INSIDER INFO: Brent Perdu, Joint Contingency and Expeditionary Services (JCXS) contract program manager, briefs Dominguez regarding the JCXS contract during his assignment with the TWI program.
The DACM Office offers robust training and education programs for officers and NCOs
by Jacqueline M. Hames
The Army Acquisition Workforce is comprised of about 32,000 civilian and military professionals—and 90 percent have earned at least a four-year degree and nearly 50 percent an advanced degree. Those higher degrees can help open more opportunities for civilian and military professionals alike and are expanded upon by the development opportunities in the Army Director of Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office.
The DACM Office offers many training and education programs, several of which are available to officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs), like the Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program, the Training With Industry (TWI) program and the Acquisition Tuition Assistance Program (ATAP). All of these programs are designed to help military professionals increase their knowledge, skills and abilities to grow their careers.
The majority of the acquisition workforce is civilian—about 95 percent, in fact—but acquisition officers and NCOs are every bit as essential to the mission. As either Functional Area (FA) 51A (program management) or 51C (contracting) officers and NCOs, they meet the needs of the Soldier by incorporating technical solutions to respond to the evolving threat environment and ensure the delivery of quality capabilities. Military personnel also work with joint and international partners, industry and academia to continually improve Army capabilities and interoperability.
After joining the acquisition workforce and completing the appropriate required training for either officers or NCOs, additional developmental opportunities can begin—through both higher education assistance and experiential programs.
Advanced Civil Schooling is available for both officers and NCOs—FA51 officers and 51C NCOs can pursue advanced degrees full time at civilian universities through this program. “I think that ACS is really beneficial,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Brown, acquisition proponent NCO. “We have a lot of folks within our career field [who] have postgraduate degrees. So, you know obtaining that is something that that makes you competitive against your peers The Degree Completion Program allows NCOs to earn a bachelor’s degree while continuing to receive full pay and authorized benefits.”
Sgt. 1st Class William Yongue recommends Soldiers synchronize their educational opportunities with their career timelines to get the most out of both. Yongue chose to begin the application process for the ACS program following his permanent change of station. “I realized I needed to focus on my move and new position but am working the application process into my long-term career timeline,” he said.
The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) is also open to NCOs and officers. NCOs may now apply through the ACS program and select NPS as one of the schools that they would like to attend. Yongue said that two NCOs currently attending NPS are expected to graduate this July, and two more will be enrolled that same month.
“The Naval Postgraduate School is also available to our workforce, where an individual could complete their intermediate-level education for military education, earn a master’s and complete required classes for certification in their area of concentration,” said Maj. Timothy Demerath, FA51 proponency officer with the DACM Office. “If you need a master’s degree, then the Advanced Civil School option is great for accomplishing that degree.”
Officers can apply to NPS to complete part of their Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act-required certification training, as well as to complete master’s degrees and intermediate-level education requirements, Demerath said.
However, sometimes money is the sticking point in continuing education—that’s where the Acquisition Tuition Assistance Program comes in. The ATAP program is designed to fund individual college courses related to business and acquisition or those required for undergraduate and graduate degrees in a related discipline. It covers tuition as well as laboratory and technology fees, within limits, to acquisition workforce civilians and contracting NCOs. Everyone—civilians and military—can apply for ATAP.
GET TO WORK
Education can be a good way to advance your career, but experience outside of your normal work environment can also be extremely valuable—not only for you as the employee, but also for your employer. One of the DACM Office’s best development opportunities for military personnel is the Training With Industry program.
TWI is a work experience program designed to provide exposure to managerial techniques and industrial procedures within corporate America. The program is mostly for FA51 officers, though there is one space for a 51C NCO at the Defense Logistics Agency in Lorton, Virginia, Yongue said.
Lt. Col. Rob Heatherly, who is currently attending the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, participated in the TWI program earlier in his career. A self-described lifelong learner, he said he was “super lucky” to be selected for the TWI program during his acquisition career. “That was hands-down the best broadening assignment for an acquisition officer,” he said. The experience allowed him to learn about partners in the defense industry and how they cooperate with DOD. One of the most valuable things he learned was how to cultivate relationships with defense contractors. “You should have open and honest communication. You should have a relationship with them, a professional relationship, but what makes relationships work is communication,” he said.
Officers and NCOs can also attend various leadership courses to help hone their skills, including pre-command courses and program management courses for officers, and the Advanced, Senior or Master’s Leaders Courses for NCOs.
The actual benefit of all that training and education can sometimes feel a bit nebulous. But if you stick with it, it can help advance you to high-level jobs.
Colonels, lieutenant colonels and sergeants major may be eligible to apply for centralized selection list (CSL) positions when they are ready to take on command or key acquisition billets. The CSL process selects the best qualified individuals for specifically identified positions to meet the needs of Army acquisition. Required training, certifications, work experience and relevant degrees from the DACM Office’s training and education programs could help with securing a CSL position, Demerath explained.
Whether your career goals are to enhance current skills and knowledge, or to progress through the ranks to important acquisition positions, it’s important to take the first step and get answers to any burning questions. “The biggest piece of advice is don’t be afraid to reach out to us,” Yongue said of the proponency officers. “If they pick up the phone and call, hit us on Teams or by email, one of us is going to be available to answer those questions.”
All of the DACM Office’s training and education programs “are incredible for preparing a Soldier or even civilian for developing as an acquisition professional and leader—if they are new or even if they have been around Army acquisitions for years,” Demerath said.
For more information about military training and education, go to https://asc.army.mil/web/dacm-office.
JACQUELINE M. HAMES is an editor with Army AL&T magazine. She holds a B.A. in creative writing from Christopher Newport University. She has more than 10 years of experience writing and editing news and feature articles for publication.