The Defense Contract Management Agency has about 11,000 people. Most are civilians, subject matter experts in all layers of contract administration. Less than five percent are uniformed military. About 70 are Navy Supply Corps officers. These range from young officers in internship programs to an admiral, all meshing fleet and office experience to create a uniquely qualified cadre of acquisition personnel.
“My job here is to learn,” Navy Lt. Paul Roan explained. “I’m given a workload, not to the extent of the other contract administrators, but I also am here to learn from top-to-bottom what goes into contracting.”
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Navy Lt. Paul Roan is a Navy Acquisition Contracting Officer intern assigned to DCMA Boston. For two years he’ll work and learn before bringing his experiences, and important federal acquisition certifications, back to the fleet. (Photo by Patrick Tremblay, DCMA Public Affairs)
Roan is a Navy Acquisition Contracting Officer intern at DCMA Boston. Over his two year assignment, he’ll manage a workload that includes both contract administration and coursework. When he returns to the Navy fleet, he’ll be Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Level II certified. He’ll also have experiences that set him apart from his peers.
For many officers, a DCMA assignment is a rare opportunity to work directly with industry to ensure quality products and services make it to colleagues around the world. It’s also a chance to be immersed in a mostly-civilian office environment.
It can be a challenging cultural shift, even for seasoned officers, but the rewards are clear.
“This assignment has absolutely added a skillset to my portfolio,” said Navy Capt. Robert Brooks, DCMA Manassas commander. “I’ve done surface ships, aircraft carriers – you do different assignments and add different skills. My tenure with DCMA has certainly added tools to my toolbox.”
Brooks is in charge of one of the agency’s largest contract management offices, covering all of Virginia and North Carolina. The CMO oversees about 2,400 contractors and more than 71,000 contracts valued at over $1 trillion dollars.
“I’m not foreign to working with civilians, but this is basically an all civilian workforce,” said Brooks. “It presents different challenges, and I have to rely on and trust my senior civilian leadership.”
Brooks had an acquisition background prior to being assigned to the agency, including DAWIA Level III certification and time as an individual augmentee in Iraq working with contracts. Brooks’ role now is as a senior leader, working with his staff to successfully execute the mission. “I’m not a subject matter expert in any one single functional area,” he said, “but I have a great team of subject matter experts that I lead and follow daily.”
In addition, Brooks hopes to help add context for his workforce.
“It’s important for everyone to connect the dots between what they do here at DCMA and what the warfighter does in the field,” he said. “Our work at the agency is paramount to the success of those in uniform, during both training and real world operations. What motivates a young Sailor may be different from what motivates a journeyman civilian – but it’s essential in either case to establish a clear association between what they do and the success of the overall defense mission. Relevance is key.”
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Navy Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Hagan is a DCMA Manassas project manager, and acts as executive officer for his commander. Hagan says the flexibility he’s developed from Navy assignments lets him fill gaps at the contract management office. (Photo by Patrick Tremblay, DCMA Public Affairs)
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Hagan works for Brooks as a team leader and administrative contracting officer at the CMO. He also assists Brooks in handling the many military-specific administrative requirements of an O-6 command. “My Navy experience has made me very flexible,” said the Kentucky native, “that’s what I bring to this job.”
After his first sea duty, Hagan’s career moved into contracting when he became an intern at the Defense Logistics Agency. The program, similar to what Roan is in now, provided him with DAWIA Level II certification. An assignment as a contingency contracting officer in Iraq gave him his first real exposure to DCMA.
Hagan later pursued the opportunity to be assigned to the agency. “Coming out of graduate school, I had just spent 18 months getting my masters in contracting. I wanted to make sure I could get a position where I could hone my contracting skills.”
Like Brooks, Hagan says DCMA is helping strengthen skillsets not typically exercised in a Navy assignment. “This job is terrific for my Navy career. It’s giving me skills and experiences that will make me a better Supply Corps officer, and also more competitive for advancement in the service.”
Navy Capt. Sidney Kim knows better than most how DCMA assignments can positively affect a future in the Navy. Kim is currently the assistant chief of staff for logistics in the Third Fleet. His immediate past two positions, however, were both DCMA commands – first as the commander of DCMA Boston, then as commander of the newly-formed Eastern Regional Command.
“The DCMA assignment has been the most challenging experience I’ve had from an administrative perspective,” said Kim, citing the challenges of reorganization at the agency along with managing limited human resources. It’s his Navy background, however, that gave Kim the tools to do the job.
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Navy Capt. Sidney Kim held two commands with DCMA before his current Navy Third Fleet assignment. He credits his broad Navy leadership experience with helping him be successful in leading the agency’s Eastern Regional Command during a major reorganization.
“The Navy has provided me with diverse educational and training opportunities to equip me as a leader with very broad functional background. I’ve also been given opportunities to serve with multinationals, civilian work forces, reserve components and other service counterparts in my previous joint jobs.”
Kim added, “I think a typical Navy Supply Corps officer brings to DCMA more than just acquisition, contracting and program experiences. We often refer to ourselves as generalists, and I think there is a huge strength in that.”
Now that he’s back in a fleet assignment, Kim looks at his agency time as an important piece of making him a complete leader. “I believe those unique experiences have matured me as a more humble leader. DCMA is certainly quite different than the Third Fleet, yet those essential qualities as a leader are enduring wherever you go.”
Navy Rear Adm. Deborah Haven’s office may be in Fort Lee, Virginia, but DCMA’s highest ranking naval officer’s responsibilities lie around the world. As head of the agency’s International Command, Haven oversees operations in more than 26 countries, including more than 8,600 contracts valued in excess of $128 billion dollars. She is also responsible for DCMA’s Contingency Contracting Administration Services mission in direct support of U.S. Central Command theater operations.
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Navy Rear Adm. Deborah Haven leads DCMA International, the agency’s arm overseeing contract administration services in more than 26 countries. She’s the most senior of about 70 Navy Supply Corps officers assigned to the agency. (Photo by Patrick Tremblay, DCMA Public Affairs)
Her background is different than many other uniformed personnel at the agency. “I’m a Reservist, which is a great background for this position,” Haven said. Her immediate past position was as a senior civilian leader, the deputy director of maritime customer operations at Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime. “Having worked with a civilian workforce, I came to this role with an appreciation for the technical expertise of the civilian workforce.”
Today she melds her civilian and military experience in a complex role. “We have unique challenges in International. We’re often working with other nation ministries of defense and with international workers,” said Haven. “We’re successful because we all want the same end state – on time, high quality and under budget products and services.”
One of the challenges Haven said she sees for officers assigned to DCMA is staying connected with the Navy community. “This requires effort on the officer’s part, but an assignment at DCMA is a great opportunity, particularly for junior officers. They get to work outside of the military, directly with industry, and to work with and often lead civilians. These are terrific experiences.”
By Patrick Tremblay, DCMA Public Affairs