Faces of the Force: Gloria Atkins

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Position and Unit: Contracting officer, Army Contracting Command – Aberdeen Proving Ground
Years of Service in Workforce: 6
DAWIA Certifications: Level III in contracting
Education: M.S. in acquisition and contract management, Florida Institute of Technology; B.S. in accounting, Hawaii Pacific University
Awards: Achievement Medal for Civilian Service


Atkins contributes to FMS success

By Susan L. Follett

Gloria Atkins started in defense contracting a dozen years ago, looking to contribute to the military in the same way as her husband, a Navy officer. She got her start at the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) in 2004, and switched to the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) in 2010. She currently serves as team leader for foreign military sales (FMS) at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland.

“My greatest satisfaction comes from awarding a contract to what we would consider an underdeveloped country, to provide them with equipment and services to aid in their fight for independence,” she said.

Looking back over her career, she noted that her proudest accomplishment is the first big project that she led, an FMS contract supporting the Saudi Arabia National Guard Modernization Project. “I met with top Saudi commanders to update them on the status of the program and also worked with the vendors to obtain materiel and equipment. We reached a stalemate early on because the vendors were unwilling to negotiate. So, I told the vendor that was unacceptable and walked away from the meeting. I think a lot of people there didn’t expect me to do that. But by the time I got to my office, my phone was ringing: it was the vendor and he was willing to make a deal.”

She added, “Negotiating is the hardest part of my job: Vendors often insist on trying to overcharge foreign governments. They’re not accustomed to negotiating, and we have to tell them that they can’t charge whatever they want. It’s my team’s responsibility to ensure that the terms and prices we negotiate for foreign governments are fair and reasonable.”

What do you do, and why is it important to the Army or the warfighter?

I am a team leader for FMS at ACC-APG. DOD, the Department of State and other U.S government organizations use the FMS process to procure equipment and services for many of our allied nations. My position helps foster goodwill among other countries that share the same ideals as the U.S. government.

How did you become part of the Army Acquisition Workforce, and why?

As a military spouse, I always wanted to contribute to the military in some way that makes a difference. Once I started my career as an intern with DCMA, I learned a lot doing post-award administration, but I always felt a strong desire to play a larger role in negotiations and the pre-award process. When I learned of the opportunity at Aberdeen Proving Ground, I jumped at the chance, and have been working with FMS and helping not only our military but also the military forces of other nations.

What do you see as the most important points in your career with the Army Acquisition Workforce, and why?

The most important parts of my career are those events when I’m given the opportunity to challenge myself and others. Finding my niche in FMS has been absolutely rewarding. The dedication that I see among my peers and leadership has led me to always want to achieve more and assist others along the way.

What’s the most important skill you need to do your job effectively?

Communication: Knowing how to ask the sometimes difficult questions. It’s an innate skill, I think, but the training that we get definitely helps cultivate it. It’s also important to have a sense of humor and to not take the inevitable slights too personally.

Can you name a particular mentor or mentors who helped you in your career? How did they help you? Have you been a mentor?

I have had two very important mentors throughout my career: The first is my husband, Chris, who encouraged me to get into the contracting field. He started his contracting career while serving in the Navy, and served as a contracting officer at the Naval Regional Contracting Center and later as an assistant director for DCMA Northrup in Bethpage, New York. He always encourages me to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself and to not be afraid of failure: Failure isn’t always a bad thing and can be used as a stepping stone to achieve what one perceives to be unreachable.

Letitia “Tish” Proctor, chief for ACC-APG’s Division E, had the second biggest influence in my contracting career, and she did so without knowing it. I met Tish during one of the most difficult transitions between agencies as an intern, and she was always there when I felt at my lowest. No question was ever too insignificant for her to answer, and she always made sure that I was not lost in the world of government abbreviations.

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to a career or position like yours?

For anyone wanting to become a contracting officer, I would recommend that first and foremost, they complete the required training. Networking helps tremendously in this field, so build and foster relationships with other agencies that complement the contracting field, such as with the Defense Contract Audit Agency and Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

“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 a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.

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