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Defense Acquisition University Plows Through Pandemic With Online Offerings

May 11, 2021 , DOD News

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, acquisition professionals were able to keep learning and training thanks to the Defense Acquisition University's ability to respond quickly to changing requirements.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, travel was curtailed across the department, and the Defense Acquisition University's physical training locations closed March 13, 2020, said Stacy A. Cummings, who is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. She spoke today during a virtual discussion as part of the Naval Postgraduate School's 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

A woman sits at a table and looks at a large television screen. A video camera sits in front of the television screen and is pointed at the woman.
Stacy A. Cummings
Stacy A. Cummings, who's performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, delivers a virtual keynote speech to the Naval Postgraduate School's 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium from the Pentagon, May 11, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 210511-D-BM568-1048C

"In spite of this, DAU was able to preserve over 80% of student capacity by converting classroom courses very quickly to virtual offerings," she said.

Since then, she said, DAU has ensured that more than 30,000 acquisition professionals were able to receive necessary training. In 2021, she said, DAU increased the number of short topical webcasts they offered by 250% and also added online workshops.

"These online offerings have reached more than 28,000 live attendees," she said. "Webcasts, workshops and webinars are constantly happening."

Cummings also said that the DAU's credential program, which began in late 2019, has grown and is providing defense acquisition professionals with skills and knowledge more finely focused on their specific areas of expertise.

A man works on a helicopter.
Routine Maintenance
Army Spc. Alex Davis performs routine maintenance on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at an airfield in the Middle East, Feb. 1, 2021.
Photo By: Army Capt. Travis Mueller
VIRIN: 210201-Z-IK914-002C

"DAU's credentials program provides responsive and timely learning experiences that participants can self-select in order to grow and deepen their skills," Cummings said. "By offering learning in smaller, more job-specific credentials, DAU is aiming to help DOD evolve beyond today's three-level certification framework and more effectively meet the intent of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act."

Most recently, for instance, DAU added a small business professional credential to its portfolio. As part of earning that credential, students apply basic and intermediate knowledge of the legislation, policies, acquisition process and market research techniques required to advise stakeholders effectively, advocate for small business participation in defense acquisitions, and educate small businesses to do business with the defense department.

Two men work on a helicopter inside a hangar.
Maintenance Duty
Soldiers reinstall the main rotor head on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter after routine maintenance at an airfield in the Middle East, Jan. 4, 2021.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Francis Calabro
VIRIN: 210104-Z-IK914-009C

DAU now offers credentials in a dozen areas, including acquisition law and policy, foundational intellectual property, and cybersecurity for program managers, Cummings said.

"The result is that personnel are better prepared to perform their jobs and can get the additional training they need — and less of what they don't need — at a much faster rate when job requirements change," Cummings said. "The credential program ... has helped train nearly 11,000 people to date."

Right now, she said, 30 additional credentials are in development at DAU.