ATAC develops future acquisition leaders

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base recently developed and hosted the first Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps program, designed to groom the next generation of Air Force acquisition leaders.


The first ATAC team was comprised of seven junior military and civilian acquisition professionals from across AFLCMC, with backgrounds in program management, logistics, contracting, and finance, who during the course of three months attended leadership courses and developed recommendations for an important Air Force acquisition challenge.  Team 1’s challenge, specifically, was the lack of a process to attest to whether programs are executable for Defense Business Systems (DBS).


One recommendation the team made to address the problem was to consolidate and realign the Business Enterprise Systems Directorate’s (BES) Planning for Development Activities from inside the Program Executive Officer’s portfolio and multiple other outside offices to the AFLCMC level. The second recommendation was to create an enterprise-level DBS roadmap to identify system interdependencies and to facilitate the DBS community with system prioritization, consolidation and integration. Developing a centralized funding management solution for DBS was the team’s third recommendation.  The graduation exercise included presenting their recommendations to the Air Force Materiel Command commander, the Air Force Office of Business Transformation and other senior stakeholders.


Throughout the process, the team had the opportunity to be mentored and gain insight from senior Air Force, government and industry leaders. Highlights included “meet and greets” with the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, as well as a visit to Capitol Hill in which the team had the opportunity to sit in on a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on readiness with all the service chiefs.

In addition, the team visited and took classes at world renowned organizations like the MIT Lincoln Laboratories, Harvard University, the Central Intelligence Agency, Stanford University, Georgetown University, the University of California, Berkeley and Amazon. They also got to meet and share best practices with employees from Apple, Google and Adobe.


Lt. Col. Kenneth Decker, ATAC director and one of the team’s many mentors said that ATAC gave participants an opportunity to see innovative best practices outside of the Department of Defense and apply them to a real-world acquisition problem. He also said that the unique experience would be useful as the program graduates progress in their careers.


Capt. Blake Sherwood, a program manager in the Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance and Special Operation Forces Directorate and ATAC participant said that his time in the program was eye opening.


“We had access to many of the PEOs [and other senior leaders] who gave us their thoughts on leadership, their philosophy, what they’re reading and what they think needs to change in the future,” Sherwood said. “We had some real honest conversations. I think that the skills, the knowledge and the friendships we developed will last and be valuable going forward.”

Dave Timko, a contracting officer in the Fighters and Bombers Directorate and also an ATAC participant said that the three month experience was invaluable.


“I’ve been in government for six years and I would say that ATAC was the best three months that I’ve ever had,” Timko said. “That comes from a personal and professional development standpoint because ATAC challenges you in ways that you are not challenged in your day job. You are really forced to think. The beauty of ATAC is that, yes, you are going to get the professional development. Yes, you are going to get the exposure to innovation but at the end of the day you have a boss, you have a problem statement and you better deliver. Being able to experience that, live through that, and succeed as our class did – you are set up for success. If you are willing to put in the time and the effort – and it is a hard thing to do – you are going to come out on the other side just ready to scrap.”


The following individuals are members of ATAC Team 1:

Capt. Sean Bertsch, program manager, Business & Enterprise Systems Directorate

Capt. Matthew Bublitz, contracting officer, Battle Management Directorate

1st Lt. Ken “KC” Cerreta, program manager, Fighters and Bombers Directorate

Melissa Eubanks, financial manager, Business & Enterprise Systems Directorate

Capt. Blake Sherwood, program manager, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Special Operations Forces Directorate

David Timko, contracting officer, Fighters and Bombers Directorate

Crystal Whisby, logistics manager, Agile Combat Support Directorate


PEO and Senior Functional nominations for participants and problem statements for the next ATAC team begin in the spring.


Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
5135 Pearson Road, Building 10
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433