POSITION: Deputy Director, Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground.
UNIT: Army Contracting Command
TOTAL YEARS OF ARMY SERVICE: 29
AWARDS: Superior Civilian Service Award; Commander’s Award for Civilian Service; Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service
EDUCATION: MBA, Loyola University; B.S. in business and marketing, Towson University
Change in plans leads to 29-Year Career
By Susan L. Follett
“I had no intention of working for the government—I wanted to make money.” That’s what Steven Bryant told his father, an Army sergeant major who served 33 years, when his dad suggested he look for a job with the Army.
“So, after I got my MBA, I went to work for a builder-developer and had a very lucrative job. But I was working seven days a week and had just gotten married. I had worked for Non Appropriated Funds while I was in college, running teen centers, which also provided me an opportunity to participate in the civilian welfare sports leagues on post. Jim Warrington, who worked in contracting, was one of the guys I knew through those teams, and he asked me about working [in Army contracting] at a time when I was ready for a career change. I applied and got the job and liked it, even though I made a quarter of what I made in the private sector.”
Fast forward to today, where you’ll find Bryant—now in the 29th year of his Army career—as the deputy director of the Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground. “Looking back, I guess it’s not a surprise that I’m still here,” he said. “I love what I do, I enjoy being knowledgeable and good at what I do, and that comes from staying in one career field for a long time.”
He added, “I remember my first day on the job. The director of the contracting center invited me into his office and gave me an introduction to the organization. He said that it would take me around seven years to get good at this job. At the time I said to myself, ‘that’s impossible, there is no way it’s going to take me seven years to get good at this.’ Little did I know just how complicated and expansive government contracting can be. Now, 29 years later, I am still learning my craft.”
Over the course of his career, he said, “I’ve held every position available in the 1102 contracting career field in support of my organization.” The most challenging role? Serving as interim deputy director for the previous PARC [Principle Assistant Responsible for Contracting], a position he held during the year it took to find a replacement.
“In that role, you’re the senior executive for the entire organization; you make all the decisions,” he said. “People come to you with tough problems—if they were easy, they would have solved them themselves—and no one second-guesses the decisions you make. I liked that aspect of it, and knowing that it’s important to consider the consequences of your decisions.”
What do you do and why is it important to the warfighter?
My most important contribution in support of the warfighter is to manage and guide the contracting process to enable the warfighting mission. I ensure employees have the tools they need to execute contracts in support of the warfighter.
What are some of the milestones you’ve achieved?
One of my most rewarding achievements was serving as a principle architect in the consolidation of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s (RDECOM) contracting center and the Army Communications-Electronics Command’s (CECOM) contracting center. CECOM’s contracting center—roughly 450 people—relocated to Aberdeen a few years ago, as part of BRAC at Fort Monmouth. Ironically, the order to consolidate came on April Fool’s Day, 2011. However, most of the people on the CECOM contracting staff found jobs with other agencies in New Jersey, and only 10 percent of them decided to come to Aberdeen.
That meant that while the contracting workload moved to Aberdeen, most of the skill and expertise didn’t come with it. They hired a lot of new people—at one point, each contracting officer managed about 20 interns. Fortunately, our staff at Aberdeen really stepped up and we were able to leverage not only our expertise from RDECOM contracting, but the seasoned folks who made the trip from New Jersey and an enthusiastic, intelligent group of interns. We have been extremely successful in merging the two centers and maintaining exceptional mission support to our customers. At this point 57 percent of our contracting staff has less than 10 years experience. It is a daily challenge to educate, train and retain a professional work force.
Another challenge we face is that we’re a dispersed organization: we have 14 divisions, including seven at Aberdeen, and others in Natick, Massachusetts; Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Fort Huachuca, Arizona; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; and Adelphi, Maryland. Our ability to manage this environment effectively has been accomplished through the positioning of highly talented, empowered Division Chiefs.
What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army Acquisition Corps?
My greatest satisfaction is the opportunity to serve my country, provide direct support to the warfighter and shape the professional careers of young acquisition professionals. We devote a lot of time to workforce development, not just training to develop skill sets but accession planning and helping our senior management become better leaders and supervisors. Developing the people who’ll one day take our place is one of our top priorities.
- “Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.
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