Talent management strategy seeks to grow, develop future acquisition leaders
By LTG Michael E. Williamson, Director,Acquisition Career Management
Force 2025 and Beyond is a comprehensive effort to develop concepts into capabilities that will ensure that our Army continues to deliver professionally trained and ready forces as the most decisive land power in the world. It is about people building the future Army, a complex undertaking based on lessons learned, threat assessments, promising technologies, strategic plans and other critical factors. It is about identifying the Army’s best talent to seize the future.
As the director of acquisition career management (DACM), my plan for the nearly 38,000-member Army Acquisition Workforce is to have the right people in the right jobs with the right skills at the right time to deliver decisive-edge capabilities to our Soldiers at all times.
This ambitious initiative for our acquisition professionals is known as “talent management.” It is an Army enterprise-level effort to identify, grow and develop our future military and civilian acquisition leaders to recognize opportunity, embrace new ideas, manage risk and realize their true potential. It is also about recruiting and retaining top-notch acquisition professionals to sustain the workforce through time.
To fully realize the maximum potential for the military members of our acquisition workforce, we continue to evaluate and refine our officer and noncommissioned officer professional development models. We do this to increase the bench of experience throughout the program management and contracting arenas while also enabling career broadening for optimal development. Our efforts include the following:
- The development and implementation of a deliberate and coordinated process to optimize leader development practices and align talent with current and future Army Acquisition Corps (AAC) requirements. The Army’s military acquisition positions are now identified by categories to demonstrate career progression from functional to career-broadening opportunities to senior-level positions. This allows the Army to analyze the acquisition talent pool and identify personnel with the potential for higher-level job responsibilities, from the most junior grades all the way to senior field-grade positions.
- Progress toward future development of a system to define, capture and archive assignment metrics and data. These details will ensure that we remain on the leading edge with a talent management approach for our Functional Area 51 acquisition officers.
The publication of FY15 military acquisition assignment guidance and priorities, focused from a strategic as well as a talent management perspective, guides our Acquisition Management Branch in assigning the right personnel with the right skills to right positions at the right places. I ensured the identification of nominative positions as well as course attendance, advanced civil schooling and Training with Industry opportunities, including:
- The unique Acquisition Leader Development Course (ALDC)—Our centrally selected list (CSL) key acquisition billets (product and project manager) attend pre-command courses (PCCs) mandated by the secretary of the Army at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and a branch PCC based on their program assignment. Currently, there is not an acquisition-focused PCC opportunity.
The ALDC is a new concept that will be piloted in the third quarter of FY15 to provide centrally selected product and project managers, contracting commanders, acquisition directors and product directors with the capabilities required to successfully execute their acquisition leadership responsibilities. The objectives of this three- to five-day course include providing acquisition senior leaders with strategic guidance; preparing those about to assume these centrally selected positions with the mindset, knowledge and skills required to effectively execute their new responsibilities; managing risk; leveraging the talents of their teams; and creating a culture of innovation. This course will also enable attendees to benefit from lessons learned by leaders at the top of the acquisition profession, and ensure a reachback capability so that participants can tap the best leaders and experts for advice when faced with difficult challenges on the job.
- Core Intermediate Level Education (ILE) for acquisition officers—The ILE venue of attendance is determined by a board that meets annually following the Army competitive category (ACC) majors promotion board. The ILE board evaluates officers selected for promotion and determines the venue in which they will attend ILE in a designated calendar year (CY). When ACC officers are board-selected to ILE for a particular venue and CY, attendance takes precedence over other assignments and developmental considerations. Core ILE serves as another talent management opportunity.
For the advancement of the Army’s civilian acquisition professionals, we have several talent management initiatives and tools, which include the following:
- Our on-boarding activities, which energize new acquisition personnel regarding the critical importance of our mission, ensure acclimation to the acquisition team, reinforce retention and begin, from day one, to guide, mentor and coach them on their acquisition functional responsibilities.
- Career development models for specific acquisition career fields (ACFs), similar to military models and available on the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) Army DACM website: https://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/civilian/career-planning-steps/. These models are intended as notional guides for professional growth and a well-rounded ACF experience. Not every opportunity presented on the models is required or suited for everyone. Within the models, courses and programs are hyperlinks that connect to dedicated Web pages with additional information for each opportunity. Acquisition workforce civilians, along with their supervisors, should use these models as tools for developing plans to advance their acquisition careers.
- The launch in summer 2015 of “Ellie,” the Army’s virtual acquisition career guide, which will provide personalized acquisition career management guidance on a variety of topics including Acquisition Career Record Brief maintenance and Defense Acquisition University (DAU) training and registration.
- Development and application of an individual, overarching career concept based on mission, vision and goals, which is highly encouraged for our acquisition professionals. This career concept would include mentoring, developmental opportunities and ACF professional certifications for specific career fields as established in the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act.
- The 2014 Civilian Project/Product Manager Handbook, which provides aspiring centrally selected product manager, project manager or product director applicants with a set of tools and critical information to guide them through the application and selection process. These positions are among the most challenging in the acquisition workforce. The handbook is on USAASC’s Army DACM Office website: https://asc.army.mil/web/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014_PM_handbookv-110414_FINAL.pdf.
- A centrally selected product director program pilot, deployed as another opportunity for high-performing civilians with leadership potential. The FY15-16 product director centralized selection board application window was Sept. 24 to Nov. 14, 2014. The board met in December 2014, and slating will take place this winter. Implementation of this pilot program includes appropriate predevelopment and follow-on positions after successful completion of the assignment. Approximately seven to 10 re-designated CSL product or project manager billets will be identified as product director positions annually, for a steady state of approximately 21-30 professionals. More information is available at https://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/prod-dir/.
- Aggressive management of post-utilization assignments for key leader positions. Senior Service College graduates (including our DAU Senior Service College Fellows), and post-CSL product or project managers and product directors can expect lateral developmental and broadening experiences to enhance their skills, while allowing them to put their acquired skill sets and advanced education to good use for their benefit as well as the Army’s.
In addition, the following tools for both our military and civilian Army acquisition professionals are available at the USAASC Army DACM Office website:
- Civilian and military career planning steps, providing further detail on career development opportunities.
- The DACM Newsletter, published online every quarter with a focus on acquisition career development. The newsletter highlights upcoming career development opportunities and initiatives, plus news about specific ACFs.
- The monthly DACM Office column “Hot Topics,” which offers a central online location for workforce members to learn about the latest centrally funded acquisition opportunities, changes to DAU courses and certification requirements, and other important information. It offers another “one-stop shop” for anything related to acquisition career management.
- USAASC’s “Workforce Minutes” video series at https://www.youtube.com/user/usaasc, offering insights into the various opportunities available to our Army acquisition workforce. I recently recorded a message on talent management.
Using these tools and information, our Army acquisition professionals can implement strategic talent management to ensure that they are on the right path to successful careers.
The Army of the future, like the Army of today, depends on an elite cadre of acquisition professionals to develop, acquire, field and sustain the world’s best equipment and services by efficiently leveraging technologies and capabilities.
To continue to achieve this mission means having the right people in the right jobs with the right skills at the right time. This is a high priority for me, and it is one I look forward to working with all members of the Army Acquisition Workforce to accomplish.
This article was originally published in the January – March 2015 issue of Army AL&T magazine.