News: Senior leaders advise acquisition officers on way ahead
Story by Carden Hedelt
QUANTICO, Va. - Marine Corps officers in acquisition billets gathered Aug. 23 at Marine Corps Systems Command to hear from select leaders in the Marine Corps acquisition community, including Tom Dee, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for expeditionary programs and logistics management.
As the DASN ELM, Dee is the principal advisor to Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development & Acquisition) Sean Stackley on matters relating to expeditionary capabilities, urgent needs processes and execution and acquisition logistics.
Dee explained that he does more than advise.
“We try to help push things through,” he said. “We work within the synapses in the Pentagon so that we can know what’s going on and where we’re going to have problems.
“There are a thousand people who can tell you no,” Dee said. “We try to get the people to see the end-state that we’re trying to reach, and try to get them to say yes. We’re trying to work through the issues on why they can’t say yes so you all can do what you want to do.”
The portfolio Dee manages includes most Marine Corps ground and information technology system programs, from combat and amphibious vehicles, to tanks, command and control, body armor, small arms, munitions, artillery and military working dogs.
Dee also let the acquisition officers in attendance know what their programs might face financially in the drawdown after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While the post-conflict budget cut was something they foresaw, its steepness and the uncertainty surrounding future budgets makes this particularly challenging, Dee said.
His advice was to press forward as planned.
“We’ve got a plan and you guys have your plans, your acquisition strategies,” he said. “Don’t get your cost estimators or your industry partners all spun up. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We know we’ve got a program objective memorandum, we know we’re going forward, we know it may change sometime between when the service submits it and when the president submits it. But for now we know what we know, and we’ll go forward. It will be challenging, but it won’t be impossible.”
Because those future budgets could change so greatly, Dee emphasized collaboration with the Marine Corps Combat Development Center and others to get requirements right.
“We shouldn’t be removed from the requirements discussion,” Dee said. “We should be active participants in it. You have to understand the capability the Marine Corps needs to have.”
Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley, MCSC commander, also spoke at the event, telling acquisition officers they should keep an open mind about their next rotation.
Kelley’s plan for some of the officers in attendance lies outside of MCSC.
“We’ve done a really good job of matching Marines to program offices and to programs of high priority to the Marine Corps,” he said. “The next step for us is to make sure we also cover on those other areas where we need to have influence and don’t.”
Those positions of influence are in the Pentagon and in other places that have important roles in Marine Corps acquisition.
Kelley illustrated his point through Col. Greg Masiello, who is the military aide for Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
“I brought (Masiello) up to speed on a program that (Kendall) was interested in,” he said. “He was able to tell me what he was telling Kendall and what Kendall was telling him. I know that sounds like palace intrigue but that’s how business gets done. We need to be there.”
Kelley also warned against the mentality that one program manager job warranted another.
“When you have one, you’ve had your one,” he said. “Take one for the team and go carry water for the Marine Corps. We need influence in the building. Everyone here is a successful program manager, and we have to find spots to be influential. In some cases there’s an epiphany and in others there’s an acknowledgement that this is exactly where we need to go after a successful program manager tour.”