The squeaky wheel gets the acquisition career

By January 14, 2020Faces of the Force
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Col. David Warnick

TITLE: Project manager
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Joint Attack Munition Systems Project Office, Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management
EDUCATION: MBA, Naval Postgraduate School; Master of Strategic Studies, Air War College; B.S. in management and systems engineering, United States Military Academy at West Point
AWARDS: Defense Acquisition Workforce Individual Achievement Award for Program Management; Meritorious Service Medal (four oak leaf clusters), Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Aviator Badge

By Susan L. Follett

Nearly 20 years ago, then-Capt. David Warnick was finishing his troop command as an aviation officer and a Kiowa Warrior pilot and was “not necessarily impressed with the direction of the platform.” Research into how modernization and improvements took place led him to the Acquisition Corps. “After talking with some mentors, I felt this would be a great way to apply my aviation background and ensure that future pilots had platforms that brought the greatest capability to the battlefield.”

Warnick—now a colonel—has had an active career since then, starting as assistant program manager in the Aviation Rockets and Missiles Product Office and the Close Combat Weapons Systems Project Office within the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Missiles and Space; then serving as a warranted contracting officer at Fort Drum, New York; a Department of the Army systems coordinator in Washington; as executive officer for the deputy for acquisition and systems management in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology; and eventually returning to PEO Missiles and Space in July 2016 to serve in his current role: project manager for the Joint Attack Munition Systems Project Office.

“Our office is responsible for designing, developing and delivering air-to-ground munition systems that over time have been adapted to be fired from a variety of platforms for employment against a wide range of target sets,” Warnick said. The office’s HELLFIRE missiles and Hydra rockets, along with their associated launcher systems, have been used extensively in current overseas contingency operations, and the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) has recently been fielded for use in multidomain operations. “We are very proud of the long history of our programs and the efforts we have taken to extend that legacy, and we continue to provide safe, reliable and effective munitions,” he said.

“I am truly blessed to have the greatest job in the Army. It has given me the opportunity to work with some of the most dedicated and caring professionals you will ever find,” Warnick added. “They are an incredibly gifted and talented group, but what separates them from other organizations is their cohesiveness and genuine concern for the warfighters they support and for each other.”

Given the number and variety of platforms that Warnick’s office oversees, it’s not surprising that he considers stakeholder management to be the most challenging aspect of his job. “I have a portfolio of products with a variety of end users from all U.S. services, numerous foreign partners, multiple platforms with unique integration requirements, and our extensive supply chain of industry partners,” he said. He advocates and supports decision making at the appropriate levels for product managers and functional leadership as a way to address that challenge. “I am fortunate to work with great leadership in those positions and they make it possible to keep the organization and our product lines on track,” he added.

What would he look for if he were hiring someone for his position? “First and foremost, I would like to keep my job,” he said. “It is the most rewarding position imaginable, with a critical mission, and incredible people executing challenging tasks. Unfortunately, I know I can’t stay here forever. The skills most important for my successor to possess are the ability to empower subordinates, followed closely by patience. It is difficult but necessary to fully empower subordinates, but with clearly defined left and right limits to operate within,” he said. “Patience is also key while processes are being refined to optimize to the establishment of [the U.S.] Army Futures Command.”

“You should never do anything that compromises your own integrity, and you should demand the same from your peers and subordinates,” Warnick said. “I tell my team that if we provide good information to leaders and they make bad decisions, sleep well. The alternatives of providing misleading information to get what we believe is the right decision, or providing incomplete information, leads to an uninformed decision, and compromises our integrity, and that should never be done.”

Late in 2019, Warnick received the Defense Acquisition Workforce Individual Achievement Award for Project Management for his accomplishments on several fronts. He led efforts to ensure that the JAGM program earned a successful milestone C decision in June 2018 and achieved initial operational capability in March 2019. Joint testing for the missile was completed in May 2019. The JAGM will eventually replace the TOW and HELLFIRE missile families. Additionally, Warnick oversaw increases in production for the HELLFIRE missile in response to increased demand, and led efforts within the Aviation Rockets and Small Guided Munitions Product Office to cut costs and enhance the reliability and capability of the Hydra-70 Rocket System and Small Guided Munitions.

“I was very surprised when the [award] announcement was made,” Warnick said. “There are so many high-profile efforts going on across the DOD, and even though I’d put my team up against anyone, I know there were many excellent contenders for the award.

“I am honored to have been selected for this very prestigious award, and appreciative of the recognition it has brought to our office and the accomplishments of our amazing team,” he added. “The past few years have been extremely challenging, and for the most senior acquisition leaders to acknowledge the effort and sacrifices made by our office to support the warfighter is very humbling.”

“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

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