ATAC continues to develop the next generation of Air Force leaders

Members of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps program on Capitol Hill for meetings with government leaders. ATAC selects talented acquisition professionals for leadership development and training and the opportunity to work as a team to find solutions to acquisition challenges. (Courtesy photo)

Members of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps program on Capitol Hill for meetings with government leaders. ATAC selects talented acquisition professionals for leadership development and training and the opportunity to work as a team to find solutions to acquisition challenges. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – A group of mid-level military and civilian acquisition professionals from across the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and the Space and Missile Systems Center, recently completed the Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps program, becoming the third cohort to do so.

Developed in 2016, the three month program selects talented up-and-coming acquisition professionals from diverse backgrounds, for the opportunity to work as a team to find solutions to specific acquisition challenges.

This time, the team's challenge/problem statement was to recommend a way for the Air Force acquisition community to institute an agile culture change and implement agile concepts to shorten the accreditation timeline for major acquisition programs while preserving the cybersecurity posture of the system. 

The team focused on collecting relevant data from subject matter experts within the Air Force, Department of Defense, other federal agencies, and industry. They analyzed that data, and then developed actionable recommendations for senior leadership. 

Among the recommendations presented by the team were prioritization of training, investment in infrastructure, establishment of a centralized database for templates and lessons learned, expansion of automated test, including the elimination of formal testing when it makes sense to do so. An additional recommendation was to implement a true Integrated Program Office approach to program management joining all functional areas, including test and cybersecurity, upfront and early to incorporate feedback throughout the development process.

The team’s work took them to multiple locations around the country including, Boston, San Antonio, Austin, and Washington DC. 

During this time, they had the opportunity to meet and gain insight from senior Department of Defense, Air Force, government and industry leaders including Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition), and Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry, the AFLCMC Commander. 

“We viewed our problem statement as three different pieces.” said Glen Snorf, Program Manager, for AFLCMC Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate and a member of the most recent ATAC cohort. “First, in the sense of an agile mindset; finding ways to be more efficient, and finding ways to streamline and accelerate while maintaining speed with discipline. Second, we asked ourselves how do we adopt agile software development as a framework and technique from an enterprise perspective. Lastly, how do we use some of those tenants of agile development to streamline and accelerate the cybersecurity accreditation process.”

Lt. Col. Peter Sandness, ATAC Program Director and one of the team’s mentors said that applying critical thinking techniques while assessing human and organizational behavior in team dynamics is one objective of the program. He went on to add that the team sharpened their skills through a rigorous academic curriculum with the Defense Acquisition University, the Air Force Institute of Technology, Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute and the University of Tennessee.

“For young acquisition professionals this is probably the keystone experience you could ever hope to have,” said Jessica Ploeger, a Logistics Management Specialist for the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate. “You get access to a ton of senior leaders, and general officers. You also get a lot of experiences that most young professionals don’t get. It kind of sets you up with an enterprise view so that you are able to – as you move up the chain – make better decisions. You understand more how everything is tied together.”

Ploeger added that the program motivates the younger workforce by valuing their input and making them feel empowered to make a difference.

From 2016 to now, twenty-two ATAC team members have completed the program.

 “ATAC provides a powerful experiential learning opportunity,” said Sandness.  “Leadership skills and personal pride refined through ATAC are directly visible in the recommended solutions offered for the senior leadership-selected project they worked on as a team.”

The following individuals are members of ATAC Team 3:

Jennifer McBee, Battle Management Directorate
Capt. Charneice McKenzie, C3I & Networks Directorate
Jessica Ploeger, Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate
Josh Richey, Fighters and Bombers Directorate
Capt. Sam Riehn, C3I & Networks Directorate
Glen Snorf, Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate
Capt. Alistair Tolosa, Agile Combat Support Directorate
Capt. Dan Whalen, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center