COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Army Contracting Command – Redstone Arsenal, Program Executive Office for Aviation, Product Manager Apache Sensors
TITLE: Contracting officer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 13 years
AAW/DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in contracting, Level II in auditing
EDUCATION: MBA in acquisition and contract management, Florida Institute of Technology; B.S in accounting and B.S. in marketing, University of Alabama in Huntsville
AWARDS: Achievement Medal for Civilian Service Award
HOMETOWN: Birmingham, Alabama
Kimberly L. Seright
by Ellen Summey
Kimberly Seright is a woman with a plan. You name it, she already has a checklist and a five-point course of action mapped out for it. “You could say I’m a perfectionist,” she chuckled. “People call me a ‘builder,’ because I’m always trying to make things better and find a way to improve on what we have.” She puts those talents to good use at the Program Executive Office for Aviation at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, in her role as contracting officer for the Apache helicopter. “I’m responsible for safeguarding the interests of the government in its contractual relationships. Ultimately, I’m ensuring the government receives the best value for every dollar spent in direct support of our Soldiers.”
Exactly how many dollars is a topic of interest when others learn about her current job—thanks to her 11-year-old son. “He likes to tell people, ‘My mom buys helicopters,’ ” she explained. “We have an ongoing joke, anytime a helicopter flies past, he likes to ask, ‘Mom, did you buy that one?’ ” Naturally, when other parents hear about Seright’s job, they are curious. “They like to ask, ‘How much does something like that cost?’ They’re so fascinated.” She takes a lot of pride in knowing that she is able to manage and protect such large sums of money in her work—brand new AH-64 Apache helicopters cost around $31 million each. “I haven’t had the opportunity to say I deal with that much of my own money—I haven’t won the lottery just yet. But just knowing that I’m capable of that, feels good.” What would she do if she hit the mega-millions jackpot? You can be certain she would have a plan and she wouldn’t be spending frivolously. “I would be so super conscious,” she said. “At work, we’re always protecting the taxpayer dollar, which includes my tax dollar as well, so that’s a mindset I’m used to.”
Naturally, she came to the world of Army acquisition with a plan, too. She graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) with degrees in accounting and marketing, and then went to work in the accounting department of a local government contractor. “I quickly became more interested in the government side of the business,” she said. “I wanted to be there, where the decisions were being made and I could make a bigger impact. I had taken a class at UAH called ‘Government Accounting,’ which of course is a whole different world than the work you would do with a CPA [certified public accountant],” she said. “I was thankful I had that exposure already.” She started working for the government as an auditor, where she had involvement with several agencies—the Army, the Missile Defense Agency, NASA and more. “I was able to see, not just one particular facet of the government, but a much broader picture,” she said. “That was a great opportunity.”
While planning is her forte, she said she has also learned the importance of flexibility and patience in the field of Army acquisition. “In this environment, I’ve learned that sometimes being the best leader means you have to follow. You have to trust your peers and allow them to do the work. You may have a grand idea that you think will work, but having someone take a look with fresh eyes may be better.” Since she typically comes to any situation with a road map already in mind, it takes a lot of trust and a conscious focus on flexibility to try a different path.
“The government is forever changing,” she said. “That’s one thing about the Army that I really appreciate—your level of growth and your desire to move jobs is never a hindrance, and you are always encountering new people with new ideas.” Whether it’s a change of leadership, a new policy or procedure, or even a new contract requirement, Seright said her job requires the ability to adapt to change. “You may be in a battle rhythm where things are running smoothly, and then here comes a new person and they want things to change. That’s why you have to have a level of patience, because things are constantly changing—one minute the Army might need new helicopters and the next minute they might say, ‘Never mind, let’s repair the ones we have.’ ” Flexibility is key.
That’s also the advice she gives to younger acquisition personnel, too. “I always talk to them about being flexible and being willing to learn more about your job,” she said. “In acquisition, policy and regulations are constantly changing, so we have to do the same to stay well-informed and perform efficiently in the job.” Seright completed the Civilian Education System (CES) Advanced Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 2017. At the time, CES Advanced was a six-week, in-person course—it went virtual for the pandemic. The course prepares upper-level Army civilians for leadership positions within their organizations. It was a great experience for her. “To get that uninterrupted training and focus, that helps you really develop your leadership skills. It almost felt like college again, just being able to put that amount of focus on learning one thing.” She said she was able to dissect and experience the subject material, rather than focusing on handouts or slides. “You’re not just learning from a book—it is very informative, with hands-on participation.”
Before COVID-19 impacted her ability to see customers in person and work on-site at Redstone Arsenal, her favorite thing about her job was getting hands-on experience with the Apache. “I was able to actually go see what we were providing to the warfighter. It’s one thing to see the papers, but when you actually get to go look at the helicopter and see how it’s made, and how it works, it’s a whole new experience.” She talked about a time when an Apache landed at the installation, and her team was invited to go out and see it. “We are able to get inside and sit—and of course, not touch any buttons, God forbid—but just like a typical kid, you wanted to, because there are so many. That was cool, I really appreciated being able to see the end product and understand how it really affects the Soldier and helps them.”
“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 go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.