Print Friendly, PDF & Email







Developing leaders for the future Army Acquisition Workforce doesn’t stop, not even in the face of a pandemic.


Craig A. Spisak Director, U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center and Director, Acquisition Career Management

Remember when we thought the COVID-19 pandemic would be in our rearview mirrors by July? Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. But like the rest of the Army, and indeed the entire DOD, your Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) Office remains hard at work.

An important job of the DACM office—managing leadership training for the Army Acquisition Workforce (AAW)—continues. But there are changes coming; some partly in response to the pandemic, others designed to improve the programs to align training and leader development to an evolving AAW.

Let’s take a look at some of those programs.


Even before the pandemic, we had decided to shut down the Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship (CDG/AAF) for fiscal year 2020 to evaluate the program. We wanted to ensure that CDG/AAF, which began in 1997, was in line with the evolving requirements of the acquisition community. We decided to refocus the program to better meet a glaring need: No program existed to help prepare civilians at the NH-III level—GS-12 to GS-13, or other broadband equivalent—for our program manager (PM) roles. The resulting program—Leadership Excellence Acquisition Development (LEAD)—grew partly out of feedback from previous cohorts, and partly from the desire for more PM-centric training to provide more qualified civilian PM candidates.

The new program will be shortened from 36 months to 24. The shorter time frame means all required Civilian Education System distance-learning classes must be completed before a candidate can be accepted. Candidates also must be Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certified to the highest level in their current acquisition career field, as well as being certified in program management. The first LEAD cohort will likely have some necessary grandfathered acceptance clauses.

The changes don’t end there. Previously, students negotiated their assignments. LEAD will add additional structure to the assignment negotiation process For example, in an effort to put theory into practice, each student will rotate through the Pentagon as a DA system coordinator (DASC) within the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. These assignments will be as NH-III 0340s, versus the previous 0301 training assignment series.

The new program includes a writing assignment: Students will be required to submit an article for publication in Army AL&T magazine or on the Army AL&T News website. We have also engaged previous CDG/AAF graduates for mentoring relationships with the new students.

The application process also will be enhanced. In addition to the utilization of CAPPMIS, the Army’s source for acquisition career management, for the application portal, candidates will be further vetted by the Army DACM’s Talent Management Board of Directors, a Senior Executive Service or flag officer-level board.

The official announcement for applications to the inaugural LEAD class will come in October.


Another key program we’ve further developed is the Inspiring and Developing Excellence in Acquisition Leaders (IDEAL). The program is designed to develop current and future AAW supervisors. The program consists of multiple one‐week sessions over a period of approximately six months. Applicants must be GS-12, -13 or -14 or broadband equivalent, and DAWIA certified in their current position.

Because of the pandemic, we’re going to conclude the fiscal year 2020 cohort using Microsoft Teams. We’re canceling the fiscal year 2021 class. We hate to do that, but IDEAL optimally requires resident, face-to-face training. For the 2020 class, we’re transitioning to small groups of four to five with an instructor. The typical offsite visit won’t happen.

When we resume the IDEAL program, we’ll move forward having learned some valuable lessons. IDEAL leans more toward developing existing supervisors, which is why we plan to open it up to GS-14s or broadband equivalents.

ALL OVER THE MAP: The Army’s Training With Industry cooperative program has been conducted at locations all across the country. (Graphic by USAASC)


We’ve also expanded our Training With Industry (TWI) program. TWI is a one-year work-experience training program that embeds selected acquisition officers into corporate America, exposing them to the latest commercial business practices, organizational structures and cultures, technology development processes and corporate management techniques.

TWI grew from 10-12 positions in fiscal years 2016-2019, to 30 positions in 2020. The final number we’ll have in fiscal year 2021 is yet to be determined, but the Army plans to maintain the growth of the program by tailoring TWI assignments more specifically to get officers the right experience to prepare them for future commands. Thus an officer involved in vehicle acquisition likely would go to an automotive company; a logistics-heavy program officer to a company like Amazon or FedEx; an officer involved in electronics would probably go to an electronics company. Each TWI position would be tailored with placing the right officer in the right company to better serve the Army down the line. Then, at the conclusion of the TWI assignment, we would expect to utilize that officer in follow-on activities that were enhanced by the experience.


The Army Acquisition Corps is providing a path for select officers to earn a doctorate degree and become acquisition technical experts through Advanced Civil Schooling. Such experts support the Army’s scientific and engineering needs across a broad spectrum of assignments, including product and project managers, to achieve real-time technology solutions to immediate and future battlefield challenges. Examples of needed technical degree paths are:

  • Cyber and networks
  • Computer science and engineering
  • Robotics
  • Physics
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Autonomous systems
  • Directed energy
  • Material engineering
  • Aeronautical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Biotechnology

Each officer’s path will be unique, offering opportunities to work in research and directly impacting modernization priorities through product management responsibilities. We currently have five officers pursuing a Ph.D. in material science, human-centered computing, aeronautical engineering, and information systems and data analytics.


We have developed a partnership with George Washington University (GWU) Law School for a pilot program in the Master of Studies in Law with a concentration in government procurement. This is an addition to the existing Advanced Civil Schooling program for officers. It provides an advanced education opportunity from a quality program that is intended for professionals who are not interested in earning a law degree or practicing law, but require knowledge of the law for their jobs. GWU Law School considers itself to be the birthplace of the government procurement law discipline, and we want our officers to receive instruction from academic professionals who are pioneers in the field. Our intent is that acquisition officers will benefit from using their experience to build on critical thinking and gain a deeper understanding of policy and law.


The Emerging Enterprise Leader program is a one-year developmental program that provides aspiring leaders in the grades GS-11 and GS-12 (or equivalent) within the program executive offices and the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center with specialized junior-leader development. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be on hiatus for fiscal year 2021.


Are there other opportunities you’ve observed during this pandemic that can better serve the acquisition community? We intend to continue refining the efficacy of these program to ensure their intrinsic value is maintained in improving our leadership and technical acumen. If you have any ideas that you would like to share, please don’t hesitate to contact me or my staff. Sharing ideas is the best practice in striving to be the most capable workforce for the Army.


Subscribe to Army AL&T News – the premier online news source for the Army Acquisition Workforce. Subscribe