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By Tonya Johnson
DCMA Public Affairs
Irene Johnson’s mentors always encouraged her to apply for various leadership training at the Defense Contract Management Agency.
Johnson started out as a Keystone employee, and one of her mentors, Myra Tate, who is the deputy director at DCMA Marietta, told her years ago about her experience at the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces, also known as ICAF.
“My mentors let me know years ago how prestigious it is to attend these types of programs,” said Johnson, who is the current director of the Contracts and Pricing, Policy and Processes Division in the Contracts Executive Directorate at headquarters. “My bosses kept pushing me to do it, but at the time, I had a small child, and he needed me. Now that he is older, it was the perfect time for me to pursue a career development opportunity.”
Johnson realized her dream of attending such a program when she was selected by the agency to attend the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at Fort McNair, Virginia. It is the current name of what was known as ICAF. She started the 10-month program in August 2021 and graduated June 8.
Everyone who graduates from the program receives a master’s degree in national resource strategy. Because of her background, Johnson received a certificate in senior acquisition concentration. Approximately 300 people graduated in her class.
“I was told that once you go to the Eisenhower School that you can write your own ticket in regards to your career goals,” she said. “The Eisenhower School is a great opportunity in which you get to interact with numerous senior military and civilian leaders. It’s a great place to learn about different strategies.”
During the program, Johnson learned more about leadership, government funding, and how various programs work, including science and technology.
“The science and technology courses taught me that what was done during President Eisenhower’s era is still relevant or applicable today,” said Johnson. “We need a new scientific revolution in which we are still able to compete and defeat potential adversaries.”
Another area Johnson gained more knowledge about was cybersecurity and how it affects military warfare.
Although Johnson participated in the hybrid program during the COVID pandemic, she still had a chance to travel to select places for the industry study portion of the program, which was held during the second semester. She chose to focus on software engineering and artificial intelligence for her project and visited companies in California, Pennsylvania and New York, and she visited Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She attended virtual meetings with employees based in companies around the United States and internationally.
“I was told by Ms. (Sonya) Ebright (DCMA’s deputy director) to study something that I had never done before, and that was excellent advice,” Johnson stated. “I learned so much during this timeframe that I can use on the job. The program does require a lot of time as it involves travel and writing a lot of research papers.”
In her current position, she supervises a team of 15, which consist of an industrial specialist, cost and price analysts, and contract specialists.
Johnson has 19 years of contract management experience in defense contracting. In her previous positions, she held various operational contracting roles. She is an unlimited warranted administrative contracting officer who has supported several major defense acquisition programs, including the C-130 Hercules and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Johnson had a specialized tour with DCMA International as an ACO for “reachback” contracts for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Some of her awards include the National Contract Management Agency Advancing Professionals Award in 2016; the Department of Defense David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award in 2017; and the Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 2019. In addition to her master’s degree, she has a bachelor’s degree in business management with a concentration in international business from California State University at Dominguez Hills.
Her career background prepared her for the Eisenhower schoolwork. But Johnson also had a chance to network and get to know her instructors and classmates outside of the academic environment. In addition to military and Department of Defense civilian personnel, other federal employees participated in the program, including from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security — as well as individuals from other allied countries. During her time at the school, she served as a seminar yearbook representative, school photographer and a running coach.
Johnson’s career goals include learning how to use innovation and technology in the acquisition process such as researching the utilization of a secure cloud for the agency’s special access contracts. Before her current position, Johnson worked for eight years in DCMA’s Special Programs Command.
She encourages DCMA employees to apply for leadership development programs like the Eisenhower School. Employees can apply for this program and others through the agency’s Centralized Development Program, also known as CDP. It is managed by the Total Force Directorate.
“I’m glad I was selected to attend the Eisenhower School. I had a great time,” said Johnson. “Employees should apply for these types of programs because they teach you how to become more efficient and to think outside of the box.”
For more information, visit the program’s website.
Employees can learn more about CDP on DCMA365 (login required).
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