• What Does It Mean to Be “a Defense Acquisition Professional”?

    From the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
    Frank Kendall


    One of the seven goals of Better Buying Power 2.0 is to improve the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce. I thought it might be useful to provide some specificity about what I have in mind when I talk about professionalism. The following is based on various experiences over my career, including some formal education on the nature of professionalism in the military, including at venues like West Point and the Army War College, in my on-the-job training in program management and systems engineering by various Air Force colonels in the Ballistic Missile Office, and by mentors in the Army’s Ballistic Missile Defense Systems Command. I don’t intend this to be an academic discussion, however, but a hands-on practical application of the term “professional” in the context of defense acquisition.

    Defense acquisition professionals have a special body of knowledge and experience that is not easily acquired. Other professions such as attorneys, physicians, and military officers also have this characteristic. The situation for defense acquisition professionals is analogous. This characteristic applies equally to professionals in program management, engineering, contracting, test and evaluation, and product support, to name our most obvious examples. One should no more expect a lay person to make good judgments about something in these acquisition fields—be it a program structure, a risk mitigation approach, or the incentive structure of a contract—than one would expect an amateur to tell a lawyer how to argue a case, or a brain surgeon how to do an operation, or a brigade commander how to organize an attack. No one should expect an amateur without acquisition experience to be able to exercise professional judgments in acquisition without the years of training and experience it takes to learn the field. Like these other highly skilled professions, our expertise sets us apart. Defense acquisition professionals set the standards for members of the profession. One of the reasons we are establishing “qualification boards” for our various key senior leader fields is to infuse a greater element of this characteristic into our workforce. Our senior professionals should know better than anyone else what it takes to be successful as a key acquisition leader. A professional career-field board will make the determination, in a “peer review” context, whether an individual has the experience, education, training, and demonstrated talent to accept responsibility for the success of all, or a major aspect of, a multibillion dollar program. This is not a minor responsibility. These new boards are an experiment at this stage, but I am hopeful that they will take on a large share of the responsibility for enhancing and sustaining the expected level of preparation and performance of our key leaders. The boards will be joint, so that our professional standards are high and uniform across the defense Services and agencies. Setting standards for other members of the profession also encompasses the development and mentoring responsibilities that leaders at all levels, including AEs, PEOs, and other acquisition leaders, take on to strengthen and maintain the profession. They know that their most important legacy is a stronger—and more professional—workforce than the one they inherited.

    Defense acquisition professionals know how to deal with complexity. The problems we have to solve are not simple—we are developing and fielding some of the most complicated and technically advanced systems and technologies in military history. It is therefore an illusion to believe that defense acquisition success is just a matter of applying the right, easily learned “cookbook” or “checklist” approach to doing our jobs. There are no fixed rules that apply to all situations, and as professionals we know that a deeper level of comprehension is needed to understand how to make good decisions about such issues as technical risk mitigation, what incentives will best improve industry’s performance, what it will take to ensure that a product is mature enough to enter production, or how much testing is needed to verify compliance with a requirement. It is not enough to know acquisition best practices; acquisition professionals must understand the “why” behind the best practices—that is, the underlying principles at play. Many of our products consist of thousands of parts and millions of lines of code. They must satisfy hundreds of requirements, and it takes several years to bring them into production. Understanding and managing complexity is central to our work.

    “No one should expect an amateur without acquisition experience to be able to exercise professional judgments in acquisition without the years of training and experience it takes to learn the field.”

    Defense acquisition professionals embrace a culture of continuous improvement. The concept of continuous improvement should apply to our own capabilities as individuals, to the teams we lead, to the processes we create and manage, and to the acquisition outcomes we seek. Better Buying Power is built on the idea of continuous improvement, of measuring performance, of setting targets for improving that performance, and striving to reach them (“should cost” for example). We are willing to examine our own results and think critically about where we can achieve more, and we have the courage and character to learn from our mistakes and to implement constantly ideas for better performance. As leaders we encourage these behaviors in the people who work for us and who collaborate with us.

    Defense acquisition professionals practice and require ethical standards of behavior and conduct. Our ethical values guide how we interact with one another, with our supervisors, with industry, and with stakeholders including the public, media, and Congress. An Under Secretary whom I worked for decades ago told me once that when you lose your credibility you have nothing left—and you won’t get it back. We must speak truth to power about problems within our programs and about ill-advised guidance that will lead to poor results. Successful acquisition requires a culture of “telling bad news fast,” and that values accountability without a “shoot the messenger” mentality. Finally, it is particularly important that we treat industry fairly and with complete transparency.

    I hope that this doesn’t all come across as either preachy or aspirational. I believe that these are realistic expectations for defense acquisition professionals. I believe that they go a long way to defining what being a professional really means. My West Point class (1971) motto is “Professionally Done.” I have always thought that this is a pretty good motto, and a pretty good way to look back on a successful career or a completed project, including in defense acquisition.

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  • Acquisition Education and Training Corner

    Even in the face of significant fiscal constraints, our acquisition workforce still has statutory requirements to meet. Therefore, we will still be offering many of our Acquisition Education, Training and Experience (AETE) opportunities. In addition, the Hon. Frank Kendall, under secretary of defense, published a memorandum (“Continuation of Centrally Funded Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund Initiatives”) on March 13, 2013. In that memorandum, he states we “must continue acquisition workforce initiatives centrally funded by…the DAWDF [Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund]. These initiatives include…DAWDF initiatives to bolster and sustain the quality of the acquisition workforce. Quality initiatives include training, development, recruitment, and retention initiatives.”
    Below are three of our programs that will continue to be offered.

    Excellence in Government Fellowship (EIGF)
    The announcement will be open from June 13 to July 15 for all eligible personnel in GS-13 to GS-15 or broadband/pay band equivalent positions who have met their current position certification requirement. EIGF offers senior acquisition workforce members the opportunity to network and team with fellow senior leaders from across the government. This program focuses on benchmarking best practices and then returning to your organization to implement. For more information, go to: http://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/programs/excellence-in-government-fellows-program/.

    Defense Civilian Emerging Leader Program (DCELP)
    The announcement will be open from May 13 to June 18 to all eligible personnel in GS-7 to GS-11 or broadband/pay band equivalent positions who have met their current position certification requirement. DCELP is designed to develop the next generation of innovative leaders with the technical competence to meet the future leadership needs of DOD. All acquisition Army submissions will be collected by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC). For more information, go to: http://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/programs/dcelp/.

    Acquisition Leadership Challenge Program (ALCP)
    The Announcement is open until May 30 to all eligible personnel in GS-12 or GS-13 for ALCP level I and GS-14 or GS-15 for ALCP level II or broadband/pay band equivalent positions who have met their current position certification requirement. ALCP offers our acquisition workforce members a hard-hitting leadership development seminar with teambuilding and practical guide to assist overall Leadership and Diversity development in organizations. The foundation of the ALCP is self-awareness as the key to both leadership and diversity development to create an innovative culture by helping to understand each individual’s personal preferences and behaviors and how each not only interact with their co-workers, but how they are viewed by others. For more information, visit

    How to Apply for EIGF, DCELP or ALCP
    Applicants interested in applying for any of these three programs must submit their application in Army Acquisition Professional Development System (AAPDS). To access AAPDS, login at the Career Acquisition Management Portal: https://rda.altess.army.mil/camp/. Next click on Career Acquisition Personnel and Position Management Information System (CAPPMIS). Once in CAPPMIS, select the “AAPDS” tab, and then select the “Application Module” link. Click on “Apply” and view all Army DACM available opportunities.

    Defense Acquisition University (DAU) Training

    On Thursday, May 16, the FY14 schedule will be available for students to apply for classes (https://atrrs.army.mil/channels/aitas/). If students are unable to attend an FY13 course, they need to review and complete the required course prerequisite(s) now for a course they intend to take in the future. Students should continue to apply for FY13 courses available on the schedule. Planning and applying early will afford students a better opportunity to obtain a class in the timeframe requested. Encourage your supervisor to approve your training request as soon as you apply. Students should view the DAU I-catalog at http://icatalog.dau.mil to ensure they meet the prerequisite(s), prior to applying to a DAU course. A weekly low-fill listing is posted weekly at http://icatalog.dau.mil/onlinecatalog/tabnav.aspx to allow students opportunity to attend classes coming up in the next 60 days. Low-fill classes within 60 days of the start date of the class are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Training required for Army acquisition workforce members is a mission critical activity and is exempt from recent cuts, as stated in the Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter memo dated Jan. 10, 2013. DAU travel for required Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certification courses is centrally funded by DAU through the USAASC. Some acquisition workforce members’ travel for DAU acquisition certification training is being cancelled by organizations due to their current interpretation of their budget execution mitigation efforts. The memo (link below) outlines that DAU central funds is entirely separate from budgetary actions within a service or agency to mitigate budget execution issues in FY13. Army acquisition students approved to use DAU central funds to attend training shall not cancel training due to budget constraints. Cancellation requests (from students approved for central travel funds) less than 30 days from class start or reservation cut-off date (with funding constraint as a reason), will be denied. Students shall be deemed a “no-show” if they do not attend the scheduled training.

    For FY13, USAASC will continue to centrally fund cost-effective locations selected by the student. Commands and supervisors should continue to support and send their employees to required DAWIA training. To view the DAU travel status memo, go to: http://asc.army.mil/web/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/DAU-Travel-Status-Memo-2013.pdf.

    For FY14, travel funds will be cut significantly. At this point, USAASC will only fund priority 1 (required training) travel to cost effective locations. Depending on funding, we may elect to also centrally fund priority 2 training.

    DAU plans to support the teaching schedule under furlough conditions. Students can view the tentative schedule at https://atrrs.army.mil/channels/aitas/. The plan is not final. Once the plan is formalized, DAU will provide communication to the DACM offices, post to the DAU website and send notices to the students. Students attending a DAU course will assume the furlough schedule of DAU and not their home organization for the duration of their DAU training.

    DAU course management has a new process to allow higher priority, specifically priority 1 student’s first preference in the DAU resident courses. As a result, students in priority 2 through 5 will be waitlisted for classes showing available seats. When a student is placed in a wait status, they will roll into a reservation 65 days prior to class start date if a priority 1 does not encumber a seat. They could still be bumped up to five business days prior to class reservation cut-off date or start date, whichever is higher, if a higher priority student applied within the 65 days. The new process minimizes bumping and allows priority 1s to see which courses actually have seats available for them to obtain their required position certification.

    P1 Position Requirement (Training required to meet position certification or program requirements)
    P2 Career Development (Training to become eligible for the next higher certification level above the certification level required for their position/career development (Individual has met their position certification requirement))
    P3 Cross Functional Training (Personnel who occupy an acquisition position in one acquisition career field, but desire training in a different acquisition career field. Individuals should complete all mandatory training required for their position before attending any cross functional training.)
    Career Development (Individual has not met their position certification requirement)
    P4 Previously Taken Training or Already Certified (Individuals who previously completed the DAU course or individuals who have received equivalency or individuals who are already certified at the career level and have not previously taken the course)
    P5 Non-Acquisition Workforce (Individuals who are not in a designated acquisition workforce position. Individuals will be on a space available basis. If selected, individual’s command will be required to fund the travel and per diem. The instructional training (classroom/web) will be at no cost to the student.)


    Applications cannot be processed by the Army registrar office until the training has been approved by the supervisor. It is also imperative the student and supervisor email address is provided correctly on the AITAS student profile. Please apply through the Army Training Requirements (ATRRS) and Resources Internet Training Application System (AITAS) at https://www.atrrs.army.mil/channels/aitas.

    For more information on DAU training, including systematic instructions, training priority definition or FAQs, please see link at: http://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/civilian/faqs/. Once you receive a confirmed reservation in the requested class, ensure you attend the class as scheduled. A cancellation request for a confirmed reservation must submitted at least 30 calendar days before the class starts or by the reservation cutoff date, whichever is earlier, to avoid a no-show.

    DACM News

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  • Faces of the Force

    Template for Faces of the Force

    Tracking Career Development


    By Susan L. Follett


    FOTF: What do you do for the Army? Why is it important?

    FOSTER: I am part of the Acquisition Career Development Division, which has a mission to serve as advocates for the Army Acquisition Workforce on behalf of the Director/Deputy Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM/DDACM). Specifically, I am the Proponency Officer for Contracting, one of 14 acquisition career fields. I am responsible for writing and updating Army acquisition workforce policies and procedures. I also serve as the DACM/DDACM office principal advisor on all matters related to the Contracting Acquisition workforce. As of Dec. 31, 2012, our acquisition workforce includes roughly 8,800 contracting professionals, and I make sure that they have received the training required for certification under the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA).

    I also support the Functional Area 51C Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) Reclassification Board, providing an Order of Merit List to select best-qualified candidates to serve as Contracting Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs). Our efforts are important because they ensure we have qualified contracting personnel here and in theater so our Soldiers have access to the equipment they need for mission success.

    FOTF Editor’s Note: MOS 51C classification is an acquisition, logistics, and technology designation for contracting NCOs. It was established in 2006 to meet the Army’s increasing need for contingency contracting officers in the modular force. The primary mission for MOS 51C NCOs is to deploy as contingency contracting officers and serve as members of the early entry contingency contracting team.

    FOTF: What’s your biggest challenge? How is it overcome?

    FOSTER: One of my responsibilities is to represent the Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) at Contracting Functional Integrated Product Team (FIPT) meetings, which are held quarterly, and to advise Contracting Functional Leaders on career field competencies, DAWIA requirements, and workforce development. Senior functional leaders designated by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology lead these FIPTs and discuss a variety of topics affecting the workforce. An example of a discussion topic might be whether to add classes to a certification requirement. Service and 4th Estate Agency DACM representatives as well as functional leaders attend the FIPTs as subject matter experts. My role is to ensure the Army DACM’s viewpoint is represented during these discussions.

    The biggest hurdle I face is making sure that I accurately represent the DACM’s point of view at FIPT meetings. It’s my job to ensure that all defense acquisition workforce initiatives and proponency issues are properly vetted, communicated, and addressed with our stakeholders and accurately communicated during the FIPT meetings. To ensure that happens, we hold weekly meetings within our organization to share information and discuss issues, and we closely follow DOD regulations to be sure we are up to speed on issues that affect our mission.

    FOTF: What do you enjoy most about your work?

    FOSTER: I really enjoy the opportunity to help Soldiers reclassify to MOS 51C. This is a very competitive field. The work is challenging and the promotion potential is good. To reclassify, NCOs need to meet a rigorous list of requirements, and to see that work pay off for them is very gratifying.

    FOTF: What do you do when you’re not at work? How do those activities dovetail with your job?

    FOSTER: I coach a junior varsity girls’ basketball team, and so far, we’re having a great season. Our record is 15-7. Both work and coaching involve a great deal of mentorship, and I really enjoy that aspect of it. On the court, I spend a lot of time mentoring my players, and at work we try to encourage Soldiers and civilians to get the most out of a career in Army acquisition.

    FOTF: Why did you join the Army? What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army?

    FOSTER: I became an Army Civilian because I wanted to contribute to the well-being of Soldiers. My greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army is the opportunity to impact the lives of others in a positive way.

    51C applications are being accepted throughout the year. For more information, please visit http://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/military-nco/active-component-reclass-program/.

    • “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines are featured every other week. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.

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