COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support, Product Manager Force Projection, Product Manager Petroleum and Water Systems (PAWS)
TITLE: Assistant program manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 18
ACQUISITION CERTIFICATIONS: Certified Advanced in program management and life cycle logistics
EDUCATION: MBA, business administration and management, Wayne State University; B.S. in management information systems, Wayne State University; A.S. in technical design, Henry Ford College
AWARDS: Commander’s Award Civilian Service (twice); Bayonet Award
by Cheryl Marino
Making decisions is a part of daily life. No matter how big or small, it’s not always easy to do without the proper tools or with limited information. Which is why, according to Omar Siaje, it’s important to take a pause, tap into all available resources and consider the bigger picture before making decisions—because decisions made now will affect how things are done in the future.
“In my role as an assistant program manager, I make decisions on a daily basis and seek out information from my subject matter experts to help me make those decisions,” he said. “Using tools such as the military decision making process and sifting through the data to make good decisions is paramount in my career.” The military decision making process, known as MDMP, offers an analytical process that assists the commander and staff in developing, integrating and synchronizing their plan.
In his assistant role, Siaje oversees the development and acquisition of major weapon systems. “My goals are to drive an acquisition program from one milestone to the next. I support and manage efforts for initial development, prototype development, testing, production, logistic product development, fielding and disposal while vigorously managing costs, schedules and performance of the aforementioned activities,” he said. “Personally, I take great pride in meeting my cost, schedule and performance targets; however, I take even greater pride in improving a process or function or helping others improve their acquisition programs.” Which is when looking at things from the “bigger picture” perspective comes into play.
Siaje is based at the Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS) in Warren, Michigan, just minutes from Detroit—the automobile capital of the world. He said that most of his friends’ outside of work have jobs in the automobile industry, and when he describes his role to them, they are surprised at the similarities between how their business operates and how Army acquisition operates. “We both perform the same basic tenants of design, test and build,” he said. “What they don’t realize is that many advancements in military hardware and software often find their way into the auto industry—like sensors, GPS, night vision and sonar ranging have all improved designs for the auto industry even though they were first developed for a military application.”
Siaje knows a lot about the components of design, test and build, but it took a little time and a lot of exposure to vehicle inventory and assembly production (machining of mechanical parts, armor application, fabrication, electrical capabilities, hydraulic components, suspension system and power transmission drives) before he obtained a position in management—where it all came together—and he now sees things from a different perspective.
“A very close friend of mine got a job as an [acquisition] engineering intern, and suggested that I apply. Approximately a year later I was hired as a supply intern,” he said. “My first few years were spent managing inventory levels, buying and repairing spare parts for armored personnel carriers, and learning how the Army works. My next assignment was as an integrated logistics manager, which was then known as ‘program manager,’ Heavy Brigade Combat Team. This was truly an eye-opening experience for me as I was a witness to a completely different side of the business.”
Siaje said a few years later he transitioned into program management and has been there ever since. “The work in a [product manager] office is ever evolving and there are new challenges that arise every day, which makes working in program management very exciting,” he said. “Personally, in my move to a position supporting the project manager, I felt like a football player who was promoted from the junior varsity squad to a varsity squad, which made me even more proud and humbled to be given that opportunity.”
During his career, Siaje said he has participated in Acquisition Category (ACAT) I programs and ACAT III programs, and admits that for an assistant program manager, ACAT III programs can be more challenging since ACAT I programs have large teams with several assistant program managers, each managing a piece of the acquisition program. Whereas in ACAT III programs, teams are much smaller and the assistant program manager oversees development of the entire program. He said an assistant program manager overseeing an ACAT III program “must be well versed in all facets of the defense acquisition life cycle to include such disciplines like design and engineering, testing, logistics and fielding.”
Siaje said that often his advice is sought from his colleagues as they develop their programs, and he is more than happy to share his experiences and lessons learned to help them in any way that he can. Recently, he said he offered some advice to a new intern that manages their contract actions. “I was appreciative of him and noticed that he was really engaged with the rest of the team, which I did not expect from an intern. Afterwards, I approached him to express that appreciation and throughout our conversation, I discovered that his work ethic was surprisingly high. I told him that our business needs people with your mindset and should you wish to pursue a long rewarding career, you should seek out a mentor that can help you along the way,” Siaje said much to his surprise he “responded by asking me to be his mentor, which I was humbled to accept.” During one of their mentoring sessions, Siaje also mentioned that he should seek out a mentor for each functional role that will guide him in the art of program management. All valuable steps in the process of accomplishing much broader goals.
“Most people know me to be an analytical thinker, one who appreciates the steps involved in making good business decisions,” he said. “I even apply processes that I have learned through Lean Six Sigma training to almost every complicated decision that I am faced with.”
Siaje was recently promoted to program officer, acquisition, for the PEO CS&CSS Joint Program Office – Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Systems Integration. He said he’s “still getting acclimated,” but his mission there is to lead the integration of existing and emerging systems onto theJoint Light Tactical Vehicle, synchronizing capability, fielding and life cycle support for the joint force and global warfighter.
Of all the lessons Siaje has learned throughout the course of his career, he said “seeing the bigger picture” is the most important one. “Many times I was baffled by a decision made that would affect something that I was directly involved with. Understanding that the Army has priorities and limited resources is always part of the equation; however, there were still times where I was not clear on the data used to make the decision,” he said. “Sometimes, it just helps to take a step—or even a few steps back—to see the bigger picture and only then do things make a bit more sense.”
“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/.