COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition, Project Manager Close Combat Systems
TITLE: Business management specialist
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: Business management specialist, contracting
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 15
MILITARY OR CIVILIAN: Civilian
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in acquisition, Level I in program management, Army Acquisition Corps certification
EDUCATION: Master of Administrative Science, Fairleigh Dickinson University; B.A. in organizational communication with business management studies, Fairfield University
AWARDS: Supervisory Acquisition Manager, Annual Performance Awards
HOMETOWN: Boonton, New Jersey
by Ellen Summey
When something is right, you just know it. Kristina Koch knew, from the first time she kicked around a soccer ball with her father, that she had found her talent. “It was so natural to me,” she recalled. “I’ve always had a nose for the goal.” From that day on, ballet and gymnastics were relegated to a distant second, and soccer took precedence over any other sport. She played competitive soccer all through her school years, and also became an accomplished sprinter, running track for her high school in New Jersey. “Soccer was everything, in our family,” she said. Both her mother and father had emigrated to the U.S. in their teens—she from Portugal and he from Croatia—and they brought with them their European passion for the sport.
Koch continued playing recreational soccer throughout her college days, even taking on practice games and scrimmages with the Division 1 men’s soccer team at her university. And it was around that time she found another right in her life—the Army. “I started as a summer and winter hire at Picatinny Arsenal [New Jersey] when I was in college,” she said. “During the summer breaks, when all of your friends get to go to Aruba and all those fun places, my parents were like, ‘We can’t afford to send you on spring break, so we’re going to have you work somewhere.’ ” Her father knew someone with an open intern position, and he encouraged her to apply, saying she could help with marketing and make use of some of the business classes she had taken. “I didn’t really want to take the job, but I’m so glad I did. It was so much more than I thought it would be.” Over that summer, she developed a love for the Army. “I enjoyed learning about the different weapon systems and everything that Picatinny does for the Army. When I graduated, I knew I wanted to go back there,” and she has been at Picatinny Arsenal ever since. “I’m really grateful that my parents couldn’t send me off to an island.”
Today, Koch works under the Business Division as the lead procurement analyst for the Project Manager Close Combat Systems (PM CCS), Product Manager Terrain Shaping Obstacle (PDM TSO), within the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition. In this role, she is responsible for generating acquisition and production documents, briefing her leaders on acquisition activities, facilitating acquisition-related meetings and interacting with technical teams supporting the complex PDM TSO. “PDM TSO is responsible for the development of the Army’s next generation of terrain shaping obstacle capabilities that protect Soldiers and enable friendly maneuver across multidomain-influenced battlefields,” she said. “Aligned with Army modernization priorities and an Army Futures Command-approved Terrain Shaping Modernization plan, I have led the acquisition process for the XM204, a research and development [other-transaction authority] effort and for the Standoff Activated Volcano Obstacle program, one of the Army’s first approved Section 804, Middle Tier Acquisition rapid prototyping and rapid fielding efforts.”
If she were queen of acquisition for a day, she said would bring some soccer skills to the fore, and teach acquisition to sprint toward the goal. “In my opinion, it takes too long to award contracts due to all the rules, regulations, restraints and the number of reviews involved for acquisition documents. I understand that certain regulations are needed, but the process should be more streamlined when possible—getting our warfighters new technologies to keep us ahead of our adversaries is critically important.” She would focus on removing unnecessary regulations and redundancies, as well as streamlining the review process.
But she’s not waiting around for a crown—she’s forging ahead with that goal in her day-to-day. “As an example, here at PM CCS, we recently reintroduced the ‘signing party’ concept for staffing key acquisition documents, such as the acquisition plan and justification and approval documents. Our team at PM-CCS pioneered an approach to accomplish this virtually as a result of COVID-19. This ensured that the documents were thoroughly reviewed by senior leaders, and reduced staffing time by over one month per document. The ‘signing party’ process is extremely effective at reducing review time and should be considered a mandatory requirement for certain contract awards.”
Koch has learned many lessons during her time at Picatinny Arsenal, but she said there are two that stand out. First is the importance of honesty. “Throughout my career, I have given advice to junior acquisition personnel. I have told them that it’s important to be honest with yourself and others. You will make mistakes along the way, and the key to mistakes is to learn from them and use them as lessons for future work.” She said it’s important to develop and maintain respect between employees and their supervisors, and that team members should always feel comfortable asking questions. “Keep the lines of communication open. Always inform your supervisor of how you’re progressing and ask for regular feedback on your performance.” The second lesson she shares with others is about efficient communication. “Without effective and efficient communication, the organization will not operate at an optimal level because mistakes will take longer to be fixed and bottlenecks will take longer to get cleared. Communication is something that I underestimated in the beginning of my career; however, now I realize it’s critical for any functioning relationship, whether professional or personal.”
When it’s right, it’s just right. And Koch knows she has found her professional home, as an Army civilian. “For me, the most satisfying part of being an Army acquisition employee is simply knowing that I’m part of the process that delivers world-class, close-combat military technology into our Soldiers’ hands,” she said. Being part of that larger mission, providing that competitive edge on the battlefield, Koch aims to “help bring Soldiers home safely and protect our great country, ensuring all of the freedoms that Americans enjoy today.”
“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/.
Read the full article in the Winter 2021 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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