Magazine article National Defense

College Recruits Acquisition Workers

Magazine article National Defense

College Recruits Acquisition Workers

Article excerpt

Training needs improvement, says defense management college chief

Pen tag on officials agree the education of the defense acquisition work force needs improvement. The reason, they say, is that programs must be run more effeciently.

Another obstacle procurement officials wish to overcome is the difficulty in communicating with the private sector about what the Defense Department needs.

"I think industry is very important to us today in government," said Rear Adm. Leonard N. Vincent, USN, commandant of the Defense Systems Management College (DSMC), Fort Belvoir, Virginia. "And I also think it's a two-way street. If we are really going to shorten cycle times and reduce costs, we have to know and trust each other."

The college-founded in 1971, by former Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard-is currently working to answer the challenge set forth by Jacques S. Gansler, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology, who said, "Training our work force in new ways of doing business must be our number one priority."

Program Management

DSMC is part of the Defense Acquisition University, which reports to Gansler. "This is the place where people come to learn about program management, logistics courses, and systems management courses," said Frank Swofford, industry chair, Executive Institute, office of the commandant at DSMC.

DSMC's primary mission is to educate and uphold efficient systems management practices, said Vincent in a recent interview at the college.

The college offers 30 courses designed to provide the acquisition workers with primarily intermediate and advanced program management training. Courses last from three days to 14 weeks.

DSMC spends approximately 90 percent of its training at the level II (intermediate) and level III (advanced) stages, said Vincent, in support of the Defense Acquisition Work force Improvement Act, which requires certification according to levels.

Each session, the college enrolls approximately 360 students-12 sections of 30. Because of its current faculty size, DSMC will accept a maximum of 15 industry representatives per class, said officials. The college's desired quota is 12, but only eight are enrolled in the current session. Officials at the college expect to have at least one industry student in each of the 12 sections.

"We would like to have an industry student in every section of class," said Swofford. "The cross-learning or the cross-fertilization [between industry and government] is just excellent... The rule of thumb is that 4 percent of 360 students should be industry. It is our objective here to maximize industry throughput to help bring about governmentindustry partnership."

DSMC officials believe that increased awareness of the training program is the solution to filling the quota and beyond. They said having industry students in class is advantageous to all participating parties.

"If you ask my opinion," said Swofford, "it would be a better arrangement to have an increased number of industry folks come to DSMC, because then we get more interaction. We get more industry students who get better training."

Better trained professionals leads to more efficient business practices between the public and private sectors, said officials.

"The value from the government side is when you have an industry student in class, you then get a perspective of how industry views Defense Department acquisition," said Swofford. "An industry person brings a different kind of mindset. He understands how bids are developed within his company, why they are developed that way, how they are priced, what decisions are made in terms of teaming or not teaming-the full range of acquisition decisions that a company has to make in order to decide to bid on a program.

Officials at the college agreed that military students are not the only ones who benefit from industry's presence. …

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