Sustain, Maintain, Train, Retain

By May 23, 2016September 3rd, 2018Army ALT Magazine
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DAWDF helps commands support the Army Acquisition Workforce

From the Director, U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center


Craig Spisak
Director, U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center

The Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office in the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) is responsible for sustaining and managing the careers of 36,000-plus Army acquisition professionals. Our 50 experts in three branches support this workforce with everything related to acquisition careers, from certification and education to mentoring and leader development. One of the sustainment tools we use to successfully accomplish this daunting task is financial support from the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF).


DAWDF was established by Section 852 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2008 to support DOD acquisition organizations with additional funds to help them develop and train their workforce, fill capability gaps, oversee contractors and achieve best value and return on investment for the taxpayer.

Funding for DAWDF comes from expiring appropriations for the Army’s operation and maintenance account. Instead of terminating, those funds roll over to support DAWDF. Until recently, DAWDF itself was scheduled to “sunset” in 2018, but it became permanent in January with the passage of the FY16 NDAA, bringing more predictable funding and making it easier to plan programs. This permanence instills confidence in acquisition organizations, which now know that they can count on DAWDF annually. We are looking forward to the innovative initiatives this will bring to the Army Acquisition Workforce.

The Army DACM Office manages and approves all Army DAWDF-­implemented initiatives from Army acquisition commands and organizations, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, U.S. Army Forces Command, program executive offices, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Materiel Command, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, U.S. Army Medical Command, the U.S. Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. Each of these organizations submits a DAWDF request to the DACM for initiatives in the current fiscal year, as well as estimates and planning for subsequent fiscal years.

According to Jason Pitts, program manager for Section 852 (DAWDF), all initiatives processed by his team must support the Army acquisition executive’s strategic objectives: to improve certification rates; build acquisition functional and leadership skills; increase core competencies; and recruit, retain and recognize the best talent.

“We gather all of the requirements from all the commands and screen them for deficiencies and clarification to ensure that what they submit is a clear, solid initiative,” he said. “We roll it up into one big plan and brief it to acquisition senior leaders, from the DDACM [deputy DACM] to the DACM, to make sure what we are doing with DAWDF meets the DACM’s intent.”

Once the plan receives leadership endorsement, it goes to the Human Capital Initiatives Directorate in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OUSD(AT&L)) for approval.

Pitts’ team also reaches out to the commands to help with ideas for initiatives using DAWDF.

“I found that not every command or organization knows what they can do with it. We hold monthly telephone calls where we talk about best practices and lessons learned,” Pitts said.

Also, personal visits help kick-start innovations using DAWDF. “When I meet with commands individually and let them throw out ideas that they’ve had, some of them are very creative, and if [such an initiative] meets the intent, we go with it.”

FY15 DAWDF Highlights

The $108.3 million in FY15 Army funding for DAWDF supported a wide variety of initiatives to develop and sustain the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW). Now a permanent program, DAWDF promises to continue contributing to innovative ways to support the workforce for years to come. (SOURCE: USAASC)


In one training initiative success story, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Directorate of Contracting used DAWDF to sustain its contracting professionals by creating an on-the-job training program. The program, developed to address weaknesses in contracting procedures identified from procurement and command reviews, is twofold: It attacks real-time problems in a positive, constructive manner and gives contracting leadership an in-person opportunity to coach, train and mentor the future force of the organization.

Taught by seasoned procurement analysts in one- to two-hour workshops, the on-the-job training covers topics such as justifications and approvals, contract closeout procedures, price negotiation memorandums, determination and findings, market research and contract formation checklists. In FY14, this DAWDF-funded program provided hands-on training to more than 3,000 acquisition professionals in multiple functional areas, including contracting, small business, facilities engineering and program management.


Since 2008, the Army has received more than $650 million in DAWDF funding to help us build and retain a high-quality, agile and adaptive workforce.

Our DAWDF initiatives include the Student Loan Repayment Program, the Army’s premier retention tool, which by itself has attracted more than 4,400 participants, and targeted training to fill acquisition and leadership gaps. Successful pilot programs include the Army Acquisition Leader Preparation Course, a program to prepare newly centrally selected acquisition leaders for their new leadership roles and duties, and the tireless Ellie, the virtual acquisition career guide and computer-generated mentor, available 24/7 to answer questions and offer career feedback. All of these initiatives are made possible through DAWDF.

In an April 2015 memorandum, the Hon. Frank Kendall, USD(AT&L), stated that it is imperative for the services to sustain and build on the investments made to increase the capacity and capability of the acquisition workforce. The Army DACM Office takes that quite seriously. With help from DAWDF funding to boost our capability, we will continue our commitment to sustain, maintain, train and retain the Army Acquisition Workforce as world-class professionals dedicated to our warfighters in providing the best weapons, services and technology as quickly as possible.

This article was originally published in the April – June 2016 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

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