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Air Force chief offers perspective to acquisition community

Mr. Frank Anderson, president of Defense Acquisition University, chats with Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, April 21 during DOD Acquisition Insight Days at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. The event featured workshops, training and a forum for Air Force acquisition professionals to discuss the latest regulatory changes and ideas for speeding the delivery of new capabilities for joint warfighters. (U.S. Air Force photo/Al Bright)

Mr. Frank Anderson, president of Defense Acquisition University, chats with Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, April 21 during DOD Acquisition Insight Days at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. The event featured workshops, training and a forum for Air Force acquisition professionals to discuss the latest regulatory changes and ideas for speeding the delivery of new capabilities for joint warfighters. (U.S. Air Force photo/Al Bright)

Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, congratulates University of Dayton Air Force ROTC Cadet 3rd Class Daniel Hughes on his decision to pursue a career as an Air Force officer, while Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, looks on. Generals Schwartz and Shackelford came to Dayton, Ohio, April 21 to congratulate and to challenge the Air Force acquisition workforce during DOD Acquisition Insight Days.  The event was organized by officials at Defense Acquisition University - Midwest Region and provided workshops, training and a forum for acquisition professionals to discuss ways to improve their processes.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Al Bright)

Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, congratulates University of Dayton Air Force ROTC Cadet 3rd Class Daniel Hughes on his decision to pursue a career as an Air Force officer, while Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, looks on. Generals Schwartz and Shackelford came to Dayton, Ohio, April 21 to congratulate and to challenge the Air Force acquisition workforce during DOD Acquisition Insight Days. The event was organized by officials at Defense Acquisition University - Midwest Region and provided workshops, training and a forum for acquisition professionals to discuss ways to improve their processes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Al Bright)

Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, speaks to an assembly of some 700 Air Force acquisition professionals and defense industry partners April 21 during DOD Acquisition Insight Days at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. The event, organized by officials at Defense Acquisition University - Midwest Region, provided senior leader perspectives, workshops and training focused on delivering war-winning capabilities for joint warfighters.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Al Bright)

Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, speaks to an assembly of some 700 Air Force acquisition professionals and defense industry partners April 21 during DOD Acquisition Insight Days at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. The event, organized by officials at Defense Acquisition University - Midwest Region, provided senior leader perspectives, workshops and training focused on delivering war-winning capabilities for joint warfighters. (U.S. Air Force photo/Al Bright)

DAYTON, Ohio (AFNS) -- Some 700 Air Force senior leaders, acquisition professionals and defense industry partners met at the campus of Sinclair Community College April 20 to 22 to address challenges faced by the military acquisition, technology and logistics community.

The two-and-a-half day event, organized by the officials with the Defense Acquisition University-Midwest Region, with support of DAU Alumni Association representatives and corporate sponsors, featured workshops, training and a forum for acquisition professionals to discuss the latest regulatory changes and ideas for process improvement.

The agenda included presentations by Gen. Donald Hoffman, Air Force Materiel Command commander, and Gen. Duncan McNabb, U.S. Transportation Command commander. Capping the Air Force presentations was Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, who praised the group for many unheralded acquisition successes, even as media and public scrutiny naturally gravitates to a few high-dollar programs facing cost overruns, delays or contractor protests.

Inspired by Michael Lewis' book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, General Schwartz offered that Air Force acquisition professionals could benefit by studying the 2002 Oakland A's. This team managed to beat the league's superstar teams, despite having the smallest payroll in major league baseball and a roster of players of what might be considered average talent, based upon traditional measures of performance like batting average.

Comparing Air Force acquisition to the baseball team highlighted General Schwartz's message that acquisition strategies must change. The Air Force also needs more depth in its roster of acquisition professionals, instead of just a few stars. 

The chief said new thinking is necessary to continue bringing "game-changing" air, space and cyberspace capabilities in "integrated weapon systems that work across the global spectrum of conflict with our joint, coalition and allied partners."

"Winning has more to do with integrating the talents of diverse players," he said 

General Schwartz suggested leaders give a fresh look at the data and metrics that drive acquisition decisions, just as baseball manager Billy Beane discovered new ways to evaluate candidate players for his team. 

The implication is how to employ creative new strategies in a resource-constrained and highly-regulated acquisition environment to deliver both value for the taxpayer and the desired capability to the warfighter.

The challenge now, General Schwartz said, is to acquire capabilities needed by the services at a reasonable cost. This means setting priorities to operate within today's tight budgets to be able to develop new technologies and sustain legacy systems. 

Delivering these war-winning capabilities on time and on cost is only possible when the acquisition workforce exercises art, skill, science and most importantly, discipline in the development of realistic requirements, General Schwartz said. He added the job takes the right tools to measure progress and intellectual rigor and integrity to make tough decisions.

He underscored the strength of the partnership between military acquisition professionals and industry is vital, as is clear and open communication between all constituencies, from warfighters to members of Congress. 

"I think there has been more friction than has been healthy as of late," he said, broadly acknowledging the strain of contract protests, changing requirements, escalating costs and development delays for various DOD weapon systems. "What we've had over the last few years hasn't put America's warfighters in a better position.

The general reiterated fielding a replacement for the aging KC-135 Stratotanker remains the top priority for Air Force leaders. The tankers are in heavy use supporting the air bridge to and within hot spots around the globe, even though they're now more than half a century old.

"The key thing for all of us is to deliver what we promise and not make promises we can't keep," said the service's top uniformed officer.

"This is about leadership," General Schwartz said. "The success of all we do in the Air Force depends on superb leadership across our acquisition and sustainment portfolio."

Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, echoed those sentiments and told attendees the service's plan to recapture acquisition excellence includes a major effort to revitalize the workforce. The acquisition community has faced nearly two decades of continuous restructure, downsizing and outsourcing, even as documentation and reporting requirements have grown significantly.

Efforts are under way to quickly fill both vacant and some 2,000 newly created acquisition positions. The Air Force was recently granted new authorities to expedite hiring of civilians to fill acquisition, science and technology vacancies to better meet warfighter needs and relieve stress on the workforce. 

Also being implemented are focused functional training and a new, clear path for professional development for acquisition professionals, General Shackelford said.

He noted Air Force acquisition personnel are in high demand and currently comprise 70 percent of contracting officers from all military services deployed to Southwest Asia in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

"Everybody loves them over there because they are doing such a great job," General Shackelford said.

(JoAnne Rumple, HQ AFMC Public Affairs, contributed to this report)

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