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News | Feb. 18, 2020

CMO deputy commander took strategic career risks

By Tonya Johnson DCMA Public Affairs

Christina Gallagher said her career success was not by accident.

“I had to make difficult choices along the way,” said Gallagher, who is the deputy commander at Defense Contract Management Agency Raytheon Tewksbury. “As I enter my 39th year of federal service, I want to share my story with those who are entering the workforce or who find themselves faced with a difficult career choice.”

As the CMO’s deputy commander, Gallagher is the senior civilian technical authority on contract management and program support. The CMO’s mission is to provide in-plant contract administration services to the Department of Defense and its customers to ensure the delivery of quality products and services that are on time, within projected costs, and meet all performance requirements.

Army Col. Robert Ralston, CMO commander, said Gallagher is a role model.

“Mrs. Gallagher is an impressive, selfless Department of Defense senior leader and an excellent example for all to emulate,” said Ralston. “Her career is a perfect example of how determination, flexibility, and personal courage allows for a defense employee to navigate from entry to the highest levels of responsibility. She is a testament to resiliency and a mentor to all those who wish to do the same.”

Gallagher has been with DCMA since its beginning. As the agency celebrates its 20th anniversary in March, Gallagher reflected on her own federal career as well as the opportunities that she has been afforded as a DCMA employee.

Gallagher, who grew up in California, entered federal service at 16 years old. She had to take the Civil Service Test, a typing test, and complete the Standard Form-171 Application for Federal Employment.

“There were no resumes or USAJobs back then to apply for a job,” she said. “I was the executive assistant to a Navy captain at the Naval Plant Representative Office, also known as NAVPRO, in Pomona, California. It was an office located at General Dynamics. I answered the telephone, greeted visitors, cleaned the silver tea set, and even emptied the ashtrays. After graduating from high school, I transitioned into a position as a clerk typist.”

As she was promoted, her job duties and responsibilities increased. She also attended college part-time while working a full-time position.

“Through hard work, attending junior college in the evenings, and with the advice and guidance of mentors, I was promoted to a GS-5/7 budget analyst at NAVPRO.

“This was when I was faced with my first difficult choice. The Defense Contract Management Command, which later became DCMA, was absorbing the Contract Administration Services mission from the Navy. The choice was staying with the Navy as a budget analyst or accept a job offer with DCMC in contracting. I chose the contracting job, which I believed would provide more opportunities for me.”

In 1993, Gallagher left California because the CMO she was at closed due to a defense contractor merger. She transferred from the Defense Contract Management Command’s location at General Dynamics in Pomona, California, to the command’s location in Tucson, Arizona, which later became DCMA Tucson.

“I had to decide whether to transfer to an unknown location somewhere in Southern California or move my family to Tucson, Arizona,” she said. “It was probably the most difficult and emotional choice I had to make in my life. I knew in order to continue the success in my career I had to take a risk, so I moved from Southern California to Tucson.”

After moving to Tucson, Gallagher continued to attend college in the evenings, courtesy of the agency’s tuition assistance program. She volunteered to work on various agency projects to increase her skill set. After completing 24 hours of college credits, she was promoted to a GS-11 contract administrator, then a GS-12 administrative contracting office, and later a GS-13 contracting subject matter expert.

“I continued to work on completing my college degree, and I looked for other opportunities within the agency,” she said. “It took me two tries, but I succeeded in being selected in 2005 for DCMA’s Centralized Development Program College Sabbatical Program and graduated from Pennsylvania State University’s online degree program with a Bachelor of Science in organizational leadership in 2007.”

After being a first-line supervisor for a few years at DCMA Tucson, Gallagher was prepared to make another strategic career risk and move to Massachusetts in 2008.

“After spending a few years as a first-level supervisor, I continued to seek positions with increasing responsibility by actively pursuing a position over 2,600 miles from Tucson as a group leader at DCMA Raytheon Tewksbury,” she said.

She worked at DCMA Raytheon Tewksbury for two years when the agency reorganized in 2010 and Gallagher transitioned from the contracting career field to quality assurance. She later became the Quality Assurance group director and obtained her Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act, also known as DAWIA, certification in production, quality and manufacturing, known as PQM.

“I didn’t stop there and continued to build my brand by expanding my expertise across multiple acquisition career fields,” she noted. “In addition to achieving DAWIA Level III certification in contracting, I achieved Level III in PQM and Level II in program management. These choices paid off with the achievement of my career goal, when in 2018, I was promoted as the deputy commander of DCMA Raytheon Tewksbury.”

After two decades with DCMA, Gallagher wants others to know that success requires employees to take risks and work hard. She has enjoyed her DCMA experience and continues to guide others who seek career advice.

“As I look back on my career, I would not have been as successful as I am today without making difficult choices along the way,” she said. “These choices have shaped my career. Nothing was handed to me and the choices were all mine. As our agency director, Navy Vice Adm. (David) Lewis, previously said, “You own your career. No one else is in charge of your career.’"

Editor's Note: This is the first article in a series on various DCMA employees who will be highlighted throughout the year as the agency celebrates its 20th anniversary.