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A message from DAU President James P. Woolsey


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A message from DAU President James P. Woolsey

Sometime back, I had the pleasure of sharing an airplane trip with a young, innovative testing professional. He told me a story about the surface-to-air radar he was working on, and how he needed some preliminary data on a new capability improvement. As he told it, the “this is the way it’s done” process for getting this data would have taken weeks or longer. He found a better way. He knew there was a fighter squadron nearby and, having worked in one previously, also knew that they probably had some training syllabus flexibility. He contacted the commanding officer and asked if the squadron could arrange a few passes over a certain spot on a certain day. It could. And did. The young innovator got the data and saved weeks in the schedule, compressing the timeline for getting new capability to the Warfighter.

In a recent speech to the Ash Carter Exchange on Innovation, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said, “… people will always be the engine for innovation.” Indeed they—you—are that engine. We need new policies, new organizational arrangements, and new processes—all of which the Department is aggressively pursuing. However, none of those will get us where we need to be without individual initiative, creativity, and determination. Like the test engineer, we all have the opportunity, and responsibility, to find the better way.

When the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act was written in 1990, it made sense to front-load all the needed learning into the first few years of one’s career. That approach might have made sense at the end of the Cold War, but it doesn’t fit what we’re learning in Ukraine and doesn’t fit a world where the volume of total knowledge doubles every 12 hours. In today’s world, people must be able to quickly find the help they need to meet changing demands, keep up with new technology, and develop their careers. They must do this regularly and persistently.

DAU is working to make that possible, even easy. We are rapidly building our suite of courses, credentials, webinars, videos, and other online resources to help you in your journey as we all work on the urgent task of getting new capability to the Warfighter and staying ahead of the pacing threat.

In this issue of Defense Acquisition, you will find examples of innovation policies, concepts, and implementation. I encourage you to explore these thoughts and consider how you can introduce innovation at both the micro and macro level. Our pacing threats are some of the most significant I have ever seen. How we innovate and collaborate as a nation and with our allies will determine our success or failure. As I read this issue, I remain optimistic about the abilities of our Defense Acquisition Workforce and our Warfighters.

Thank you for all you do as we meet the unique challenge of this time.

July-August cover Defense Acquisition Magazine 2023
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