The DACM Office and the Naval Postgraduate School realign degree programs to boost technical education of civilians and officers.
Earlier this year, I was in beautiful Monterey, California, to help put the final touches to a new effort for the Army Acquisition Workforce at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). Starting this fall, the civilians that the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center’s Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office sends to NPS will be pursuing an M.S. in systems and program management. Officers will pursue an M.S. in systems engineering management starting this summer. Previously, the professionals we sent to NPS were seeking an MBA.
The new programs that we’re sending our students through—Curriculum 522 for officers and Curriculum 722 for civilians—will focus on getting them greater exposure and training across multiple career fields with added emphasis on critical thinking across domains; however, the curriculum has much of the same content as the previous master’s program. In addition to their master’s degree, civilians in a distance learning program will earn training equivalent to Level III Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act training in program management and in engineering, Level II in test and evaluation and at least Level I in contracting. Any time you can get training and education simultaneously, you’ve got a greater opportunity to employ them in the experiential environment.
Eligible resident officers completing the 522 degree program also will obtain their Joint Professional Military Education and Level III training in program management, engineering and contracting, plus Level II training in test and evaluation.
The impetus behind the change is Lt. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski’s belief that if you want to be a great program manager or a great contracting officer, you have to thoroughly understand the technical acumen that’s needed for both parts of our business. If you’re running a program and haven’t been trained in contracting, when your contracting officer starts reeling off contracting jargon, you’re just going to agree to whatever they say and maybe not make the best choices for a program. And if you’re on the contracting side and you don’t have a solid understanding of engineering and program management, a contractor can overwhelm you with details and you might not make the best decisions for the government.
The push for the change began with Lt. Gen. Michael E. Williamson, Ostrowski’s predecessor as the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology and director of the Army Acquisition Corps.
This change is about exposing more of our professional workforce to greater technical education. The key word here is “technical.” We’re very confident that throughout their careers, our civilians and our officers have a variety of opportunities to get leadership and management training and experience. But technical training is probably the most difficult to achieve. And so we’re trying to focus a lot of our education programs, NPS being one of them, to increase the number of people that have a greater exposure to technical content.
A key component in this change is NPS. The true power that NPS can provide, and needs to focus on providing in the future, is its operational relevance. When you get an MBA or an M.S. in systems and program management, an M.S. in systems engineering management or any other graduate degree from NPS, you should have been exposed to enough experienced operators to flavor it so that a lot of what you’re getting is real-world practical experience that you can apply to DOD. We can send anybody anywhere for a systems engineering degree or an MBA. There are great institutions all over the world. But there are very few accredited institutions that can provide real-world practical operational experience from practitioners who have walked in the shoes you will be walking in as an acquisition professional.
The faculty understands the pitfalls that you will face. They’ve worked inside the DOD system. Very few schools of higher education and learning can offer that. That’s the power that NPS has, and that’s the focus it needs to maintain. The faculty’s operational relevance is what sets NPS apart and makes it unique. If NPS strays from that, then it’s forced to compete with every other college and university in America. If it loses track of that niche, NPS will be of less value to us as the sponsor of these programs.
We’ve had a longstanding relationship with NPS, and we look forward to continuing that through many, many years. NPS will face, as any college or university does, the difficulty of adjusting its curriculum to changing times. But the fact that NPS is a DOD institution allows it to translate our real-world needs into viable education programs. In the future we may have another emerging requirement for our students who go there to understand at the graduate level. And we will need to be able to transmit that requirement to NPS as the sponsor of the programs and have it adapt and adjust the curriculum in real time. We need that kind of responsiveness and partnership. They’re the professionals at educating people. We have to see the world today and into the future to determine what skill sets should be embedded in the NPS curriculum.
The 411 on 522 and 722 at NPS
Systems Engineering Management System Acquisition
Audience: Army acquisition officers.
Description: An interdisciplinary program combining systems engineering with acquisition management knowledge and skills. Intended to broaden the technical competence of officers with nontechnical backgrounds so that they can manage and lead acquisition programs for complex combat systems. Students learn the systems engineering process, from establishing system requirements through test and evaluation; and how to manage, schedule and budget programs and work with DOD suppliers through contracts to meet program obligations.
Requirements: A baccalaureate degree with above-average grades is required. Completion of at least two semesters of college algebra or trigonometry is considered the minimum mathematical preparation.
Program start dates: January and July.
Program length: Six quarters.
Training method: Resident.
Degree: Master of Science in Systems Engineering Management.
Certification training included: Joint Professional Military Education; Defense Acquisition University equivalencies for Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act training for Level III in program management, Level III in engineering, Level III in contracting and Level II in test and evaluation.
Systems Engineering Management Systems and Program Management
Audience: Army acquisition civilians.
Description: An interdisciplinary program combining systems engineering with program management knowledge and skills. Intended to broaden the technical capabilities of acquisition workforce members with nontechnical backgrounds so that they can successfully manage and lead programs or projects in support of the defense acquisition system. Students learn the systems engineering process, from establishing system requirements through test and evaluation; and how to manage, schedule and budget programs and work with DOD suppliers through contracts to meet program obligations.
Requirements for entry: Candidates for the program must have a baccalaureate degree. This program is available only through the Army DACM Office.
Program start date: September.
Program length: Eight quarters.
Training method: Distance learning.
Degree: Master of Science in Systems and Program Management.
Certification training included (for civilian students already Level II certified in program management): Defense Acquisition University equivalencies for Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act training for Level III in program management, Level III in engineering, Level II in test and evaluation, Level II in production, quality and manufacturing, and Level I in contracting.
This article will be published in the July – September 2018 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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