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ACE helps programs avoid risk and grows managers

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – When the Combat Search And Rescue mission-planning application needed modernization, its program managers turned to the Acquisition Center of Excellence at Hanscom to chart a process for fast fielding using CSAR Airmen’s frequent input.

CSAR Pedro King, the application, is a system designed to help mission planners track Airmen, equipment and weather in order to build better blueprints for rescue training and operations. The application was originally built on a ‘waterfall’ acquisition strategy, meaning a fully functional system is fielded all at once. Reviews showed prototyping and agile acquisition principles could improve performance.

“I think they realized that this way of fielding software, all at once, wasn’t an effective strategy anymore,” said Dr. Charles Kelley, chief of the Hanscom arm of the Acquisition Center of Excellence. “We helped them use a Section 804 strategy for the first time, and I think that’s helping them field faster and work closer with the CSAR community.”

The ACE, which staffs acquisition experts at most Air Force Life Cycle Management Center locations, is responsible for providing a one-stop-shop for programs. There, personnel can find the latest tactics and training to tackle everything from complex, expensive Acquisition Category1 weapons systems to more rapidly executed Other Transaction Authorities and prototype agreements, like Section 804.

At the end of March, the Site Senior Functional for PMs held a town hall for program managers to encourage workforce development across program executive offices at Hanscom. The acquisition functional at operating location-Hanscom also promotes the re-assignment of program managers from one directorate to another for those individuals who want to broaden their experience by working in different divisions on base.

“My role is to be an advocate for the PM workforce,” said Patrick Marr, who previously headed up ACE and now serves as functional lead for all Hanscom program managers, as well as the PMs at geographically separated units reporting to PEO Digital and PEO Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks. “We’re a portal for training and resource materials, but we also want Hanscom to be a place where the culture of our program managers grows and thrives.”

At the next AFLCMC Focus Week, the ACE will continue its efforts to spread the message of agile, creative program management by hosting classes on Agile Development Operations PMs can take through the ACE, though they won’t be listed on Focus Week material. Continuous learning points are necessary for career progression, according to Marr.

Kelley and Marr work within shouting distance of one another, and encourage the workforce to reach out to them for both career development advice and program management assistance. One major project they’re working is to assemble a series of ‘cheat sheets’ on how to trim Department of Defense acquisition regulations to suit acquisition strategies that deliver warfighting capabilities at “the speed of relevance,” as directed by the National Security Strategy. They want to boil the most complex authorities and guidelines down to simple language and clear checklists that acquisition program teams can use when critically thinking about how to field the weapons systems our Airmen need.

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