By Kari Hawkins (The Redstone Rocket)October 17, 2012
Education for the local Department of Defense acquisition work force is just a "stone's throw" away from Redstone Arsenal's gates.
Actually, in real-world descriptive, that education can be found north of Gate 9 and west on Old Madison Pike on the Huntsville campus of the Defense Acquisition University.
In 12 classrooms at the university's modern 63,000-square-foot facility, some 10,000 defense acquisition students a year take courses in 13 career fields, including program management; life cycle logistics; facilities engineering; test and evaluation; information technology; contracting; cost estimating; financial management; production, quality and manufacturing; industrial/contract property management; and systems planning, research, development and engineering for program systems, science and technology management, and systems engineering. The DAU's faculty and staff of just over 100 employees offer 110 courses each year.
It's a busy place -- drawing students from across the South and throughout the nation -- and it's fast growing out of its facility.
"We are at 95 percent capacity," said Richard Gallman, the associate dean for outreach and mission assistance at the university's local facility. "We've only been in this building for 2 1/2 years. Our long range plan is that by 2018 we will have a facility actually on Redstone Arsenal in the old schoolhouse area (near Gate 10)."
The Huntsville facility is the educational center for the Defense Acquisition University's South region, encompassing more than 35,000 government acquisition civilians in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. It is one of five college-level DAU campuses, with others located in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and California.
"We've been in Huntsville since February 2002," Gallman said.
"Before then, we did have a presence sporadically to hold classes wherever we could find room in Huntsville or students would have to travel to Fort Belvoir (Va.) for classes. Even in 2000, we recognized that we were under-serving the current student population in this area. We had students on a waiting list even back then. We were just not satisfying demand so the decision was made to expand. The reduction in travel costs for students paid for the expansion into Huntsville."
DAU's first local address was One Progress Center. The first location grew from three classrooms to six, and yet still didn't provide enough classroom space to handle demand from the region's DoD civilians and military.
"We made Huntsville a DAU center because we wanted to be closer to our customers. There's a high number of federal and Department of Defense employees in this area and this location is central to those employees," Gallman said.
And with the move of the Army Materiel Command and the Army Contracting Command/Expeditionary Contracting Command to Redstone, the demand for acquisition classes continues to expand.
When the new facility opened, it not only provided much needed space, but it raised the university's profile within the local community and the region. The Huntsville campus provides the resources for DAU to achieve its mission in the South region -- to provide a global learning environment to support a mission-ready defense acquisition work force that develops, delivers and sustains effective and affordable war fighting capabilities.
Besides the facility off Old Madison Pike, the region also has two-classroom satellite campuses at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, both considered major centers of defense acquisition employees.
For acquisition employees, it's not a question of if they will attend a DAU class, but when.
"We are the DoD school house for the mandatory Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (1990) training," said Jay Snyder, professor of contract management at DAU. "DoD military and civilian employees working in acquisition must take courses at the college level."
Military and civilian positions in each career field require certification at three different levels: Level I Basic or Entry (GS 5-9), Level II Intermediate or Journeyman (GS 9-12), and Level III Advanced or Senior (GS 13 and above).
Although the Huntsville DAU is Army centric, about 40 percent of its students come from other services.
"Philosophy-wise we mix services in the classroom," Gallman said. "Because of the mix we offer and the fairly inexpensive travel costs to Huntsville, this is an attractive training site for acquisition employees in all the services and throughout the nation. Our sites are the least expensive in terms of TDY locations."
Forty to 58 percent of DAU's students are on TDY during their training at the Huntsville location.
"The regional centers don't compete for students. Students are evenly distributed among the centers. It balances out because the government will send their acquisition employees to the most cost-effective location for them," Gallman said.
Besides classroom instruction, DAU also offers online courses and mission assistance in terms of consulting, special training and rapid deployment training.
"When new policies and directives are introduced, we provide rapid deployment training where instructors will introduce new materials during a 'road show' at acquisition centers," Gallman said.
Among its management courses, DAU offers mission assistance in sustainment planning, executive coaching, understanding industry partners, specialty engineering, cost-benefit analysis and technology transition.
The university monitors acquisition training needs to ensure it offers the type of classes needed to improve work performance.
"We want to fit classes to the needs of the work force. Employees who take our classes are more qualified for their job now or wherever they want to go with their careers," Gallman said. "We teach them important fundamental knowledge and skill sets."
Acquisition supervisors work with employees to establish individual development plans that outline their acquisition training schedule. Once that training schedule is set, they look to DAU to provide the needed training.
DAU also offers workshops in the workplace at the request of government organizations. There are also leadership development courses, including the 10-month Army Senior Service College Fellowship.
"The challenge is to develop leaders for the federal government," Gallman said. "The senior fellowship program is much like the War College experience, only for a civilian. It's for the next emerging leaders, and it gives them additional skills so they can go to the next level of responsibility and leadership."
DAU offers classroom and online courses at www.dau.mil. Its online services provide assistance with research and strategic planning.
"Our website offers very robust and improved learning architecture that can be used to strengthen the work force and fill in teaching gaps," Gallman said.
DAU is mission-funded, offering classes at no cost to federal employees.
"We are not making a profit. We are providing a valued service to the acquisition community," Gallman said. "We are helping acquisition organizations make a difference. We are a one-stop shop for all defense acquisition-related training.
"We are here to help Team Redstone with acquisition training. We are part of the team and we share the same mission to support the war fighter."