When I reported aboard my first ship, USS Sterett (DDG 104), the Supply Officer I relieved had been accepted to a fuels internship in Hawaii.
Before he left, he talked to me about the importance of internships and recommended that I start thinking about my next assignment soon. When it came time for me to submit an application for an internship, I reviewed the available options, and contracting was one of the first topics that sounded appealing. I have extended family in commercial contracting, and it seems to be a fulfilling career for them. I chose Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Washington D.C., because NAVSEA is the largest buying activity in the Navy. With a budget of more than $30 billion, NAVSEA accounts for nearly one quarter of the entire Navy’s budget, and I figured that an assignment there would give me a broad perspective of large-scale acquisition today.
Life at NAVSEA has been a professionally and personally rewarding experience. I serve in the SEA 025 division, which procures Undersea Warfare (USW) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) equipment for surface ships. Within this division, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the cutting-edge technology that will be put on the Navy’s ships and submarines now, and in the near future.
I am currently working with Contracting Officer Lt. Cmdr. Chris Wilson, a Naval Postgraduate School Alumni, to administer and maintain contracts for one of the leading sonar tactical suites (SQQ-89) that values in billions of dollars. Working on these contracts, helping to equip our Sailors with the latest and most advanced equipment, makes me feel like I am solving real-world problems every day. I also work alongside military and civilian contracting specialists and contracting officers who purchase the latest weapons, radar and tracking systems, and even the ships for the future.
Training in NAVSEA has been extensive. From the online and residential Defense Acquisition University (DAU) training courses, I feel prepared for my job. I’ve also had the privilege of working with a very talented group of co-workers, both military and civilian, who have helped to guide and mentor me so that I can become a well-qualified contracting officer later in my career.
Upon completion of my training in this tour, I will gain a sub-specialty code (1306S) that will be noted in my record, allowing me the opportunity to apply for billets that not all Supply Officers can qualify. In addition, I will become part of a much sought-after community within the Supply Corps that is gaining a higher profile with today’s military leadership. Although my return to NAVSEA is uncertain, I know that the training I receive and the experiences I will gain as a NACO will make me a more valuable asset to the Navy.
In today’s uncertain economic times, the need for first-hand contracting and acquisition experience will only increase, and this internship will provide me the skills to perform should I be fortunate enough to be assigned as a contracting officer in future details.
By Lt Justin Lessel, SC, USN
Contract Specialist, Naval Sea Systems Command