This article assesses the opinions of Army Acquisition Workforce members who will serve in or are competing for program manager/command, or other leadership positions within the Army Acquisition Corps (AAC) on the subject of professional pay. A survey by the author determined: (a) whether professional pay would reduce loss of Army officers at the LTC/20-year point, with a lesser emphasis on COL/26-year point; (b) whether it would incentivize career civilians to compete for board select product/program management positions; and (c) whether it would it help keep both labor pools in the AAC past retirement eligibility. The author concludes that professional pay is an attractive incentive to further professionalize the AAC, and also formalize its professionalization throughout the Army.
As a career senior Army Acquisition officer, I have always wondered why Army Acquisition “professionals” do not receive “professional” or incentive pay similar to that which is given to aviators, doctors, attorneys, linguists, and other recognized professionals. This naturally leads to the very question of our professionalism and whether or not we are in fact professionals. My intent is to explore that issue through interviews, an Army Acquisition Corps (AAC)-wide survey targeting officers in the grade of captain (O-3) through colonel (O-6) and civilians that are GS14 to GS15-equivalent, contrast the respondents’ opinions with relevant retirement data, and then compare Army management of this dilemma to U.S. Air Force (USAF) issues and methods.
My motivation to do this is based on the unique sacrifices, requirements, and challenges of competing to become an AAC officer or civilian, which the operational Army generally misunderstands; and why the AAC senior leadership does not advocate this incentive in spite of known, time-proven, human capital shortfalls. Although I am not advocating money as the only answer to such a multivariate problem, it is—and necessarily so—a major component that, if overlooked, can exacerbate existing problems or trends.
My goal ultimately is to bring to fruition some form of professional pay for certain AAC members that will lessen the human capital shortfalls, increase Corps competitiveness, incite more civilians to compete for key positions, and better utilize senior corps members vs. losing them to industry or early retirement. This article is one attempt to address an issue that, at least within the Army acquisition community, has been taboo; and through my attendance at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, I hope to bring it to light.
Last, the data contained herein primarily end in 2009, but where obtainable, 2010 data are also incorporated.
The research portion of this article was primarily conducted from August to December 2010, and the survey results from which the bulk of the article is contingent upon, were tabulated in January 2011. All sources are provided and can be confirmed.
Background of the Army Acquisition Corps
The AAC is currently comprised of 42,182 civilians, 1,432 officers, and approximately 197 Noncommissioned Officers (NCO). The officer and civilian totals reflect 18 general officers and 116 Senior Executive Service (SES) civilians.1 The AAC derives its military workforce from two primary sources: the AAC Career Field Designation Board (90 percent) and the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program for the bulk of the remaining 10 percent.2 The civilians are hired as Department of the Army employees.
With respect to the military accession process, the AAC has fared okay—meaning it has largely met its accession goals. Figure 1 shows accession data from 2005 through 2009:3 Although the shortage in 2009 is the largest of the years compared, it does not appear problematic in and of itself until compared to the retirement rates and trends by Fiscal Year (FY) depicted in the figures accompanying the “Army Attrition Rates” discussion that follows. Additionally, whether or not the authorization numbers are high enough to meet mission requirements must also be asked. This will be explored in later discussion as well.