National Small Business Innovation Research , phase II conference & exhibition : DAU Alumni Symposium 2005—best practices and solutions for rapid acquisition, logistics and technology

The 22nd Annual DAU Alumni Association Acquisition Symposium was held April 19-20 on the Capital/Northeast Campus of DAU at Fort Belvoir, Va. It was billed as a practical learning experience on rapid acquisition processes and models, and it lived up to expectations in all aspects. The theme of the symposium was especially timely as our nation's warfighters are currently actively engaged in combat with terrorists world-wide, with particular emphasis on Iraq and Afghanistan. They rely on acquisition leaders and managers to provide the best technology available in a short period of time.

DAUAA's vision--to bring together the best leadership and management resources for improving defense systems acquisition--drives the association and is the key rationale for holding the symposium.

Outstanding Professional Development Work

The symposium opened with Jeff McKeel, retiring president of the DAUAA, recognizing the Capital Area Chapter and DAUAA South Region Chapter for their outstanding professional development work in joint DoD-industry events. He also paid tribute to the financial and intellectual support that the DAUAA has received from corporate sponsors Boeing. Northop-Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and ESI International.

Keynote Address: Retired Air Force Lt. Gen Lawrence P. Farrell Jr.

Frank J. Anderson Jr., DAU president, introduced the keynote speaker, first briefly describing some of the learning awards that DAU has earned over the past several years and the role of DAU in providing an agile, integrated learning environment where acquisition work in the field merges with learning.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., focused his keynote address on the need to use good old common sense in working program management issues, quoting Will Rogers to make his point: "If common sense is so common, how come we don't see more of it around?" Farrell stressed the need to pay attention to technology readiness levels in transitioning new technology to acquisition programs when we are trying to acquire materiel rapidly. Alluding to recent improprieties that have surfaced on some DoD programs, Farrell opined that acquisition leaders at all levels need to "just follow the rules and behave."

Service Perspectives

One of the highlights of the morning session on April 19 was a panel discussion on "Service Perspectives on Rapid Acquisition," moderated by Claude Bolton, assistant secretary of the Army (acquisition, logistics and technology (AL & T). The discussion explored new DoD policy on rapid acquisition; for example, one of the key items recently activated in the Office of the Secretary of Defense--a Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC). The Cell acts as a coordinating mechanism to reach agreement quickly on joint procurements, both strategy and funding, and has been very effective in speeding the process. The only negative is that the JRAC has experienced push-back from other staff elements throughout DoD because it does not follow traditional acquisition paths. The panel consisted of Dr. Robert Buhrkuhl from the Office of the Secretary of Defense; Army Col. Richard Hansen Jr., PM Soldier Warrior; Barry Dillon, deputy commander, Marine Corps Systems Command; Army Col. Gregory Tubbs, director, U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force; and Blaise Durante, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition integration.

View from Congress

Congressman Kurt Weldon, R-Pa., was the featured speaker in the afternoon of the first day. Weldon is vice-chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services and very well-informed on acquisition matters. To make the point about the need to get equipment and materiel rapidly to the troops in combat, he told a story about one of his constituents who lost his life in Iraq, his message being that acquisition managers should not lose sight of the warfighter, who counts on them for rapidly deployed, yet reliable, supported, and effective equipment. He also admonished the audience to put aside differences between the executive and legislative branches of government and cooperate to the fullest in order to better serve the warfighter. Weldon closed his presentation to a standing ovation.

Spruill Receives David D. Acker Award

At the symposium reception and banquet at the Fort Belvoir Officers Club, John J. Young Jr., assistant secretary of the Navy (research, development & acquisition (RD & A)), spoke about the need to encourage innovation within the acquisition community, citing several real-life cases of innovative practices.

Dr. Nancy Spruill, the director, acquisition resources and analysis, in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, was awarded the coveted David D. Acker "Skill in Communication" Award, the DAUAA's most prestigious award. Created to honor the late Professor David Acker, the award is presented annually to one individual who has promoted and communicated acquisition management excellence to the acquisition workforce.

DAU Hall of Fame Awards

The evening reception and banquet was also the scene of the annual DAU Hall of Fame awards. Four persons were inducted into the DAU Hall of Fame: Claude Bolton, assistant secretary of the Army (AL & T) and former commandant of the Defense Systems Management College; Gregory Caruth, former director of the DAU Visual Arts and Press; Paul McIlvaine, former DAU logistics department chair and renowned author; and Donna Richbourg, former director, acquisition initiatives Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (AT & L).

Logistics and Defense Industry Views

Other key rapid acquisition practitioners and panelists during the remainder of the symposium were Lt. Col. John Wright from the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force, who presented several examples of how the Army is rapidly equipping (not necessarily fielding) urgently required equipment to the warfighter; Dr. Bob Buhrkuhl, who presented on the need for coordinated responses across the Services to meet urgent operational needs; a Performance-Based Support Panel, led by Randy Fowler of the DAU faculty, which included senior Service representatives discussing how best to support equipment rapidly delivered to the troops; and an industry panel on rapid acquisition, co-moderated by Brad Brown, past president of the Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Company and currently a DAU faculty member, and Richard Rumpf, former assistant secretary of the Navy (RD & A). The panel looked at how industry can best support the concept of rapid acquisition.

Non-Defense Industry View: The Last Word

The final speaker of the symposium was John Phillips, a former assistant secretary of defense for logistics and a retired Air Force general officer. Phillips is now the vice-president for government operations for the Home Depot. His engaging presentation stressed how Home Depot is employing innovative ideas in getting material to the customer faster, whether that customer be Harry or Harriet Homeowner or the DoD warfighter.

This year's Symposium was well-attended, and participants went away with a sense that a model for rapid acquisition, technology, and logistics is beginning to emerge.

For more information on the DAUAA, go to .

Bahnmaier is the newly elected president of the DAUAA. He is a retired Marine and a former major system program manager.
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