next couple of years, the Army will be moving forward to assess a significant number of NCOs and Officers into the Acquisition Corps and in particular, to become Army Contracting Officers. The future of the Army Acquisition Corps is bright, and we’re continuing to look for opportunities to bring into our formations the very best and brightest who are willing to learn acquisition and to work hard to support our Soldiers. 

    When selecting Acquisition Corps members, the Army uses the “whole person” concept, evaluating each candidate’s leadership positions held, potential for success, education, performance and recommendations, and completion of key developmental assignments.

    For officers, members can be accessed through three methods: the annual Career Field Designation Board, which focuses on Army Competitive Category (ACC) captains in their fifth to seventh year of commissioned service; the Voluntary Incentive Transfer Program, which employs a quarterly panel to access ACC officers from multiyear groups; and through branch transfers for non-ACC officers on a case-by-case basis. For more information on the education, training, and experience requirements for Acquisition Corps officers, please visit the U.S. Army Human Resources Command’s Acquisition Management Branch website (AKO user name and password required) at https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/protect/branches/officer/fs/acquisition/index.htm.

    Just like the officers, NCO members are selected from many military specialties for reclassification into the 51C MOS. The reclassification boards are made up of contracting professionals: contracting commanders and contracting battalion and brigade sergeants major. The board evaluates the candidates’ NCO Evaluation Reports, military and civilian education, time in service, and recommendations from senior officers. After selection, the NCO attends initial training at either the U.S. Army Acquisition Center of Excellence at the University of Alabama in Huntsville or the U.S. Air Force Mission Ready Airman Course in San Antonio, TX. NCOs are usually assigned to contracting teams in the U.S. Army Contracting Command. There are great opportunities for NCOs within Army’s Contracting.  NCOs can visit their career counselor or installation contracting office for more information, or visit the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center website at http://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/military-nco/reclassification-information.

    Civilian acquisition professionals are hired in all the 14 Acquisition Career Fields to include: Program Management; Facilities Engineering; Quality Assurance; Systems Planning, Research, Development and Engineering; Business – Financial Management/Cost Estimating; Life-cycle Logistics; Information Technology; and Test and Evaluation. Civilians desiring an acquisition career or to continue through the career field, can compete for openings across the Army through announcements posted on USA Jobs (http://www.usajobs.opm.gov) for everything from entry-level intern jobs to journeymen positions and even Senior Executive Service leadership. 

    Whether you are a Civilian, Officer, or NCO, if you believe you have the tenacity and drive to become an acquisition professional, then I encourage you to join us and apply.


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  • DACM Corner: Growing the Acquisition Workforce

    LTG William N. Phillips

    No doubt you’ve been hearing a lot about efficiencies and budget restraint, and about “doing more without more.” But you may not know that a few years before, they were a key topic of discussion in Washington in particular and among some senior leaders in DOD acquisition. The Army was well on its way to implementing a program that not only increases efficiencies, but also continues to ensure that the needs of our warfighters on the battlefield are met, and that we will have a viable and effective acquisition workforce into the future.

    Section 852 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY08 directed the establishment of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF), which permits DOD to recruit, hire, train, and retain its acquisition workforce. On April 6, 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates directed an increase of 10,000 civilian personnel in the DOD-wide acquisition workforce by FY15. The DAWDF was identified as the catalyst to achieve this initiative, and the Section 852 program was born.

    In 2009, the Army established a task force specifically to scope out the details of growing the acquisition workforce, and before deploying to Iraq, I was honored to help establish the task force effort in support of Mr. Dean Popps and LTG Thompson. The task force asked Army commands and organizations with acquisition positions to list their hiring requirements. The information was used to finalize a strategic approach for meeting the Secretary of Defense’s initiative. After the gathering of information was complete, the task force put in place the requirements by fiscal year and career field designation.

    The Army is responsible for increasing its acquisition workforce by 1,885 new hires by FY15, with 1,650 of the positions reserved specifically for the contracting acquisition career field. Most of these new hires are interns and journeymen. In FY09, we added 550 new hires; in FY10, 551; and to date, we’ve fulfilled a total of more than 1,370 new hires. As you can see, we are well on our way to reaching the goal of 1,885.

    Recruitment and hiring are highly specialized. Because the leaders of the individual organizations and commands know their needs best, they are tasked with hiring the new interns and journeymen to meet their specific needs. It is a decentralized process designed to find the people with the proper skills and experience that meet the individual commands’ needs.

    When I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Airland on April 5, a portion of my testimony was dedicated to this program and the caliber of our new hires. I reiterated to the members of the committee that we are looking at candidates coming out of colleges and universities who have the skills necessary to train in specific areas of expertise. With the Army’s high standards for recruiting and hiring interns today, we are finding candidates with incredible talent who, on average, have a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher.

    The acquisition intern program is a two-year program that mimics the Army’s intern program for non-acquisition fields. Section 852 provides the funding for us to train these interns for the entire length of the program. It even provides funding for a third year if necessary. We are developing in these talented and motivated interns the proper specialized skills and experience for FY15 and beyond. We want to ensure we are cost-effective in our acquisition programs, building the right systems and saving the taxpayers’ money. Let me add that we are incredibly proud of our new teammates coming into the Acquisition Corps, and especially the energy and skill that they bring.

    While we are executing our plan to grow the workforce, we have concept plans for placement of these new hires in the future. The Army, along with DOD, has proven itself to be proactive. Thanks to the implementation of this requirement identified by leadership in 2009, the acquisition workforce stands ready to meet future objectives. We are doing the right things at the right time.

    For more information on Section 852 hiring initiatives, please visit


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  • DACM Corner: AcqDemo: Rewarding Excellence

    LTG William N. Phillips

    Many of you in the Army Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Workforce no doubt are wondering what the pending transition from the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) to the Civilian Acquisition Workforce Personnel Demonstration Project (AcqDemo) will mean for your careers. I would like to assure you that AcqDemo brings with it great potential to recognize and reward your hard work on behalf of our Soldiers.

    The transition from NSPS to AcqDemo as the personnel and performance management system for approximately 14,000 employees in the DOD acquisition workforce, including about 6,000 in Army AL&T, is on track to be completed by May 22, as most of you have learned in your transition training sessions.

    AcqDemo reaches beyond the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology to other activities in which at least one-third of the workforce is acquisition personnel. For example, certain elements of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, but not all, will transition to AcqDemo. Also transitioning are the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and the U.S. Army Medical Command’s Health Care Acquisition Activity.

    Several organizations are considering converting from the General Schedule to AcqDemo. The DOD AcqDemo Project Director will convene a working group after the May 22 transition date that may add activities to the approved list of AcqDemo participants.

    AcqDemo was conceived in the mid-1990s as a personnel management system that would provide managers the authority, control, and flexibility to identify, recognize, and reward the skills that are vital for a high-quality professional workforce in the fields of AL&T. At the same time, AcqDemo is designed to expand the opportunities available to employees for personal and professional growth.

    AcqDemo, which covered more than 16,000 DOD employees at its peak, was interrupted in 2007, when all DOD personnel systems, including AcqDemo, were converted to NSPS for purposes of standardization. The FY10 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) repealed NSPS, returning DOD organizations, their employees, and positions to the personnel system they were in before NSPS. The FY11 NDAA then extended AcqDemo to the end of FY17.

    If you previously were under AcqDemo before converting to NSPS, you will not see a change in AcqDemo; it will look like it did before NSPS.

    If you are currently in NSPS, here’s what will not change under the AcqDemo: your benefits, including retirement and health and life insurance; policies on leave; work schedules; allowances and travel or subsistence payments; veterans’ preference; merit system principles; whistleblower protection; anti-discrimination policies; and fundamental due process.

    If you are new to AcqDemo, you’ll find that its processes and procedures are different in many respects from those that govern NSPS. The most visible difference will be AcqDemo’s Contribution-based Compensation and Appraisal System, which is much more like private-sector evaluation practices than NSPS, placing a greater focus on the employee’s contributions to the organization.

    The annual cycle of self-assessment, evaluation, and pay pool decisions will operate in much the same way in AcqDemo as in NSPS, but the factors to be considered in your self-assessment and evaluation are distinctly different. Specifically, AcqDemo will look at what you contribute in the areas of problem solving, teamwork and cooperation, customer relations, leadership and supervision, communications, and resource management.

    These factors were not chosen randomly. They reflect the very skills and talents the Army needs to attract, cultivate, and reward to build and maintain a top-notch AL&T Workforce.

    Your contributions within each of those factors will be scored, which will produce an Overall Contribution Score. That overall score will be measured against your Expected Contribution Range to determine whether you are being compensated appropriately. If not, you are in a good position to receive a Contribution Rating Increase, which is an additional increase to base pay. If you are found to be overcompensated, your pay will not be reduced by the pay pool panel.

    Your overall score also is a central consideration in whether you will receive a Contribution Award, or bonus, from the pay pool, and how much. The amount also depends, of course, on available funds, as it does with NSPS.

    For AcqDemo transition updates, visit http://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/ops/docs/Mar_11_AcqDemo_Contributions_Newsletter.pdf. For transition training information, visit http://asc.army.mil/organization/acqdemo/acqdemo_training.cfm. For answers to additional questions, contact the Army AcqDemo Program Office at Jerold.a.Lee@us.army.mil or the DOD AcqDemo Help Desk at Helpdesk@dau.mil.

    Whether you are being evaluated or are evaluating those you supervise, I think you will find AcqDemo to be a more flexible system of recognizing and rewarding excellence in the work we do every day to support our warfighters. Take full advantage of the opportunities it provides, and together we will continue building the Army Acquisition Corps of the future.


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  • Flying the CH-47F Chinook Helicopter: A Contracting Officer’s Journey

    Jean Hodges

    When I started out in contracting, doing construction for the Kansas Army National Guard in the late 1980s, not a week went by that I wasn’t out at the job site climbing ladders, examining pipes, or doing aircraft hangar walk-throughs. But for many of us in contracting today, our phones, computers, and videoconferences wall us into our offices and chain us to our desks, as we try to keep up with an ever-growing workload. Touching what we procure has become a treat, and when it comes to systems, actually operating one is even more of a rarity.

    Jean Hodges sat in a Common Aviation Architecture System simulator, seen here, procured by Program Executive Office Aviation to experience the sights, sounds, and feeling of piloting a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. (U.S. Army photo by Nick Vann Valkenburgh.)

    I recently had the opportunity to sit in a helicopter simulator that my office procured. I felt the rumble of the cockpit seat and experienced the thrill that those CH-47 Chinook pilots whom I support experience every day.

    From California to Afghanistan

    My “co-pilot,” Dennis Booth, CH-47F Transportable Flight Proficiency Simulator Device Manager, guided me expertly through the simulator’s displays, stick and thrust controls, pedals, and flight modes as I took off from Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, CA, cruised over the hills, and dodged the skyscrapers of San Diego—maneuvers made possible with projectors and mirrors right here at Program Executive Office Aviation in Huntsville, AL.

    Just as I was wondering what happens if the Chinook’s computer goes down, Dennis demonstrated the manual and fail-safe displays and controls familiar to me from Hollywood re-creations. At this point, Dennis suggested that I land “somewhere.” I opted against the water landing Chinooks can make for my first try, and since we headed inland, I decided instead on an uneven grassy hillside. Pushing downward on the thrust with my left hand while pulling back on the stick with my right, I was able to reduce my speed and altitude without losing alignment with the quickly approaching ground, as shown on the three different glowing displays in front of me.

    Not to be undone by this little setback, we restarted the program and were soon heading out over the desert plain in pursuit of the lead helicopters.

    When Dennis asked if I wanted to go to Afghanistan, of course I couldn’t pass that up. Two minutes later, against the natural forces of time and space, we were on the runway in Jalalabad, powering up to accompany three other Chinooks on our mock mission. Were it not for a moment of panic when Dennis left his co-pilot seat to adjust the computer, I think I could have executed another perfect takeoff. But, alas, I pitched right, then overcompensated—straight into the holographic hangar. With red flashing before my eyes, my death was instantaneous.

    Not to be undone by this little setback, we restarted the program and were soon heading out over the desert plain in pursuit of the lead helicopters.

    Dennis, still behind me at the “real” helm, suddenly created a thunderstorm at my 2 o’clock. It doubled and then tripled in size, the lightning fierce and the black clouds truly ominous. As if that weren’t bad enough, Dennis and his computer took us from noon to midnight in a split second. I could see the lights of two of my brethren, but not the third.

    As my allotted time ended (because Dennis was scheduled to be the co-pilot for another lucky adventurer) we emerged back into the comfort and safety of the simulator cockpit. I first thought of the skill, bravery, and pride of real pilots who fly every day. My second thought was, Wow! I buy not only these simulators that are part of pilots’ training, but also the actual helicopters they use to carry cargo and save Soldiers’ lives.

    I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing more important than getting that helicopter pilot what he needs, when he needs it.

    ‘Nothing More Important’

    By afternoon, I was back to the four walls of a conference room, listening to a debate about identifying and obtaining parts and kits and waiting anxiously for that little nugget of contracting information that makes those meetings worthwhile.

    Lo and behold, my ears perked up when someone mentioned “CAAS.” Before today, my brain would have immediately interpreted this as “Contract Administration and Audit Services.” Now, when someone says CAAS, I imagine myself in that cockpit, following the instructions from the Common Aviation Architecture System to safely take off, fly, and land a CH-47F helicopter, albeit simulated.

    And when I review a Statement of Work or negotiate a contract for the CAAS component, I have a point of reference that brings to life the words and numbers in front of me. At that moment, I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing more important than getting that helicopter pilot what he needs, when he needs it.

    • JEAN HODGES is the Director for Program Executive Office Aviation’s CH-47 Contracts. She holds a B.A. in psychology, human development, and crime and delinquency from the University of Kansas, an M.A. in contract management from Webster University, and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Hodges is certified Level III in contracting and Level I in program management and in business, cost, and finance. She is a Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship graduate and a U.S. Army Acquisition Corps member.

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  • DACM Corner: In Search of Contingency Contracting Officers and NCOs

    LTG William N. Phillips

    As I look at how to achieve growth and rebalancing across the acquisition workforce, it is clear to me that there are very talented, highly motivated people in our Army who would be great assets to our acquisition, logistics, and technology mission, if only they knew more about it. So I want to devote this column to an acquisition career field that is particularly rewarding and especially in need of more Soldiers: contingency contracting officer and contingency contracting NCO.

    Contingency contracting officers have the vital job of providing forward contracting support to ongoing war zone and humanitarian missions worldwide. Our Army is making a concerted effort to expand its ranks of contingency contracting officers and noncommissioned officers in Military Occupational Specialty 51C, Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Contracting NCO.

    These are not desk jobs—far from it. Contingency contracting is a front-line mission. Last year, the Army conducted 108 contingency contracting missions in 39 countries, providing combat support in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as humanitarian relief in Haiti and Pakistan. It’s the contingency contracting officer’s job to make those operations happen.

    Contingency contracting teams consist of two officers and two enlisted personnel placed inside a civilian contracting office on an installation. You may be contracting for commodities, construction, or services. Whatever you are tasked with purchasing, you are providing essential support to our warfighters.

    As is true throughout the AL&T Workforce, we’re looking for demonstrated excellence and the potential for future excellence as we grow our contingency contracting workforce. We need candidates with experience across the full range of Army activities to include logistics, combat arms, finance, and other areas.

    For MOS 51C specifically, where the Army is looking to add about 100 NCOs each year, we need promotable sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class with less than 10 years of service. Those with less than 13 years’ service may receive waivers. If you’re a younger Soldier with some college who has shown leadership, take a look at the 51C website, http://asc.army.mil/career/programs/nco/nco_prereq.cfm, for information on how to put together an application packet.

    Selected candidates will add to their education through acquisition and contracting courses. They gain a broad spectrum of knowledge in the materiel acquisition process—including relevant laws, regulations, policies, procedures, organizations, and Army doctrine. In addition, they learn new skills in providing contracting support to joint forces across the full spectrum of military and disaster relief operations. These highly valued skills include mastery of the PD2 software tool as well as contingency contracting techniques and procedures.

    Contingency contracting training is available at the Mission Ready Airmen Course in San Antonio, TX, and at the Army Acquisition Basic Course at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

    Within a year of joining the field, you could find yourself supporting counterinsurgency and humanitarian relief efforts. Activities you are likely to support include helping local populations stand up businesses, rebuilding their economies, and establishing employment for large numbers of people. In the current conflict(s), this is how our Army intends to prevail: by helping people who would otherwise be our enemy find productive and satisfying work, rather than planting improvised explosive devices.

    Taking care of our Army acquisition workforce continues to be my Number One priority. Getting cutting-edge capability into the hands of Soldiers, when and where they need it, requires a robust, well-balanced acquisition workforce. Contingency contracting is an essential part of this mission. Join us!


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