by Sarah L. Aubouin
On October 8–9, 2020 a cohort of up-and-coming Army acquisition leaders from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey and Detroit Arsenal, Michigan; participated in a virtual senior leader forum. Normally held at the Pentagon, this year’s event was held online via Microsoft Teams. The cohort consists of 26 students in the Defense Acquisition University Senior Service College Fellowship (DAU-SSCF), sponsored by the Office of the Director of Acquisition Career Management (DACM). This unique engagement provided the fellows an opportunity to engage with senior leaders across the Army acquisition community. Leaders each gave an overview of their office’s responsibilities, how the office fits within the National Defense Strategy and the relevant DOD or Army acquisition process. Fellows enjoyed a chance to learn and share leadership lessons, and to interact with and ask questions of a senior leader “in person.”
Fourteen speakers, including Jeffrey S. White, former principal deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)) spoke on ASA(ALT) initiatives. White stressed the importance of industry in acquisition business and highlighted the need to work with industry partners; especially with understanding partner concerns. He also highlighted the value of accountability.
Craig Spisak, Director of the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center and Army DACM, addressed the fellows virtually on the first day of the two-day event. He made note of today’s chaotic environment, including the COVID-19 pandemic and fiscal year 2021 budget cuts, and how the acquisition community has positively responded by converting the majority of activities to a virtual platform and reprioritizing funding, just to name a few.
Spisak noted that the 2021 fiscal year will be a period of tremendous change across the acquisition community. The Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment’s Back to Basics (BTB) directive for the acquisition workforce is one of those major changes. The framework will reduce core certification requirements and free up time for acquisition workforce professionals to attain specialty training and credentials. It offers the opportunity for “point of need” training specific to their jobs. The 2021 fiscal year will be spent developing and deploying the infrastructure to support and sustain what BTB becomes.
When asked about what supervisory talents are necessary to ensure a workplace that promotes diversity and inclusion, Spisak said he believes it’s important to recognize the value that diversity brings to a team. “Diverse teams are successful teams,” he said. “Surround yourself with people who don’t think like you.”
As a final message to the fellows, Spisak said it’s important to keep an open mind and maintain flexibility as you go through your career. “Open your aperture and be flexible and willing to take opportunities that you may not have thought you wanted or needed, but may be where the Army needs you.”
Another speaker of note at the event was Alan R. Shaffer, deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. Shaffer spoke on a wide variety of topics such as modernization, hypersonics, micro-electronics and leadership. He reminded members of the DAU-SSCF cohort that one of their primary responsibilities is to develop the younger generation and look at junior acquisition personnel who have potential. Other topics included the building blocks of success, such as integrity, teamwork and trust.
The DAU-SSCF program is a 10-month educational and leadership development opportunity sponsored by the DACM Office. DAU-SSCF is conducted under the auspices of DAU at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; Detroit Arsenal, Michigan; and Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. DAU-SSCF provides leadership and acquisition training to prepare senior civilians for leadership roles such as product and project director or manager, deputy program executive officer and other key acquisition leadership positions. To find out more about the DAU-SSCF, go to https://asc.army.mil/web/career-development/programs/defense-acquisition-university-senior-service-college/.
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