Eliminating preconceptions

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Byron A. Kight

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Installation Information Infrasatructure Modernization Program, Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems
TITLE: Acquisition management specialist
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 8
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS:Level II in program management and in life cycle logistics
EDUCATION: B.S. in business management, North Carolina A&T State University
AWARDS: Director’s Civilian of the Quarter; Achievement Medal for Civilian Service; Certificate of Achievement; Outstanding Service Award


  By Susan L. Follett

Many members of the acquisition workforce have found themselves on the receiving end of a blank stare after explaining what they do for a living. Not so for Byron Kight. “People tend to be very interested in how a capability gap is filled. It’s not always stated in those words, but that’s the gist of their primary interest. I often encounter people who find the acquisition process to be interesting, particularly the amount of moving parts and the sheer volume of different stakeholders involved with any given effort,” he said. “Those same people are often quite surprised to find out how hard most DA civilians work. We do have an unfair label, and I enjoy the challenge of ripping it off.”

Kight, an acquisition management specialist for the Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program (I3MP) within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), is a translator of sorts. “In essence, it’s our mission to ensure that requirements, established by CIO/G-6 [Army Chief Information Officer/G-6] and TRADOC [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command], are logically understood by our industry partners.”

He’s part of a team responsible for acquisition planning, acquisition strategy development, acquisition review, and approval and configuration control of all applicable acquisition program documents, including contract data requirement lists, market research, system requirement documents, statements of work, cost estimates and documents associated with contract modifications. “I do my best to ensure that contractual language and the applicable artifacts are well understood by both our industry partners as well as I3MP staff. We also do our best to ensure that we facilitate open lines of communication with Army Contracting Command – Rock Island,” he said.

“Our success is measured by corps, division and theater HQs possessing the ability to deploy and distribute warfighting functions and watch sections across mission command nodes according to a commander’s intent. My goal is to assist in ensuring that the number one priority—readiness—is continuously met, as we attempt to provide stability and continuity during both war and peace.”

When it comes to helping develop that documentation, he usually comes to the table empty-handed—by design. “It’s been my experience that most of the confusion surrounding the acquisition process usually stems from preconceived notions. If I can begin to break down some of those notions, I can do some rebuilding,” he explained. “I try to do more listening than talking and I ask very measured questions. Through those questions, I’m typically able to obtain a really good picture, figuring out what the desired end state should resemble. I can then convert the necessary steps required to achieve that desired end state into terminology that’s understood by both I3MP personnel and our industry partners, leading to increased efficiency during contract execution.”

Thus the end state, he said, “is a solution that we’ve all developed, not something that’s been put together in a vacuum. And it’s also an ongoing process: It’s not something that’s done in a week or a year. Once we’ve put a plan in place, we continue to monitor the situation and the market, ensuring that we’re still meeting the needs of our stakeholders.”

In 2015, Kight deployed to Afghanistan in support of the REF, where he learned valuable lessons about the acquisition process from both forward and rear assignments. (Photo courtesy of Byron A. Kight)

In 2015, Kight deployed to Afghanistan in support of the REF, where he learned valuable lessons about the acquisition process from both forward and rear assignments. (Photo courtesy of Byron A. Kight)

 

Before joining the acquisition workforce eight years ago, Kight was a technical writer and editor with the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command’s Integrated Logistics Support Center (CECOM-ILSC), where he supported sustainment activities. “During my time with CECOM-ILSC, I was able to collaborate with several program office representatives and was exposed to a lot of acquisition activities,” he said. His work with the PEO for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors and the PEO for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical sparked his interest in becoming part of the Army Acquisition Workforce.

In 2015, he was selected to support the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF). He spent a year with that organization and deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan. “It was without a doubt a life-changing event,” he said. The assignment provided him the opportunity to “complete the puzzle,” he said. “While at REF-Rear, I worked on half of a puzzle: conducting mission analysis on incoming requirements for the sole purpose of providing solutions to operational challenges. On deployment with REF-Forward, I saw the other half: what happened when those supported solutions made it into theater, how Soldiers used it and what they thought about it.”

His REF assignment also gave him the opportunity to see what it was like to serve in a few key positions—some at the same time, as he was simultaneously a logistics lead, alternate contracting officer representative and project officer. “The first key to success in dual-hatting is to accept and look forward to the fact that you’re going to be a very busy, in-demand person,” he said. “Then, find out the current conditions with an eye toward determining if a change/no change decision should be made. Third, breathe. Seriously.” Lastly, he added, get organized and get to know your teammates. “It’s your teammates who you will depend on the most. Take care and be responsible for the team. Efforts absolutely fail or succeed due to the people involved.”

Serving as a project officer during the REF assignment was also educational, he noted. “Up until that point, my experience dealing with the concepts of cost, schedule and performance was really an outsider’s look in. My REF work demonstrated the sheer amount of variables and responsibility someone in that position has to wrestle with.”

After leaving REF, he joined PEO EIS in December 2016 to serve as an acquisition management specialist. “The most important thing I’ve learned so far is to meet people where they are. In most cases, to do that, you must learn something about that person and know a fair amount about yourself as well. But it’s worth it: It leads to better relationships, clearer communication, improved efficiency, better morale and readiness.”


This article will be published in the January – March 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

“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 serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-664-5635.

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