On Jan. 24 the Missile Defense Agency Contract Operations Directorate received the 2023 Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Innovation Award (Large Organization).

This award – one of five annual awards representing 24 categories – recognizes acquisition organizations that demonstrate excellence in talent management practices that “ensure their workforce is equipped to deliver world-class warfighting capabilities to the warfighter.” Awards were presented at the Defense Acquisition University in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Nominations are evaluated based on demonstrated innovative thinking to address workforce challenges, excellence demonstrated in value of the contribution to the organization’s strengthening and responsibly sustaining the acquisition workforce, and contribution to overall DOD acquisition improvement priorities.

MDA Contracting formed the CONOPS Directorate in mid-2022 to enable acquisition and contracting execution through the core functional areas of Policy and Compliance, Business Systems, Source Selection, Pricing, and Contract Management.

Two separate entities were combined into a single cohesive body that reviewed acquisition and contracting policies, streamlined acquisition/contracting guidance, and resolved policy issues. This facilitated more uniformed program execution in support of MDA’s mission.

Contracting Director John Mayes said CONOPS’ receipt of this award “only further affirms the spectacular efforts they have made to better our organization and enhance the workforce. They truly do portray excellence.”

“It is exciting to see that Mr. Mayes’ vision for CONOPS is being realized and the entire CONOPS staff worked together to achieve a pretty significant number of quick wins; not only for Acquisitions and Contracting, but for the agency,” CONOPS CTO Director Tasha Davis said.

CONOPS Director Ramin Ghadimi called the award a tremendous honor.

“The award is even more meaningful, as this was the first full year of the CONOPS team’s formation under a new organizational structure within the MDA Acquisition and Contracting functional areas. It’s truly a testament to the superb accomplishments of dedicated professionals throughout all five of the directorates within CONOPS,” Ghadimi said. “The entire team is laser-focused on implementing more efficient and effective ways of doing business across the acquisition enterprise, and I can’t thank them enough for all they do each day to support the MDA mission.”

Established approximately two years ago, Mayes said the CONOPS organization has had a deliberate focus on building tools, processes, and educational resources for the workforce.

“The CONOPS team has done herculean work which has made huge impacts by driving efficiencies throughout the process,” he said. “We are better today because of the team’s efforts.”

CONOPS CTZ Director Teresa Woody echoed Mayes’ sentiments, adding that all of CONOPS has focused on establishing and improving the best processes and tools to more fully support the contracting workforce.

“We are never satisfied with status quo,” she said. “We continuously look for new and better ways to streamline, update, inform and educate. We love it when someone comes to us with a problem or an idea and we get the opportunity to design the right solution to meet their needs.”

CONOPS CTS Director Jesse Kirstein said he believes this honor will only serve to increase the team’s drive to continue to work together, innovate, and achieve the best possible outcomes for customers and mission partners.

“The CONOPS group, overall, includes what I consider to be people that are at the top of their professions or areas of expertise, with very diverse perspectives, but that also shares a ‘can-do’ and continuous improvement mindset,” Kirstein said. “CONOPS is truly a force multiplier for CT and DA workforce.”

The CONOPS Directorate is credited with:

·        Facilitating extensive training to transfer knowledge to the workforce; notable “process improvements, contributions and perseverance”

·        Demonstrating “exceptional innovative thinking and progress in tackling workforce development challenges in source selections”

·        Guiding “strategic initiatives to increase cost a

Missile Defense Agency Contract Operations members Jesse Kirstein, Karen Hillstead, Tasha Davis, Director for Contracting John Mayes, Ramin Ghadimi and Teresa Woody accept their 2023 Defense Acquisition Workforce Awards in Fort Belvoir, Va., Jan. 24.
Missile Defense Agency Contract Operations members Jesse Kirstein, Karen Hillstead, Tasha Davis, Director for Contracting John Mayes, Ramin Ghadimi and Teresa Woody accept their 2023 Defense Acquisition Workforce Awards in Fort Belvoir, Va., Jan. 24.


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nd pricing capabilities and negotiation outcomes across the enterprise”

·        Leveraging “digital automation, data analytics and E-Business tools to identify and implement process improvements, foster cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst the workforce.”

CONOPS developed the Virtual Suggestion Box as a tool for leadership to receive feedback from all levels of MDA and created the CT Project Task Tracker that provides leaders a strategic and tactical view of DA and CT’s priorities and allows them to identify risk areas, manage priorities and identify mission challenges and necessary resources.

The aforementioned provides only a snapshot of what CONOPS has accomplished since its inception.

“CONOPS is a support- and service-driven organization and, in many cases, works to improve processes, tools, and systems that will result in improved data, compliance and oversight for acquisitions and contracts,” Davis said.

In just a single 12-month period, CONOPS equipped the acquisition workforce with invaluable resources.

“We accomplished significant process improvements, streamlined policy, improved communication, and gained innovations and efficiencies while continuing to support the execution of the MDA mission,” CONOPS CTP Director Karen Hillstead, who was also the CTM director during the award period, said. “I am so proud of the commitment and perseverance of our MDA team.”

“I have no doubt the team will continue to sharpen our workforce and provide management tools and resources to better see and execute our mission well into the future,” Mayes said.