Next Generation Leadership Improving Acquisition Program Management Development
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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The current Air Force method for developing junior to mid-level acquisition program officers is inadequate to prepare them to manage the complexities of todays large, government acquisition programs. To understand the problem, this paper begins by examining the results from the 2009 Office of the Secretary of Defense OSD Study on Program Manager Training and Experience.1 Using a training strategy called learn-do-teach, this paper identifies the strengths and weaknesses in the current Air Force acquisition leader development process. To improve program manager training, this paper recommends adjusting the current training strategy and proposes a decentralized learning framework that includes expanded experiential education and mentorship within the work environment. Dubbed the Next Generation Leadership program, this framework focuses on leadership development for junior to mid-level program managers.As envisioned, this program would consist of two components, an Undergraduate Program Management UPM Apprenticeship and a MentorTeach Program. UPM Apprenticeship uses the current acquisition career field education and training plan, adjusts the current evaluation system, and expands workforce awards, creating an improved experiential learning environment for program managers. Similarly, the MentorTeach Program leverages the existing Air Force Mentorship Program to ensure young program managers are matched with experienced senior leaders. MentorTeach requires junior members to demonstrate their knowledge through teaching. The Next Generation Leadership program I propose is designed to fill the gaps in existing training and ensure junior to mid-level program managers have the experiential training necessary to successfully lead large government acquisition programs.