BY CAPT. RICHARD A. PAQUETTE, SC, USN & LT . CMDR. JASON D. CALANDRUCCIO, SC, USN MAJOR WEAPONS SYSTEMS AIRCRAFT SUPPORT CONTRACTS DEPARTMENT NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND
The word is out! Billets at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) are in high demand and for good reason. The need for 1306 qualified officers remains a critical focus area for the Supply Corps and systems commands like NAVAIR are where you can be assigned to gather the requisite skills and abilities to attain a 1306S/Q/R for your professional skill set. In addition, the professional reputation of NAVAIR is routinely lauded by senior leaders both within the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense. So, if you want to put a great tool in your professional tool box, are willing to work hard, and want to go to a place where your contributions make a difference to naval aviation, then NAVAIR is the right duty station for you!
At the point where the Patuxent River meets the scenic Chesapeake Bay, you will find a 30,000 person strong workforce dedicated to supporting Navy and Marine Corps aviation. This high technology world exists in harmony with a rustic and relaxed country lifestyle found in the Southern Maryland region. The Navy Supply Corps is well represented at NAVAIR with more than 70 officers, including five captains and other senior officers from a host of subspecialties and backgrounds. Working side–by–side with dedicated civilian engineers, business and logistics professionals and fellow officers from the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army, your opportunity to broaden your personal and professional horizons is nearly unlimited. As a hardware systems command, NAVAIR places special emphasis upon the acquisition and contracts world, and the 1306 coded officers who are assigned to this location can expect to be challenged on a daily basis to meet the needs of the Fleet.
The mission of NAVAIR is to “provide full life-cycle support of naval aviation aircraft, weapons and systems operated by Sailors and Marines. This support includes research, design, development and systems engineering; acquisition; test and evaluation; training facilities and equipment; repair and modification; and in-service engineering and logistics support”. As an acquisition professional, you will be heavily involved in cradle to grave contracting to include the negotiation of contracting actions supporting complex naval aircraft and weapon systems programs from a few thousand dollars to major Acquisition Category I programs worth billions of dollars per action. You will aid and help navigate your respective program office through the acquisition process and be a valuable member of the integrated product team.
NAVAIR offers a rare and challenging opportunity for interns, mid–level and senior Supply Corps officers to learn, grow and sharpen their contracting skills in the unique and dynamic environment of major systems acquisition. All mid-level and junior Supply Corps officers will begin their NAVAIR journey as a contracts specialist learning the ropes and gaining valuable experience for assignments of greater responsibility and leadership within the command. As a contracts specialist, one of your major responsibilities is the coordination and development of business clearances that will ensure a fair and reasonable price for the hardware and services you are acquiring. Within the business clearance, contract specialists will conduct cost and price analysis, establish a government position and negotiate directly with the contractor on behalf of the U.S Government, and in some cases on behalf of allied governments. You will be given such responsibilities very early in your tenure, but there is plenty of support from not only your fellow Supply Corps officers but a very knowledgeable, professional and hardworking Navy civilian workforce who are always willing to assist. You are not expected to be an expert when you arrive, but you are expected to become proficient quickly and provide that critical warfighter face to this large civilian-run institution.
The work you do here has a direct impact on the readiness of naval aviation, is complex and high tempo, and may be a more challenging shore tour than some may be looking for, but the experience you receive here will be valuable as you move up the ranks and as you transition to civilian life. In addition, what sets NAVAIR apart from the other systems commands (SYSCOMs) is that many of the products you work on and support are located right here in the hangars at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. On any given day, you may see F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, E-18 Growlers, KC-130J Hercules, MH-60 Seahawk and AH-1 Sea Cobra helicopters, presidential helicopters, V-22 tilt rotor aircraft, a host of unmanned platforms including Triton, Fire Scout and a vast arsenal of high technology weapons, sensors and systems designed to give our military a decisive edge in combat. No other SYSCOM puts you as close to the products and the test teams that are fielding them than NAVAIR.
You will also have the opportunity to attend Defense Acquisition University (DAU) courses, both at a local campus site and across the country, to complete the classes needed to attain your professional certifications. In addition to DAU, a locally funded College of Contracts at NAVAIR University is also available to supplement your professional development and aid in your understanding of the contracts process. NAVAIR also runs a satellite program for Joint Professional Military Education Phase I and has a host of educational institutions located nearby to work on other advanced degrees should you so desire.
There are many opportunities for more senior mid-level and senior officers to return to NAVAIR to assume higher levels of responsibility. After you obtain the necessary skills of a contract specialist and learn the NAVAIR organization, you have the opportunity to serve as a deputy division or department head and obtain a limited or even an unlimited warrant. Here you have opportunities to learn, lead, and gain valuable experience all in a three–year tour.
Navy Acquisition Contracting Officer (NACO) interns will leave the command with not only valuable experience but the paper to prove it with a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level 2 certification. All mid-level officers with prior contracting experience and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) are expected to receive their Level 3 DAWIA certification as well as become a member in the acquisitions professional community – a huge career milestone that most every O4 and above will leave here with.
The large Supply Corps presence here assures you will have an opportunity to gain valuable peer competition at the O3, O4 and O5 ranks. We are heavily engaged with local veterans organizations and our community and perform thousands of hours of work per year to benefit organizations around the area. Our location leads to many officers living in close proximity to one another and lifelong friendships and professional relationships develop between officers and their families.
So how do you get here? Many Supply Corps officers are selected for NAVAIR Contracts as their payback tour upon completion of their MBA program at the Naval Postgraduate School or as part of the NACO internship program, though this is not the only way to receive orders. Interested members should apply early as there are far less billets than applicants, and there are many motivated Supply Corps officers knocking on NAVAIR’s door. Every officer who desires to be stationed here is screened by the senior O6 in that community so we ensure we are taking only the best qualified.
While the work and mission of NAVAIR is challenging and demanding, the area and lifestyle afforded to those stationed here is a refreshing change of pace from many of the larger Navy duty stations you may have been assigned in the past. Located in Patuxent River, Maryland, you are just over an hour from all the museums, history and entertainment Washington D.C. has to offer, but far from the traffic, congestion and noise. Southern Maryland offers a great opportunity for your family to enjoy the outdoors, outstanding seafood, great neighborhoods and public schools, and seasonal activities for family members of all ages. With numerous opportunities at different paygrades many NAVAIR alumni return to this quiet corner of Maryland for follow-on assignments.