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    DLA Acquisition director retires after 38 years of federal service

    DLA Acquisition director retires after 38 years of federal service

    Photo By Teodora Mocanu | The Defense Logistics Agency Acquisition Director ended her 38-year federal career...... read more read more



    Story by Amanda Neumann and Beth Reece

    Defense Logistics Agency   

    FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Nancy Heimbaugh is about to get a new job title: wedding planner.

    The Defense Logistics Agency Acquisition director ended her 38-year federal career during a retirement ceremony Feb. 3. She will go from managing an acquisition program that exceeds $38 billion annually to planning the details of her daughter’s wedding.

    “I’m going from being an acquisition planner to being her go-to person for help. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready for the big day, which will be in May,” she said.

    Heimbaugh joined DLA Headquarters in October 2001 as a senior procurement analyst and later became DLA’s first acquisition executive at DLA Troop Support. In 2009, she became the director of DLA Acquisition and what Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek called one of the agency’s most valuable leaders.

    In complimenting Heimbaugh’s service, the admiral referenced a quote by Albert Einstein.

    “Albert Einstein was quite a thoughtful guy. He once said the value of a person should be seen in what they give and not what they are able to receive. And I would tell you, with the great crowd here today of distinguished company, that have either called me or sent me emails, speaks volumes about the woman that we are here to honor today,” Harnitchek said, “and what she has given us for 38 years: She’s a dedicated civil servant, a great leader, a mother and an all-around great American. Of course, that is Nancy Heimbaugh. So Nancy, this is your day.”

    Harnitchek described Heimbaugh’s tireless work toward Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, when she cut through the red tape in the contracting process to get supplies and services to citizens in New York and New Jersey in record time. He also shared the words of Navy Rear Adm. Mike Tillotson, who coordinated DOD’s support.

    “I asked for gas, and I got gas. I asked for meals and potable water; it showed up. I got generators to where they needed to be, all due to Nancy and her team. Whenever I needed her, Nancy was at the other end of the phone,” Tillotson told Harnitchek.

    Heimbaugh grew up with five siblings on a 35-acre farm in York, Maine.

    “We were out in the middle of nowhere, and my parents brought in every kind of animal you could imagine. We were big into farming, 4-H and horse shows,” she said.

    At age 18, when her friends were leaving home for college, Heimbaugh decided to stay on the farm so she could continue training and showing horses. Her mom, a telephone operator at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, encouraged her to apply for a government job. She was selected as a temporary GS-2 data entry clerk in the shipyard’s supply department in 1976 and earned premium pay for working evening and night shifts.

    A permanent day-time job finally happened for Heimbaugh in the late '70s, along with a husband who had orders for Charleston, S.C., and a baby daughter they named Melissa. They were still unpacking when he received another set of orders to deploy, leaving Heimbaugh alone and jobless with a 7-month-old.

    Though she wanted to be there for all of Melissa’s firsts – first step, first word – Heimbaugh felt uncomfortable not working. She filled out an SF-171, Application for Federal Employment, with details about her experience at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and hand delivered it to personnel offices on base. She’d already left her SF-171 at half a dozen offices when a human resources officer for the Naval Supply Center asked Heimbaugh what kind of job she wanted.

    “I’ll take any job; I’m just interested in working. I’m a young mother, and my husband is out to sea,” she answered.

    The following Monday Heimbaugh began work as a GS-2 clerk in the purchasing department, where she typed purchase orders for supplies needed by ships that pulled into the base for replenishments. She decided she wanted to be a GS-4 buyer and became one in less than three years, but still struggled with the desire to be a full-time mom.

    “As a compromise, I enrolled her in day care on base. I would always go over there to visit and probably made cupcakes for every party,” she said.

    When it came time for Melissa to go to school, Heimbaugh said, she “couldn’t fathom” leaving her daughter in the town where they lived, about 15 minutes from the base.

    “I just couldn’t do it, but there was a Catholic school right outside the gate, so we enrolled there. She was able to get a better education, and I was still very close to my daughter.”

    By 1984, Heimbaugh had become a GS-12 contracting officer with two significant responsibilities: buying large components for submarines dry-docked at the shipyard and awarding contracts to colleges and universities for Navy training.

    “Not only was I dealing with one of the shipyard’s biggest customers, I was learning how to deal with the nonprofit world. That’s where I began cutting my teeth on big, complex contracting deals,” she said.

    Another set of military orders sent her family to Arlington, Va., in 1991, and she was hired as a senior procurement analyst for Naval Supply Systems Command, the same organization she called from her job in Charleston when she needed guidance on a particularly tough contract.

    The position helped Heimbaugh see contracting on a grander scale. She continued to climb the ranks and enrolled in leadership programs, all while attending college classes on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sunday mornings to earn her degree in business administration.

    When she arrived at DLA Headquarters in 2001, Heimbaugh was a GS-15 intent on making the most of her training and education by taking on new challenges and continuing to serve in the federal government. In 2007, she was selected for the Senior Executive Service and became DLA Troop Support’s senior acquisition executive, where she immediately started working to improve communications with industrial partners.

    “We brought together industry executives and our medical or subsistence prime vendor teams to talk about contract performance and metrics. The beauty of it was that we had all the right players in one room, and the workforce was better able to break through barriers,” she said.

    One of Heimbaugh’s biggest challenges came while she was at DLA Troop Support, when it was discovered the subsistence prime vendor responsible for providing food in Iraq had committed fraud by over-billing the agency by $8.5 billion.

    “It was a jolt to the system. We had to not only address the immediate fraud case on an important, critical contract supporting troops in Iraq, but also make sure all of our other contracts were free of the same vulnerabilities,” she said, adding that internal reviews helped DLA tighten its contracting processes and eliminate potential weaknesses.

    “There was a lot of pressure involved, but the agency really came together to address the issue. People wanted to do the right thing, and we stuck together,” she continued.

    While she loved her job, loved her home, the commute and local attractions, Heimbaugh put in an application when the DLA Acquisition Director positioned opened. She didn’t expect to get it.

    “Much to my amazement, I was the one who was selected. It was fortunate that I had field-level experience at DLA. I had it with the Navy, but to have had it with DLA really set me up and prepared me for this senior job.”

    After three years, Heimbaugh said the true secret to her success as DLA Acquisition Director has been the bond she’s shared with such senior leaders as DLA Finance Director Tony Poleo, DLA Human Resources Director Brad Bunn, DLA Vice Director Ted Case and former DLA Vice Director Mae DeVincentis.

    “The professionalism and willingness of each and every one of these senior leaders to help and support others makes me believe there isn’t a single thing this agency can’t do. It’s something I’ve tried to teach my subordinates. When you view one another as equals and as teammates instead of as stove-piped teams, things naturally get done,” she said.

    Heimbaugh is recognized by her peers at DLA and throughout the Defense Department for leading an innovative and high-performing acquisition program, Harnitchek added.

    He said people like Heimbaugh make his job easier.

    “This is the greatest job in the world, being the director of DLA, and the reason it’s so great is the great people we have that lead this great organization. Nancy, you’ve made my time just a joy here,” Harnitchek said. “Thanks for all the history you’ve made. The lady you see before you is absolutely the genuine article. She’s the real deal, the complete package: citizen and civil servant, a great American and really somebody that frankly I think exemplifies the core values that we live by – courage, commitment, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

    “So Nancy, thanks again for your service, sacrifice and dedication. And as your brother told us a Mainer would say, ‘You’ve done wicked good.’”

    Retiring doesn’t mean she’s “settling into the last phase” of her life, Heimbaugh said. She hopes to pursue her passion for animals by maybe volunteering at a local shelter. And be a grandma.

    “I’m definitely ready for grandkids. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to take on another high pressure job after retirement from the government,” she added.

    (Amanda Neumann contributed to this article.)



    Date Taken: 01.31.2014
    Date Posted: 02.06.2014 14:19
    Story ID: 120209
    Location: FORT BELVOIR, VA, US 

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