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Feature   Partnerships

Acquisition Career Management in the 4th Estate

June 20, 2019
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Did you know there are more than 30 defense agencies and field activities outside the military branches? From civilians inspecting items off the assembly line at a manufacturing plant to those performing cutting-edge research needed to maintain the Defense Department's technological edge, these support agencies perform functions critical to military services. They're commonly referred to as the "4th Estate."

The 4th Estate logo created out of tiny words depicting the DACM office’s core functions.
A wordle depicting core functions within the DACM office.
Photo By: Director, Acquisition Career Management graphic
VIRIN: 180907-O-ZZ999-053

Who Makes Up the 4th Estate?

The 4th Estate's agencies include all organizational entities in the DOD that are not a military branch or a combatant command. From defense health care to logistical support, agencies within the 4th Estate provide acquisition functions for the entire DOD.

Acquisition involves the purchase of weapons and other systems, supplies or services to satisfy DOD needs and support military missions. The acquisition life cycle ranges from an initial idea to design, production and even the disposal of an item or service that's no longer needed.

A tank with several soldiers aboard kicks up dust as it rolls down a path lined with trees.
Ready and Rolling
Soldiers aboard Army M1A2 Abrams tanks move out during an initial ready task force exercise at Johanna Range near Zagan, Poland, May 20, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Thomas Mort
VIRIN: 190520-A-YQ762-0108

Personnel within the 4th Estate are vital enablers of mission success. For their part, the 4th Estate office, called Director, Acquisition Career Management, invests in the career development of more than 28,000 civilian acquisition workforce members.


What Does the 4th Estate DACM Do?

The 4th Estate DACM is responsible for the oversight and execution of statutory training, professional credentialing, continuous learning and career development for acquisition workforce members across 14 career fields. This includes all DOD auditors and a large number of personnel working in production, quality and manufacturing, as well as contracting.

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act: What Is It?

Do you remember the acquisition scuttlebutt of the 1980s? The $600 hammer? What about the $1,000 toilet seat?

Well, in 1990, Congress enacted the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act to address the negative press with the goal of improving acquisition outcomes. DAWIA required the DOD to establish education, training and experience requirements for each acquisition position to professionalize the workforce and ensure judicious use of taxpayer dollars.

The 4th Estate logo surrounded in a circle by official seals and logos of defense agencies and field activities that have workforce members.
Defense Agencies
Official seals and logos of defense agencies and field activities with acquisition workforce members.
Photo By: Director, Acquisition Career Management graphic
VIRIN: 180907-O-ZZ999-854

What Is the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund?

Faced with increasingly complex weapons system procurements and a reduction in government personnel, the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund was created to increase the size and improve the quality of the acquisition workforce.

The fund has been a critical enabler, helping to create a highly qualified and agile acquisition workforce. It provides funds for the recruitment, training and retention of DOD acquisition personnel. In fiscal year 2017, the 4th Estate used the fund to provide advanced education, Defense Acquisition University training, career-broadening assignments, leadership opportunities and student loan repayments.

How the 4th Estate DACM Supports Personnel

The Director, Acquisition Career Management office provides civilian acquisition professionals with development opportunities through its Leadership and Talent Management Portfolio. These courses aim to develop the individual's functional, technical and soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Participants often provide feedback that these programs prepare them to become leaders and help them tackle future challenges.

The number 4 and the letter E, with the words 4th Estate DACM underneath.
4th Estate
4th Estate Director, Acquisition Career Management graphic
Photo By: Director, Acquisition Career Management graphic
VIRIN: 180907-O-ZZ999-661

Being in uniform is not the only way to serve in the DOD – thousands of civilians directly support the warfighter. The DOD has made significant progress toward strengthening workforce capabilities and promoting acquisition workforce professionalism in alignment with the National Defense Strategy. The 4th Estate DACM office is building on this progress.

Let's take a look at how the 4th Estate DACM office uses its strategic assets to support a motivated, diverse and highly skilled civilian workforce:

  • In fiscal year 2017, it provided Defense Acquisition University training quotas and travel funding to the 4th Estate's acquisition workforce, resulting in:
    • 9,784 DAU classroom graduates
    • 82 on-site courses that did not cost the taxpayer any student travel funding
    • Ensured travelers attended training at the most cost-effective location
  • Developing leaders who are competent in national-level decision-making requires talent management. The Leadership and Talent Management Portfolio offered by the 4th Estate DACM office embodies the DOD mandate to ensure its acquisition workforce is well-trained in a cost-effective manner. More than 1,250 individuals have taken at least one of the courses centrally offered, as extensive survey results have demonstrated positive impacts on individual behaviors and the application of the training within their work environment.
  • The 4th Estate DACM office constantly seeks to leverage best practices but sometimes leads the way by coming up with a joint solution. As the contracting officer's representative on the new Acquisition Leadership Challenge Program contract, the 4th Estate team pooled resources and shared responsibility by partnering with the Army and Air Force. When compared to the previous contract, the new contract vehicle provides significant savings to the government.
  • Modernization of key capabilities is not defined solely by hardware; it requires changes to the way we organize our workforce. The Defense Acquisition Talent Management System reflects just that – an innovative system to manage workforce talent. Based on user feedback derived during stakeholder meetings, several modules have been created to ensure a streamlined process for acquisition career management.

In Summary

The 4th Estate defense agencies and field activities continuously evaluate their workforce as part of readiness to strengthen cohesion and meet challenges. Enabling a world-class acquisition workforce underpins all of the 4th Estate DACM office's efforts to achieve and maintain acquisition excellence.

For more information about acquisition within the 4th Estate, check out the many resources found in the links above.