By Maj. Sheila L. Howell, Army DACM Office Propenency Officer
The summer brings many changes to our careers as military acquisition professionals. Chief among these are the many permanent change of station (PCS) moves, changes of command and changes of charter that transpire. Promotion board results are released and many promotable majors are faced with brand new career decisions. Once an officer has crossed the mandatory promotion threshold of lieutenant colonel, for most officers, the options for continued service can be varied.
To help you understand some of the questions surrounding Centralized Selection List (CSL), we talked to a range of officers who have either recently entered, are about to enter, and who have long since been settled into their CSL positions. Here is their take on CSL and what you should be doing and thinking about to prepare yourself for this responsibility.
Why did you choose to opt-in for CSL?
“To have the opportunity to lead a program office at the O-5 level and to be able to use all of the skills that I have learned as an acquisition officer. CSL is the pinnacle for O-5 acquisition leaders and essential for O-6 CSL.”
“I believe it is our duty as professional Soldiers to strive for command. I want to make a positive impact on the future of our Army. Commanding a program is one way to do that.”
What did you do to prepare for your CSL position once selected?
“The key is to use whatever methods will help you to learn the most about your program office or battalion. Reaching out to the incumbent and the leadership is paramount. Get involved, dial into meetings as appropriate, meet with your new boss and discuss expectations. Meet as many key stakeholders as possible and discuss the program status. Seek out potential contacts in the Pentagon and staff and initiate a relationship that will help your program. Look into Defense Acquisition University (DAU) courses that are pertinent and could be of value.”
What do you wish you had done prior to arriving in your current position?
“Because I took command earlier than expected, I wish I had been able to take more time off.”
“Meet with my industry partners prior to [change of command] and more time to spend with my predecessor.”
What was the most valuable preparation item for you?
“The most valuable preparation item was having an ongoing dialog with my future O-6 PM. We had weekly telecons to discuss expectations, training, ideas and paths forward. I was included on decisions, meetings, issues, etc.”
“Ninety percent of our craft is personal relationships and information flow. Having that open and ongoing discourse with the sitting O-6 PM was extremely helpful to me. It allowed me to further understand the specified nuances of the program prior to being thrust into the decision cycle.”
“Time spent on a contracting team where an abundance of hands-on contracting experience was obtained, staff time for understanding how contracting fits into the bigger Army picture and deployments where our acquisition skill sets are used as a force multiplier.”
Are there any particular skills, knowledge or abilities that you feel are important for a CSL select to have or work on prior to assuming command or a charter?
- “Understand cost, schedule and performance;
- Be familiar with DOD 5000.01 and 5000.02;
- Really understand the acquisition process and the PPBE [planning, programing, budget and execution] process;
- Join a Toastmasters group (for briefing purposes).”
“You MUST have [Pentagon] experience. If you have never worked around the ASA(ALT) [assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology] staff, HQDA staff, know who to go to and how to navigate the [Pentagon], you will have a hard time as a [program manager] and your program will suffer.”
“The reflection and focus obtained in [PMT] 401 was invaluable. Prior to assuming charter most people are finishing up a vigorous previous assignment or moving. Ten days permissive temporary duty (TDY) specifically to give leaders opportunity to seek out DAU experts and SME would be of great value.”
What is the one piece of advice you would tell more junior officers preparing for CSL?
“Follow the money and know your programs backwards and forward.”
“If you want to be a PM work multiple [assistant program manager (APM)] jobs, be a [Department of the Army systems coordinator], be an [executive officer] for a [general officer], build relationships on the Army staff, stay current on regulations and laws.”
“Make sure your [Officer Evaluation Reports] are enumerated against your peers and keep up with current changes in the big acquisition world. Most people are focused only on the area in which they are an APM but can be assigned anywhere in the Acquisition Corps. The current DAU training schedule is not enough and does not keep you current enough. Seek out learning opportunities to understand and be the expert in the entire field.”
“Ask your commander to take you with them the next time they have to engage with any organization outside of your comfort zone (civilian organization) or volunteer to assist with these actions.”
“Ensure that you truly understand your individual strengths and weaknesses. After they are known, surround yourself with a team of folks that can assist in your weak areas.”
“Don’t shy away from broadening assignments that can align with your future goals. Performance in all jobs matter.”
This article was published in the July DACM Newsletter.