Wisdom

3 Newcomer Tips for Traveling the Defense Acquisition Industry

A strange language, a new culture, and a unique landscape best describes what one would experience if traveling to a distant country. Traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures can be an enlightening adventure, but it will come with certain difficulties. Defense acquisitions can be the same as traveling to a new place. Known as the world’s most difficult and complex acquisition system, the U.S. defense acquisition operation is much like visiting an unknown country. I have the privilege of exploring this new country, and it’s an experience that I cannot forget.

My first encounter in defense acquisitions was eye opening. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and it came with a ton of questions. First, what even is defense acquisitions? Up to this point, I have had zero contact with the defense world in any respect. Imagine being dropped off in a country that doesn’t speak your language, that was my first encounter. I was hired as a program analyst for a defense contracting company, and thankfully, my boss knew my ignorance and guided me into Defense Acquisition University classes and office explanations. This significantly reduced the culture shock and confusion. Slowly, I began to learn this new language and understand the culture of defense and industry. Almost one year has passed since I began this journey, and trust me, I’m nowhere close to being an expert. Defense acquisitions can be daunting for the beginner; fortunately, I had help with my understanding of the system. The first help was a mentor who was knowledgeable of the system. Someone who can spend one-on-one time with you and explain the little details will be an asset to one’s journey. The second help is Defense Acquisition University (DAU) classes. DAU offers online courses that takes one through the entire process of defense acquisitions. This is crucial and necessary to understand and to move forward in a defense career. Lastly, a group of experienced people that one can network and share information. I’m lucky to be able to attend a Friday breakfast group that deals with defense works in their separate businesses and lives. I usually sit back and listen to the wisdom of years of experience and advice.

Defense acquisitions can be overwhelming as a newcomer. If one has the resources and the help, it can be conquered. Utilize these three tips to gain priceless wisdom of what to do and what not to do while traveling the defense world.

1. Find a mentor to guide you one-on-one, this makes the learning process much easier.

2. Take DAU online courses, for many companies it is a requirement, and it gives you a leg up on the competition.

3. Build relationships with those who have endured the learning and have been successful in the industry.

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By: Matthew Sheppard

What are the Characteristics of a Good Performance Parameter?

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Too often today, legacy performance requirements are invoked on new military ground vehicle programs without giving any thought to whether they will result in a suitable capability or not.  It is assumed that by invoking legacy requirements from the M1 or Bradley, that a new vehicle program will enjoy comparable performance.  That is simply not the case.

So, if available legacy performance requirements are insufficient to ensure suitable operational capability, what characteristics need to be considered for updated performance parameters?  There are a few.  

First and foremost, each invoked performance metric should be operationally relevant.  That means that metrics should assess capabilities required to complete an operational mission; not simply testing for testing sake.  One example of this type of outdated metric is the ability to ascend and descend a paved 60% grade.  Paved 60% surfaces occur nowhere except at test facilities.  Paved roads grades are typically capped at no more than 8%, but may have short stretches up to 15% grades; well below the typical legacy test requirement for military vehicles. It is understood that military vehicles should be able to traverse terrain that may not be passable by commercial vehicles.  So, is there a better way to assess a military vehicle’s capability to ascend and descend grades?  The answer is ‘Yes”.  Instead of evaluating a vehicle’s grade climbing ability on a dry solid surface, it would be more operationally relevant to assess that capability on natural soil.  

Another feature of good performance parameters is a metric that assesses multiple vehicle features with a single test.  An example of a multidimensional metric is speed on grade.  This parameter considers such features as torque available at the drive sprocket or wheel hubs, capability of the cooling system to stay within operating temperature limits when under load for an extended time and transmission gear ratios and shift points.

The last key feature of good metrics is those that are unambiguous.  Good metrics identify test conditions such as weight (curb, gross vehicle, or both), (air conditioning on or off), fuel type, air temperature, etc. as well as a detailed test procedure.

The bottom line is there are performance parameters that are much better suited to providing appropriate operational capabilities than those invoked on many legacy vehicle systems.  Requirement developers and testers need to try and avoid simply plagiarizing metrics from previous programs and ask themselves “Is there a better way?’

Guest Blog Written By:
Bill Ross, Sr. Mobility Systems Engineer
Nevada Automotive Test Center 

Know your core, lead by example, & when necessary, "jump on the grenade."

We recently read the below LinkedIn post and found it to be very agreeable with our goals. We thought it was worth sharing. 

My boss welcomed me into her office & shut the door. I had no idea that meeting was about to deliver the impact of a hand grenade. “Welcome to OUR company. We’re glad you’re here," she greeted me. She quickly moved to a topic sacred to her & to the company: Core Values. She smiled but took on a serious tone. She said, “We stand for 3 things: 1) Do the Right Thing, 2) Teamwork & Trust, 3) Have a Passion for Winning – in that order.” It wasn’t marketing gibberish. These were expected & rewarded behaviors here. She continued, “My job is to make sure the CEO knows who Gary Frey is. Your job, once you’ve built your team, is to make sure I know who your stars are. Hire your replacement & never be afraid to hire people smarter than yourself.” Servant Leadership: She didn’t just talk about it. She LIVED it. She led by example. Her peers & the CEO recognized her for it. She had the most coveted object in our company tucked away on her shelf: a Waterford crystal hand grenade. She never mentioned it. She didn’t have to. It was legendary. A precious few were given by the CEO to associates who had “jumped on the grenade” on behalf of our associates & customers. She remains the best boss I’ve had. My takeaway: Know your core, lead by example, & when necessary, "jump on the grenade."
-Posted by Gary Frey via LinkedIn