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News | March 1, 2023

DCMA Keystone program unlocks agency’s future

By Jason Kaneshiro DCMA Eastern Region Public Affairs

Editor's Note: This story is the first in a series of articles and videos highlighting the important role the DCMA Keystone program plays in the current and future success of the agency's warfighter support mission.

Defense Contract Management Agency’s mission ensures the Defense Department, other federal agencies, and partner nation customers get the equipment they need, delivered on time, at projected cost, and meeting all performance requirements.

DCMA’s Keystone development program trains the future workforce to ensure the continued fulfillment in that critical mission.

A Keystone Cohort Workshop held in Orlando, Florida, this fall brought together program participants from across the country for a three-day in-person training session that included, presentations, team-building exercises, and the opportunity to network and interact with senior agency leaders.

Keystone program participants are drawn from multiple sources, said Susan Li, DCMA East Region Keystone hub manager.

“We have been fortunate enough to hire Keystones from all over,” Li said. “During the last cohort, we had some recent college graduates, military veterans, and some participants entered the program after being recommended from current DCMA employees to apply.”

Additionally, some Keystones served as former procurement technicians who applied and were brought into the program after the hiring process.

“Being a new employee at a new agency can already be intimidating, but the pandemic made it that much more intimidating because they were not able to meet everyone on their team,” Li said.

The in-person cohort event was geared toward the first- and second-year Keystones who were hired around the same time during the pandemic, Li said. “They were able to share experiences with each other and how to work through some of those challenges.”

The expectations were for the Keystones to gather and meet in-person to build and establish a stronger support network community, said Sophia Peterson, DCMA West Region Keystone hub manager.

“The Keystones would meet their support team face-to-face. That team included DCMA senior leaders, leaders from DCMA’s Total Force Directorate, and leaders from the DCMA Regional Commands,” Peterson said.

The Keystones gained a better understanding of their agency value from senior leaders during the event, Peterson said. “The Keystones also learned how their contributions at the contract management offices tie-in to the region’s scope of responsibilities in multi-functional areas.”

Providing that opportunity for Keystones to build their professional networks and communicate face-to-face with senior leaders and Keystone alumni proved pivotal, according to Yvette Bowers, DCMA Keystone program manager.

“We wanted them to actively engage with other Keystone and program administrators,” Bowers said. “We also wanted them to visit a contractor site and see how the many functional areas work together to produce quality products for the warfighter.”

The Keystones had the opportunity to witness the products of their labors during contractor site tour as part of the Workshop.

The Keystone Program recruits personnel in all contracting disciplines and familiarizes them to a robust, cross-functional training regimen over a three-year period to improve their preparedness and capabilities. As a Keystone navigates the program, their duties and responsibilities increase. Accordingly, their paygrade increases annually from entry level to journeymen.

“Once they graduate from the Keystone program, they will be able to work hand-in-hand with the employees,” Li said. “The Keystones are the future of DCMA. Many of the Keystones that graduated from the program are now supervisors, group directors or directors within the agency.”

Peterson concurred that the Keystones are the future leaders of DCMA.

“We have Keystone alumni as team leaders, administrative contracting officers, first-line supervisors, and in senior leader positions throughout DCMA,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the agency is always seeking to attract and hire high-quality candidates for Keystone positions.

“The caliber of Keystones candidates that are hired does make a difference and it allows the agency to invest in their training and development,” Peterson said. “That commitment to hire the best-qualified candidates and to use a structured environment to train our Keystones does influence their abilities to perform well when it comes to the agency’s primary mission of ensuring the timely delivery of quality and affordable products.”

Peterson said the work environment has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the team realized that the Keystone Program had to keep up with developments in technology and new training platforms to support successful completion of their training requirements for Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification.

The Keystone Program is focused on ensuring that graduates are able to work at their full performance level and are ready on day-one to perform the duties required within their functional area, Bowers said.

“Our Keystones must be ready to perform as the eyes and ears of the warfighter, ensuring that the products they receive are safe, cost effective and meet their needs,” Bowers said. “Agency Keystones are a vital element to the accomplishment of the DCMA mission to enhance warfighter lethality.”

As a succession planning tool, the hiring and training of Keystones helps to ensure that the agency is able to fill vital entry-level positions across the agency, grow new leaders, and make certain that DCMA consistently has the talent needed to fulfill its mission, Bowers said.

“The Keystone program has unlimited potential,” Bowers said.