Defense Acquisition University.
Why are we--as financial management professionals--interested? Let me explain.
At present, the number of persons in the acquisition community who perform financial and financially related tasks is estimated at over 10,000. They are grouped together in a Department of Defense (DoD) Acquisition career field called Business, Cost Estimating and Financial Management (BCEFM). This field has its own certification criteria, its own set of career-supporting courses, its own resources for earning continuing education units (CEUs), its own articulation agreements with degree-granting universities, and its own jobs. Professional personnel do not begin to qualify for jobs in this field without at least the basic Level I BCEFM certification.
The DAU provides the training, both through distance learning and classroom instruction through its centrally funded programs for the BCEFM certification. In short, the DAU is a superb learning institution that opens the doors to thousands of new career opportunities for financial management professionals who are motiviated to put forth the needed effort.
Acquisition skills and knowledge are being emphasized throughout the DoD. The ASMC, too, is increasing the emphasis on acquisition and acquisition skills and knowledge as an integral part of every DoD financial management professional's basic competencies. For example, for the first time, there was an acquisition track at the ASMC Professional Development Institute in New Orleans.
In addition, Dr. Nancy Spruill, Director for Acquisition Resource and Analysis in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics), has joined the ASMC Certification Commission, the policy board that oversees the Certified Defense Financial Manager certification program. An active supporter of the DAU, Dr. Spruill has played a major role in shaping the current BCEFM certification training.
Finally, as ASMC reviews the content of its Certified Defense Financial Manager examinations, we intend to increase acquisition content, which will be mirrored in the Enhanced Defense Financial Managers Course. Financial management professionals will need, then, to become familiar with the world of defense acquisition--and the DAU provides the means to do so.
The DAU serves a total acquisition population in the DoD of just over 132,000--7 days a week, 24 hours a day--and has a teaching faculty numbering around 320. Its graduates number just under 50,000 each year. The geographical scope of DAU's campuses spans the continental United States: Capital and Northeast Region--Ft. Belvoir, Virginia; Mid-Atlantic Region-Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland; Midwest Region Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; South Region-Huntsville, Alabama; and the West Region-San Diego, California.
The school was established under the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) and has become a model corporate university. It is led by its president, Mr. Frank J. Anderson, Jr., who is widely credited with the school's great success.
BCEFM Certification Requirements
The DAU is managed from its Ft. Belvoir headquarters office, a building that boasts the stately columned facade of a Greek temple. On a recent morning, I met with Ms. Sharon Richardson, director of the Center for Business, Cost Estimating and Financial Management, Curricula Development and Support Center. She is responsible for administering the BCEFM subject matter curricula.
As Ms. Richardson explained, the certification program is based on completing a series of courses. It is a course-based, as opposed to a test-based, certification.
To attain the Level I BCEFM training certification required for entry-level acquisition positions, a student must successfully complete three courses: Acquisition (ACQ) 101, Fundamentals of Systems Acquisition Management (required of all acquisition personnel), and two of the following three courses: BCF 101, Fundamentals of Cost Analysis; BCF 102, Fundamentals of Earned Value Management; and BCF 103, Fundamentals of Business Financial Management.
Level II is similar, beginning with ACQ 201, Intermediate Systems Acquisition, and culminating with the completion of one of the three remaining courses listed in the preceding paragraph, as well as BCF 205 and one intermediate course in any of the subjects listed previously.
Level III, the journeyman level, requires successful completion of BCF 301, the Business, Cost Estimating and Financial Management workshop, a capstone-level professional course taught using the Harvard University case study method.
Completing certification training provides the training framework, but there also is an experience requirement for each level. Level I BCEFM requires 1 year in direct support of the acquisition process. An additional 2 years are required for Level II, and 2 more years are needed for Level III in BCEFM.
Typical BCEFM duties include financial planning; administering budgets; accounting for obligation and expenditures of funds; cost estimating; cost performance management of contractors; and advising or assisting commanders, program managers, and other officials in business management in direct support of DoD acquisition. (For more information, refer to DoD 5000.52M, available at http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives; click Publications (Regs, Manuals, etc.) and scroll to DoD 5000.52M.)
As students progress up the ladder of courses, increased attention to critical thinking, problem solving, and executive decision-making skills replaces the introduction of further new subject matter. For more detail, there are two excellent sources of information: the DAU Web site (http://www.dau. mil) or the current DAU catalog, available at no cost from the DAU Registrar (1(888) 284- 4906 or DSN 655-3003).
Most Level I DAU courses are available by distance learning and are open continuously for enrollment. This means that literally thousands of students are enrolled and progressing through the Level I courses at once. Prospective students not in an acquisition-coded billet must be persistent in registering.
For in-class courses, all unreserved seats are opened 45 days before an offering. Enrollment is through the Defense Acquisition Career Manager. If TDY is involved, students must make their own arrangements, including their own funding--but seats are available only on a first-come, first-served basis.
Earning College Credits and Continuing Education Units
A visit to the DAU Web site reveals that all of the instruction's courses are tuition-free, that students can open a student account and begin their study at times convenient to them, and that successful completion of courses will earn college credit as recommended by the American Council on Education (ACE), the national organization that oversees post-secondary education in the United States.
For example, for successful completion of ACQ 101, the ACE recommends 2 semester hours of college credit in the lower division baccalaureate category. Other courses carry similar credit recommendations, up to 9 semester hours at the graduate level for successful completion of the Advanced Program Management Course (APMC). PMT 352,
Program Management Office Course, supersedes APMC; PMT 352 carries 6 undergraduate credits for the on-line portion and 3 graduate credits for the in-class portion.
Students not needing academic credit can earn continuing education units, listed in the DAU catalog, for these courses. The DAU is an authorized provider of CEUs under the International Association of Continuing Education and Training.
In addition, the DAU has entered into agreements with a number of universities to accept DAU credits toward their degree programs and have guaranteed that DAU students will be admitted. For example, the University of Phoenix has a degree program in financial management and cost estimating and will accept up to 30 semester hours of DAU credits. Further, all courses are available on the Internet, so one can earn the entire degree through distance learning.
Individuals can receive single copies of publications from the DAU press at no cost. These include such journals as the Acquisition Review Quarterly, Program Manager magazine, and a wide variety of others, including Introduction to Defense Acquisition Management, an excellent short volume introducing the reader to the terms and systems used in defense acquisition. The DAU catalog and the Web site provide a complete list of publications (Resources/Publications).
Later that day, I monitored an Acquisition 201 class. The course is designed for more experienced acquisition personnel who are seeking Level II certification. This class is called a hybrid because the first part is done via the Internet. Following successful completion of the Internet phase, there is 1 week of classroom instruction.
I was pleased to observe the case study mode of instruction in use, and a very lively discussion of contracting, funding, and ethics was in progress. The instructor, Mr. Rich Stillman, was skilled in drawing out the viewpoints of the student groups that had worked the problem. In fact, he gave significant points to groups that did not arrive at the "school solution," provided they could defend their reasoning--which they did with expertise and some vehemence. No sleepers in that classroom!
DAU--A Worthy Institution
I would sum up my visit and my impressions of the DAU as follows: It is indeed a model, award-winning corporate university dedicated to serving the acquisition community (including contractors) across the DoD. It has both the human and fiscal resources to do the job well, and it actively reaches out to its clientele. It presents a host of educational opportunities to the DoD financial management community (including ASMC members) ranging from CEUs to certification to earning college degrees.
It is an institution whose time has come. We ALL need to begin using its programs and services.
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|Title Annotation:||ASMC Visits ...|
|Author:||Raines, John T.|
|Publication:||Armed Forces Comptroller|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2003|
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