Among other things, the federal government is one of the largest training organizations in the world, probably the largest. When you think about it, the government trains people in an amazing range of subjects in a huge range of fields.
This column is therefore an acknowledgment of people operating across government, mostly unknown, who are helping others learn what they need to learn. This can happen during formal training, or it can happen with modeling good practice and behavior, or in a mentor-mentee situation.
Some people prefer the word education. I think it was retail giant Stanley Marcus who said, “You train the seals, you educate the people. In reality it is both. Ideas educate people, but skilled teaching followed by repetition makes us good at what we try to do.
The other night before the Washington Nationals game, a Navy precision drill team marched onto the field and demonstrated their prowess with flashguns. Then a group of Golden Knights army paratroopers jumped out of a plane. The tiny dots in the sky morphed into human figures dressed in black manipulating blue and yellow slides. One by one they made precise landings in the outfield.
I thought, this is practice. So what about sitting in a classroom somewhere learning the theory of Clauzewitz and Baron Jomini? It is education.
Now, the theatrical side of the military — the drill teams, the fliers in close formation, the orchestras — may not be central to the mission of fighting and winning the nation’s wars. I would say they humanize the military and help make it a welcome and valued part of the national fabric at a relatively low cost. Although indirectly, this actually supports its mission. It probably also helps with recruiting.
Knowledge management presents an ongoing challenge for federal organizations. Businesses too. But government organizations, to a greater extent than most private sector organizations, operate within a complex mix of laws, regulations, procedures and cultural traditions. Just knowing where you can exercise your discretion rather than following the letter of the law or rule – this idea doesn’t happen automatically.
Take the IRS, for example. For various reasons, it struggles to process paper returns, of which it still receives millions, and several other service issues.
I discussed these issues with one of the IRS overseers, Jessica Lucas-Judy of the Government Accountability Office. In some places, she said, the IRS just needs more people to keep up with the volume. He uses various hiring powers to recruit people. But of course, this is only the beginning. One person can be the best tax advisor in the world, but it takes a lot of training and education in very specific areas to work effectively. inside theirs. Understanding the returns, knowing the nuances of the tax code, dealing with fearful or angry people, learning the many information systems – that’s not moving a bunch of bricks from here to there.
On the side of the Ministry of Defense, planners are faced with a million questions. A fundamental element is how the armed forces maintain their advantage over potential adversaries. For several years, the Defense Innovation Unit has used a method of acquisition called Alternate Transaction Authority to quickly move technology innovations from the private sector into the military domain. A Department of Defense-wide practice has developed around this idea of rapidly inculcating new capabilities.
OTA is a method of purchasing certain things – in this case, prototypes – outside of the Federal Acquisition Regulations or its defense version. The Department of Defense has expanded its use of OTA in recent years, but Congress actually enabled OTA originally for NASA in the late 1950s. OTA is simple in the sense that a fiddle is simply a small wooden box with four stretched strings. Simple, but in inexperienced hands, violin and OTA purchases are likely to be disasters. In trained hands, magic can work.
This is why I was intrigued while interviewing Cherissa Tamayori, the Director of Acquisitions at DIU. Based on the principle that OTA skills are in short supply, she set up her own innovative education program, based on the old adage of surgery, “see one, do one, teach one”. DIU, in conjunction with Defense Acquisition University, is accepting applications from only six, 1102, contractors within the DoD. They will spend a full-time year in what both units call an immersion course in the deep intricacies of OTA work.
The six, baptized fellows, will each correspond to one of the six industrial fields with which DIU does business: artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomy, cyber, energy, human systems and space. The course will also teach what OTA is not, Tamayori said. For example, while it may allow for quick acquisitions, it should not be used for emergency purchases such as, say, FEMA would need a million bottles of water overnight. There is a FAR allowance for this.
After the completion of their training, Tamayori said, “What we expect from these fellows is that at the end of their stay at the DIU, they then return to their unit, to their service, and are able to become experts and train-the-trainer type entities.
The course has the dual effect of helping people get better at a critical procurement activity and helping to establish a government-wide cohort, or community of practice with expertise from lessons learned of the IUD, Tamayori said.
I would add that the DIU/DAU course promises to be a benchmark example of how human capital development coincides with a strategic government need.
Almost useless factoid
By David Thorton
Researchers estimate that every day, 15.8% of people around the world experience headaches.
Source: Washington Post