A Ready Acquisition Workforce

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The Human Capital Strategic Plan: What does it mean for you?

by Ms. Joan L. Sable

Shaped by two important factors—the Army priority of readiness and the Army acquisition executive’s philosophy of people, products and processes—the U.S. Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office has spent the past several months building the Human Capital Strategic Plan (HCSP), formalizing processes to sustain an Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW) that can provide our Soldiers with world-class equipment and services, now and in the future.

The HCSP emphasizes people as the enablers for the competencies, commitment and values that position the AAW to best contribute to mission readiness. It is this strategic focus on each member of the workforce and everything each one brings to the table that enables us to serve the Soldier at the highest level, sustain our investment in a dedicated, world-class acquisition workforce, and continue to recruit, develop and grow our talent.

Are you a member of the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW)? If you are, did you know there is an Army office specifically dedicated to you and your acquisition career? The Army DACM Office is here to support the 37,000 military and civilian acquisition professionals from across more than 12 commands and within 14 acquisition career fields.

This plan provides a framework to ensure that the Army DACM Office is aligned to provide the AAW with acquisition career information and leader development opportunities. So, why now? In a word: readiness.

The Army DACM Office is responsible for everything related to acquisition statutory requirements and professional development programs for a talented, educated and diverse workforce including military and civilian acquisition professionals—the engineers, contracting experts, life cycle logisticians, program managers, scientists, information technology specialists and more. That’s no small feat, especially considering the challenges we’re facing.

Since 2014, the Army has experienced a 38 percent increase in global security issues, while the acquisition workforce has experienced an 18 percent reduction in overall personnel—from 43,473 in 2007. Twenty percent of the AAW is eligible to retire, and that figure will rise to 57 percent in the next 10 years. Our leaders from across the Army acquisition community are aware of these changes and recognize the unique challenges they pose along with the evolving security environment, including the impact on Army readiness.

The Human Capital Strategic Plan is a team initiative. It was developed over the past year by leaders from across the AAW representing multiple commands, organizations, experience levels and skill sets. The Army DACM Office conducted an environmental scan focused on workforce demographics, interviewed senior leaders, and hosted three workshops to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats relative to the AAW. Participants from commands and organizations from across the acquisition community provided feedback on your unique needs and represented your interests.

As a result, five main goals emerged to align human capital strategies to the mission of the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)), representing the most critical human capital challenges we face.

But what’s a goal without objectives, milestones and measures?

All of those are captured in an implementation plan—a 65-page working document that outlines key initiatives, owners from across the community, milestones and measures of effectiveness over the next five years. (See Figure 1.) Not everything is new: Some of the initiatives are ongoing but needed adjusting to meet the intent of the plan. And while the official launch of the plan is in October, some of the new initiatives won’t begin right away. This is an enduring, collaborative effort—one that’s critical to develop the next generation of leaders and advance the Army acquisition profession.


The HCSP’s five main goals align human capital strategies with the ASA(ALT) mission and represent critical challenges facing the AAW. Shaped by the Army priority of readiness and a philosophy of people, policy and processes, the plan emphasizes people as the enablers for the competencies, commitment and values that position the AAW to best contribute to mission readiness. (SOURCE: Army DACM Office)

Goal One addresses workforce planning. How do we know we have the right human capital to face growing global security challenges and threats, and to leverage emerging technological innovations? Which Army positions should be acquisition positions? How do we recruit the best acquisition workforce talent for the future? This goal brings together a workforce planning process that will develop our collaborative, common view of the future acquisition workforce, informed by all of the commands, organizations and agencies that we partner with.

Some of the key initiatives include developing position guides so that requiring and hiring agencies can determine if a position is in acquisition; reducing the time it takes to fill vacancies, particularly in critical skill positions; collecting requirements to implement an integrated data management system across the Army acquisition community; developing a workforce planning and governance process outlining purpose, established roles and responsibilities, goals and objectives aligned under an integrated, enterprise-level workforce management framework; and increasing the use of flexible hiring authorities to fill acquisition positions efficiently.

Goal Two focuses on professional development. The AAW is governed by the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA), which governs acquisition career development and certification, and ensures relevancy through continuous learning points. DAWIA certification includes three tenets: Defense Acquisition University training; education; and experience. This goal focuses on each of these tenets with a specific emphasis on acquisition experience and innovative initiatives geared toward attaining it.

Some of the key initiatives include leveraging enterprisewide training and education opportunities supported by the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund to maximize employee professional growth opportunities; expanding the use of the Individual Development Plan to identify potential training, learning and mentorship opportunities; updating career development models for all acquisition career fields (ACFs); and conducting ACF functional and leadership competency assessments to enhance employee-supervisor discussions of career development opportunities and gaps.

Goal Three specifically addresses leader development. How do we better identify those AAW members who have the greatest leader potential and further develop those who need it? Lt. Gen. Michael E. Williamson, the Army DACM, instituted the Senior Rater Potential Evaluation policy as a tool modeled after the new Officer Evaluation Record to assess the leadership potential of our GS-12 through GS-15 acquisition professionals.

This tool has proven significant during the review board selection process for key positions and professional development opportunities. Once an acquisition professional emerges as having leadership potential, it’s critical to ensure that his or her leadership skills continue to develop through the many training, education and experience programs offered by the Army DACM Office. This goal also focuses on developing a leadership culture that embraces talent management and employee feedback.

Some of the key initiatives outlined in this goal include expanding central boards to key leader positions; ensuring the active promotion of enterprise talent management programs for all levels and encouragement for potential AAW leaders to apply; promoting and encouraging active participation in the Army’s Civilian Education System; and increasing participation in professional development programs offered by the Army DACM Office.

Goal Four provides special emphasis on employee engagement. Essentially, this goal will improve AAW engagement as a core business practice. We learned, through our initial analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, that many AAW members and potentially their supervisors might not understand they are part of this workforce. They might be going through the motions regarding their acquisition certification requirements without understanding that they are part of something bigger than themselves or their commands. This goal outlines objectives focused on improving acquisition employee-supervisor relationships.

Key initiatives include developing uniform onboarding guidance for the AAW community; increasing awareness and emphasis regarding supervisor training so that AAW members are well-prepared for supervisory positions; promoting quality-of-life programs; and increasing use of employee incentives to ensure that AAW members feel valued, appreciated and appropriately recognized.

Goal Five stresses the need for an effective communication and collaboration process. Because the AAW is a diverse workforce both geographically and across commands, it is important to ensure that acquisition and non-acquisition leaders and professionals understand the mission and are aware of the DAWIA mandate on acquisition professionals. This goal focuses on bringing the community together through a governance process involving representatives from across this diverse group. It also focuses on effectively communicating and synchronizing AAW initiatives while building enduring relationships with our customers, partners and stakeholders.

Some of the key initiatives include conducting professional development visits at key commands and agencies; developing a governance process to validate, prioritize and integrate human capital programs; and promoting the Army acquisition community as a way to share best practices and achievements.

The HCSP supports the Army’s readiness priorities and the Army acquisition executive’s philosophy focused on people, products and processes. It institutionalizes an enduring process to sustain this high-quality workforce charged with a unique and critical mission: to provide Soldiers with the equipment and services they need to win, no matter the mission, environment or location in the world. It’s a commitment to and an investment in people to sustain the acquisition workforce we have today and build the one we need for tomorrow.

For more information and a copy of the plan, go to https://asc.army.mil/web/hcsp. We welcome your feedback, thoughts and comments at usarmy.belvoir.usaac.mbx.usaac-aaw-hcsp@mail.mil.

MS. JOAN L. SABLE is chief of the Human Capital Initiatives Division in the Army DACM Office. She holds an MBA from Strayer University and a B.S. in education from Longwood University, and has worked in the Army acquisition community for more than 17 years. She is Level III certified in program management and a member of the Army Acquisition Corps.

This article was originally published in the October – December 2016 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

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