Defense acquisition requires speed and agility. The Defense Acquisition Workforce must think critically, make smart decisions and move quickly. To better meet the workforce’s changing needs, DAU is transforming into a modern learning platform delivering continuous learning and support tailored to the needs of the acquisition workforce.
This transformation echoes other efforts happening in the Defense acquisition community. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)) officially released the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF) in January 2020. The AAF is a set of flexible acquisition pathways designed to empower program managers and acquisition professionals to tailor strategies, speed up acquisition, and address the immediate needs of the Warfighter. Upon its release, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord described it as “the most transformational change to acquisition policy in decades.”
In order to take full advantage of this framework, acquisition professionals need instant access to training, tools and support and to also embrace a mindset that continuous learning is critical to success. DAU’s transformation is designed to better align to the ever-changing needs of the Defense Acquisition Workforce.
"[DAU's] transformation isn't happening in a vacuum," DAU President Jim Woolsey said. "If you look at the AAF, it creates an environment that encourages agility and speed for the workforce. In order to remain relevant, we too have to change and transform into an organization that can keep pace and support their demands."
Woolsey recognized that DAU needed a logo that reflects this change and authorized a graphic that could better represent this new direction and alignment.
“DAU has built a culture of support and innovation, and that is a powerful thing,” Woolsey said. “It is exciting to be part of this transformation and it is important to where we are going. To remind everyone of our new direction, we have further represented this change in the form of a new logo.”
DAU also dropped “Defense Acquisition University” and will simply use the name “DAU” going forward. This name better reflects the broader nature of what DAU offers the acquisition community beyond classroom training.
"Defense Acquisition University was a school for training," Woolsey said. "DAU is a platform for knowledge. The logo is more than a redesign … it represents DAU both in terms of our transformation right now and the platform we are developing that is our future.”
While a number of things helped shape this vision of becoming a modern learning platform, much of it was driven by customer feedback. DAU worked closely with leaders in the acquisition community to better understand their needs and that of their workforces. What they learned helped shape the goals of DAU’s transformation. Ultimately, DAU aims to be a trusted partner for the acquisition workforce to improve acquisition outcomes. To design this modern learning platform, DAU is focusing on three areas: effortless learning that provides easy access to training and resources at the moment of need; world-class content that is high-quality, current and relevant; and a dynamic network that connects people who need information to people who have information. This also better reflects how people work and learn today.
Digital learning is ubiquitous to modern learners. As a learning platform, “DAU must provide top-notch information and support in the fastest and most engaging way we can,” Woolsey said. “The modern learner should not have to wait on training; learning assets need to be available with little-to-no wait time and the information has to be current and relevant and presented in an engaging way.”
The intended outcomes of DAU's transformation also align to the OUSD(A&S) “Back to Basics" initiative. This move will bring flexibility and customization to acquisition training.
“As [former] Secretary [of Defense] Mattis used to say, we must ‘move at the speed of relevancy’,” Lord said. “The team has made an astronomical change in terms of how we are acquiring goods and services, a ‘back to basics’ initiative [that brings] point of need training and job-relevant credentials to focus.”
The Back to Basics initiative is the first major reform of the Defense Acquisition Workforce management framework since the early 1990s. It completely reinvents the structure of career fields into six functional areas: Program Management; Contracting; Life Cycle Logistics; Engineering and Technical Management; Test and Evaluation; and Business – Financial/Cost Estimating. It will also impact the required certification training for each of the functional areas.
Back to Basics relies on a system of Functional Area Taskforces, which include DAU subject matter experts, to develop a reduced set of core competencies for the functional areas that will compose the required training. Individual acquisition professionals will then augment their foundational knowledge with highly specialized learning, such as DAU credentials, that they need for their unique roles. According to Lord, ideally, workforce development must emphasize skillset and job specific qualifications, much like “having all of your inch stones to get to your milestones.”
As workforce members change careers and earn promotions, they have the opportunity to continue their development and refresh their skills by self-selecting the training they need for particular roles. This lifelong learning model stands in stark contrast to the current talent development model that focuses on long-format, course-based learning concentrated at the beginning of one’s career.
Fortunately, DAU’s transformation makes lifelong learning more feasible for workforce members.
"We want to be the acquisition workforce's provider of choice," Woolsey said. "In this new world of faster and more relevant training … we want our learning platform to be the place the workforce turns to for the information and resources they need to not only get the job done, but to excel and really make a difference for our Warfighters.”
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