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News | June 16, 2016

Mission support training foot-stomps agency responsibilities

By Patrick Tremblay DCMA Public Affairs

LEESBURG, Va. - One year into a forward-looking Strategic Plan, and months into a mandatory reduction of its headquarters activities, the Defense Contract Management Agency recently pulled about 200 select people together for a three-day training workshop to ensure continuity and mission success.

The training was designed to leverage the regular interactions between three of the agency’s directorates - Finance and Business Operations, Human Capital and Corporate Support, or DS.

“There’s always a lot of synergy and interaction between these three areas,” said Pam Conklin, executive director of FB, “and we wanted the workshop to truly reflect our theme - Collaborative Excellence through Integration.”

Attendees came from across the agency, including those who perform finance, training, personnel, mission, facilities and other support functions. “We worked hard to maximize the number of participants from the field,” said Conklin, “and to have a strong mix of attendees and presenters, with great emphasis on interactive classroom training.”

The event was a result of the importance these organizations’ executive directors - Conklin;  Kathy Butera, executive director of HC; and Marty Jakim, executive director of DS - place on the need for the agency’s geographically dispersed workforce to be on the “same page” with mission support issues.

Judy Keene, director of the Planning and Budgeting Center, said this is the first brick and mortar training workshop for FB and DS since 2009, and the first for the HC community since 2011. Volunteers from each of the three directorates formed several working committees that spent more than six months planning and executing the conference.

“Over that last five to seven years, much has changed,” said Keene, who supervised planning of the conference and served as the master of ceremonies. “Systems have changed, policies and processes have changed. We’ve conducted virtual training events, but these don’t lend to the interactive sharing of knowledge, good ideas and experiences inherent in a conference or workshop.”

Jim Russell, DCMA deputy director, set the tone for the training, tying attendees’ various jobs to the agency’s mission statement. He said many of the current processes and requirements - whether they come from the federal government, from the Department of Defense, or from the agency’s own Strategic Plan - are designed to make the agency more efficient.

Russell said that stewardship of taxpayer dollars, including the agency’s $1.8 billion annual budget, is paramount. With 85 percent of that number constituting payroll and other personnel costs, ups-and-downs in hiring can be particularly difficult to plan around.

“How many of you were here when we became the Defense Contract Management Command under (the Defense Logistics Agency)?” asked Russell. About a dozen hands raised. “Around that time we had 26,000 people performing the contract administration services that DCMA now provides. And after that we didn’t really hire for many years, dropping the number to about 9,200.”

Russell continued by saying the agency workforce now, at about 11,700 people, requires focused training for everything from computer security to job-specific certification. For that reason, about $18 million a year is dedicated to training.

Trisha King, a management analyst who serves as the training coordinator for DCMA Raytheon Tewksbury, found Russell’s remarks and the rest of the workshop helpful. “It’s useful information,” she said, “and it’s good to have this. People definitely need to be trained.” King was interested to hear the focus on financial improvement and audit readiness, or FIAR, a DoD-wide effort. “Everyone has to be audit ready. For me that means keeping accountability of our training, and documenting everything.”

After this higher-level look at the agency’s mission and workforce, the training conference began a much more detailed look at a variety of topics. General sessions focused on personnel management throughout an employee’s entire time with DCMA, computer-based platforms such as the Defense Agencies Initiative and Defense Travel System, Managers Internal Control Program, audit readiness, and the agency’s Strategic Plan.

Eighteen breakout sessions went even deeper into specific functions, with discussion led by carefully-chosen facilitators from across the agency.

“It has become increasingly clear that many of the FB, HC and corporate support responsibilities required to support the field are interconnected,” explained Keene. “For example, you can’t properly address onboarding, travel or FIAR without touching all three. And most other functions require support from at least two of the three. As a result, we structured the workshop in an integrated manner, with many of the sessions led by subject matter experts from more than one directorate.”  

Tina Vetreno, a Boston-based planning team chief for FB’s Planning and Budget Center, presented a session on manpower execution, which she said is essential for “success in continuing to maintain agency resources.” But she hopes attendees also took away a better understanding of their importance to the agency, and national defense.

“The important thing about this group is training them to understand their role within the acquisition community,” said Vetreno. “Echoing the same things that Mr. Russell talked about, but on an individual level. They need to understand that they’re critical in making sure that we as an agency have the resources we need in order to execute the acquisition workload that we have.”

Vetreno, a 16-year veteran of DCMA, said the workshop came right on time, particularly with continuing changes to budgets and personnel. “We haven’t done this since 2009, so it was critical that (attendees) have the most recent information.”

Air Force Lt. Gen. Wendy Masiello, DCMA director, opened the event’s final day by thanking attendees for embodying service“ one of the agency’s core values. “Thank you for caring enough about what you do to come to a session like this to learn more; to get better at what you do; to meet people from around the agency, so when you have trouble or a question you know who to call.”

“Thank you for what you do each and every day,” concluded Masiello. “Thank you for taking care of our folks.”