HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Acquisition professionals throughout the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center have a wide range of expertise and tools available to them through Acquisition Center of Excellence offices.
The ACE office provides services from individualized team support, training on varied acquisition topics and help with specific issues or problems.
“The ACE is a valuable resource that is not just for program managers but for the entire program team,” said Dr. Charles Kelley, current ACE chief. “When you request formal ACE support you get much more than advisors working hand-in-hand with your team. You also get connected to other areas of support, from financial management and contracting to engineering and test support as well.”
Kelley said interested personnel can reach out for ACE support in three main ways. First, program personnel can request formal ACE support, where an ACE program support advisor, and potentially a source selection advisor, work with the team to guide them all the way to contract award.
Next, personnel can request specific training. Due to the pandemic, all training is currently offered virtually via means such as CVR Teams. Kelley noted that since mid-March his office has provided 59 virtual training sessions to over 1,000 personnel. The ACE office also routinely provides courses during AFLCMC Focus Weeks.
The third method is for someone from a program team to reach out with an ad hoc request looking for help with a specific issue or problem. Kelley said this can be anything from reviewing an Acquisition Strategy Plan to obtaining clarification on the latest acquisition policies.
Kelley said requests for the office’s services have “skyrocketed.”
“In FY19, we had 84 ad hoc support requests,” he said. “To date, for FY20, we have had 335 such requests. For FY20, we are also formally supporting 93 programs, where in FY19, it was 71.”
There is also an ACE SharePoint site that offers numerous resources and tools, including a Program Manager’s Tool Kit. Kelley said the team just finished an extensive update of the kit.
Kelley is preparing to retire after more than 35 years working for and with the Air Force. He said he had two primary goals during his time as ACE chief.
“I wanted to increase awareness of our ACE capabilities within the Hanscom acquisition community, and to consistently provide value-added support to our customers.”
He noted the ACE team has tailored training to focus on rapid acquisition, creating just-in-time training packages on Agile DevOps, Middle Tier Acquisition and Other Transactional Authority.
“These classes have been extremely well received and have provided multiple program teams with the tools and knowledge to successfully develop and launch rapid acquisition strategies.”
He noted challenges do still exist though, saying that he’d like to see personnel moving away from what he calls a “template” culture.
“Too many times, personnel are looking for an example or a template. To truly deliver capability at the speed of relevancy, we have to step back and use critical thinking to navigate through the acquisition process.”
Kelley’s successor will be Michael Platteel, who brings more than 30 years of acquisition experience and leadership to the position.
Platteel recalls using the ACE office when he worked on the AWACS program.
“NATO personnel asked our ACE to review their acquisition strategy for a new foreign military sales case. The ACE team spent several weeks in dialogue with NATO and highlighted several risk areas, which the Hanscom AWACS team was able to debrief to the NATO board of directors. This independent assessment gave the nations the confidence to finalize the strategy and approve their FMS case.”
Kelley said the office’s success is because of its personnel.
“Our growth is a direct testament of the acquisition acumen and desire to support (the acquisition community) that each member of the ACE team brings to the table,” Kelley said. “They are second to none!”
Platteel says as he transitions to the new position that he’d like to capitalize on the lessons learned from the past five months of telework to use technology to reach more programs across Hanscom and the AFLCMC community.