By Mark Pleimann
Academy FFRDC Representative
Given the current state of the U.S. economy and future budgetary constraints facing our next generation of Air Force leaders, preparing cadets to enter the world of Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition requires they understand financial processes and resources available to provide capability to our warfighters.
Mr. Wayne Sidebottom, visiting professor of Economics and Anders Chair, welcomed The MITRE Corporation to provide a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) perspective of acquisition in the Air Force for his Defense Economics 478 classes on Feb. 27.
As part of MITRE’s academic outreach initiative Robyn Kane and Chris Dalton, both certified cost estimator/analysts, gave cadets an overview of DOD acquisition within the Air Force. Ms. Kane is the Secretary of the National Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis (SCEA) Board and co-founder and former president of the Pikes Peak Chapter of SCEA. She supports Headquarters Air Force Space Command Financial Management as a cost analyst. Mr. Dalton is a 1994 Academy graduate and former president of the Pikes Peak Chapter of SCEA.
Their combined experience helped cadets understand the opportunities and challenges they will face as future Air Force officers with the demanding responsibility of managing funds to provide our warfighters needed capabilities. Cadets are acutely aware of the challenges they will face as one asked “Will the budget numbers be changing under President Obama?” and “Will former President Bush’s FY09 budget remain intact?” Ms. Kane and Mr. Dalton explained the Program Objective Memorandum process and how budgets are created and managed through the planning, programming, budgeting, and execution process.
During the discussion of traditional and non-traditional acquisition within the execution process, the cadets were acutely aware and commented on ethics, legality, cost, and performance considerations of managing Air Force resources. Ms. Kane and Mr. Dalton explained the role of an FFRDC as the government’s trusted, unbiased advisor and how other agencies also fulfill this role to support them as financial managers.
With fewer than 100 days from becoming commissioned officers, cadets had questions regarding their roles as financial managers and associated expectations they will be required to uphold. The experts shared their personal experiences and offered further guidance as part of USAFA and MITRE’s continuing collaborative academic extension through the Defense Economics 478 capstone project where MITRE will host teams of USAFA cadets this spring semester for a more in-depth acquisition review.