By Luis Delgadillo
Western Regional Command
Defense Contract Management Agency’s Western Regional Command welcomed its newest commander, Air Force Col. Lance R. French, during a virtual change of command ceremony July 9.
Via virtual teleconference, Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, the director of DCMA, presided over the ceremony. Outgoing commander, Air Force Col. David Learned, relinquished command to French, who previously commanded the DCMA Lockheed Martin Marietta contract management office, or CMO, in Marietta, Georgia.
“Commanding the DCMA Western Region was my number one choice,” said French. “The scope of responsibility and the important programs worked by the region are incredible. Twenty-one very different CMOs working programs from unmanned aerial systems to helicopters and tankers; satellites and launch systems; and various missile and defense systems just to name a few. And on top of that, the region provides contract oversight of the production of hundreds-of-thousands of parts for various weapons systems for the Department of Defense and NASA.”
Bassett said French’s previous command experience, leading various contracting organizations both in the Air Force and at DCMA, places a deeply experienced contracting professional in the lead out West.
“We've got on our hands a proven leader, handpicked by the Air Force for one of our most important positions. (He is) a trusted contracting professional and I can't tell you how grateful I am that the Air Force assigned you back to the DCMA team to take on, easily, our most important role for an Air Force colonel,” Bassett said.
The agency commander thanked the families of the incoming and outgoing commanders for their support and acknowledged the attendance of Air Force senior leaders Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, and Maj. Gen. Cameron Holt, deputy assistant secretary for contracting, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
“The Air Force has a way of providing the right leader at the right time for these kinds of key positions and DCMA is grateful to the Air Force for the level of talent and the commitment showed to our agency and the commitment to acquisition and contracting,” said Bassett.
The lieutenant general counted Learned among those timely and talented leaders. The outgoing commander led the region through many difficult challenges. Learned thanked field personnel, supervisors, CMO command teams and the region staff for their dedication to the mission while facing recent workload, budgetary and societal challenges.
“I'm impressed by your patient persistence to overcome COVID, along with your innovative approaches to continue to meet our commitments, and most recently, for being recalibrated to the importance of our collective, individual commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Learned.
As the catalyst for their effort, he and the work force shared a mutual respect.
According to his Defense Superior Service Medal award citation, he led the region staff and 21 contract management offices “through its most considerable workload, resource, and execution risk rebalance in decades.”
Learned worked with DCMA leadership to help eliminate non-core contracting work and to recover and redirect 849 billets to high-value, high-risk programs.
His regional efforts supporting CMO commanders on high-value and high-risk projects also helped support day-to-day operations, to include the contract administration of 64,000 contracts worth $535 billion.
Also with the support of CMO commanders across the region, his “leadership and strategic agility improved the DoD’s production expertise and delivery performance of space systems, commercial derivative aircraft, unmanned aerial systems, and missile systems, resulting in the delivery of 184,000 quality products and critical lifecycle spares to the United States and allied warfighters.
“Our agency is huge. Our mission is complex, but it's critical to warfighters in harm's way,” said Learned. “This job tested me in ways never imagined, and inspired me in ways not expected with special relationships developed along the way. To the men and women of the Western Region, I’d like to express special gratitude to you.”
Learned’s next assignment is with the Space and Missile Systems Center, U.S. Space Force, in Los Angeles. It is one of the Western Region’s largest customers.
“My departing wish is for us to collectively remember the power of our minds; the power of thinking great thoughts; the power of thinking critically with open hearts, open minds and diverse perspectives … and the power of thinking big,” Learned said. “Then, translating such thoughts into inspiration and action. Each and every one of you is a part of me in some special way. I'm not going far, and I will remain a huge advocate and beneficiary of DCMA. Thanks again for all you do and the incredible memories.”
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