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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Contracting Command -- Orlando
TITLE: Policy Branch chief
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 16
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in contracting
EDUCATION: MBA, Monmouth University; B.A. in psychology and business administration, Georgian Court University
AWARDS: Achievement Medal for Civilian Service; Superior Medal for Civilian Service
Chart your own course
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Chart your own course

When it comes to discussions of what's wrong with acquisition, many fingers point at regulation: There's too much of it and it slows everything down. Lesley Sullivan, Policy Branch chief for the U.S. Army Contracting Command -- Orlando (ACC-Orlando), agrees that there has been an increase in regulatory policy over the years. "But that's not necessarily a bad thing," she said. Consider, for example, DOD's mandate to implement peer review of solicitations and contracts.

Implemented in 2009, the goal of the peer reviews is to ensure consistent policy implementation, improve the quality of contracting processes and facilitate sharing of best practices and lessons learned. The Office of the Director for Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy facilitates peer reviews for all solicitations valued at $500 million or more and for all services contracts valued at $500 million or more.

"That mandate has been extremely beneficial," Sullivan said. "Having independent eyes review documentation before solicitation and award results in better documents, and I believe it has reduced the number of protests."

Sullivan has served as chief of the Policy Branch and special competition advocate at ACC-Orlando since 2010, and she also serves as alternate principal assistant responsible for contracting (PARC). She's responsible for the analysis and evaluation of contracting matters and the initiation, development and recommendation of contracting policies, procedures and controls and their impact on a variety of projects located throughout the organization. She is also responsible for reviewing, interpreting and developing procurement policies, planning and program guidance, and management analysis on a myriad of programs and procurements. She participates on peer review boards, procurement management reviews and contract management reviews to assess and improve contract administration and to provide oversight of ACC-Orlando's contract execution.

She was designated as the ombudsman for ACC-Orlando in June 2015, and in that role she is responsible for reviewing complaints from the contractors under multiple award task or delivery order contracts and ensuring that they receive fair opportunity for consideration, consistent with the procedures in the contract.

"The most important points in my career field are being designated the command advocate for competition, ombudsman and the alternate PARC," she said. "That displays the fortitude to face the toughest of leadership challenges in the execution of ACC-ORL's portfolio."

Sullivan got her start in government work in 2000, through an intern program at the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), then in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. "The great thing about the CECOM internship was that I had the chance to rotate through all three sectors: research and development, supply and services. I had the chance to work on some programs from cradle to grave, and to work on portfolios across the entire organization. It was a great experience."

Sullivan planned to transfer to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, when base realignment and closure forced CECOM to relocate there. "But my daughter wanted to go to college in Florida, so we decided to follow her." That move brought her to the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) in 2008, which was just beginning to stand up its policy office following a transition from the Navy. PEO STRI's contracting center transitioned to ACC-Orlando in February 2015.

Sullivan's made some impressive contributions over the course of her career. Her efforts in promoting competition led to a competition rate of 88 percent at ACC-Orlando, and her work on policy and procedural guidance resulted in the organization receiving many commendations during its inaugural Headquarters, Army Contracting Command Procurement Management Review. She developed training for the ACC-Orlando workforce on critical acquisition processes that enhanced program execution, and developed instruction on communicating with industry that provides policy and guidance on methods to actively engage industry and benefit from its knowledge of available products and technologies. Her work on ACC-Orlando's procurement administrative lead time (PALT) industry day forum has reached nearly 2,900 industry partners, and it culminated in her selection to present the communication initiatives at the National Contract Management Association World Congress in July.

Held monthly, PALT industry day sessions provide interested industry partners with information regarding the status of ongoing ACC-Orlando procurements and the opportunity to request updates on specific procurements of interest in a question-and-answer forum. The PALT initiative has enabled the workforce to respond more quickly to critical, emerging requirements, and the sessions have evolved into market research opportunities for requiring activities as well as a venue for developing teaming opportunities.

"My greatest satisfaction as part of the acquisition workforce is observing how the workforce experience level has broadened and customer support increased by developing standardized, accurate, up-to-date acquisition instruction and contract instruction material to ensure our Soldiers are equipped with the best products and services," said Sullivan.

Among those who've played a part in her success, Sullivan noted, is Wendy McCutcheon, a former division chief at CECOM. "She was willing to share her wisdom, knowledge, skills and expertise while maintaining a positive outlook on life," said Sullivan. "She gave me direct, constructive feedback while holding me to high standards, and she was genuinely concerned about me and my success."

And as for success, she added, that's up to the individual: "The most important advice I would give would be that you are responsible for managing your own career and achieving your goals. Upon completing Level III in contracting, seek certifications in other career fields such as program management and logistics."

This article was originally published in the October -- December 2016 issue of Army AL&T magazine.

"Faces of the Force" highlights members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. The series, produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch in close coordination with public affairs officers, features Soldiers and DA civilians serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, go to http://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.