Acquisition Career Management in the 4th Estate

Did you know there are more than 30 defense agencies and field activities outside the military branches? From civilians inspecting items off the assembly line at a manufacturing plant to those performing cutting-edge research needed to maintain the Defense Department’s technological edge, these support agencies perform functions critical to military services. They’re commonly referred to as the “4th Estate.”

Who Makes Up the 4th Estate?

Official seals and logos of defense agencies and field activities with acquisition workforce members.

The 4th Estate’s agencies include all organizational entities in the DoD that are not a military branch or a combatant command. From defense health care to logistical support, agencies within the 4th Estate provide acquisition functions for the entire DoD.

Acquisition involves the purchase of weapons and other systems, supplies or services to satisfy DoD needs and support military missions. The acquisition lifecycle ranges from an initial idea to design, production and even the disposal of an item or service that’s no longer needed.

Personnel within the 4th Estate are vital enablers of mission success. For their part, the 4th Estate office called Director, Acquisition Career Management (DACM) invests in the career development of more than 28,000 civilian acquisition workforce members.

What Does the 4th Estate DACM Do?

The 4th Estate DACM is responsible for the oversight and execution of statutory training, professional credentialing, continuous learning and career development for acquisition workforce members across 14 career fields. This includes all DoD auditors and a large number of personnel working in production, quality and manufacturing, as well as contracting.

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act: What Is It?

Do you remember the acquisition scuttlebutt of the 1980s? The $600 hammer? What about the $1,000 toilet seat?

Well, in 1990, Congress enacted the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) to address the negative press with the goal of improving acquisition outcomes. DAWIA required the DoD to establish education, training and experience requirements for each acquisition position to professionalize the workforce and ensure judicious use of taxpayer dollars.

What Is the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund?

Faced with increasingly complex weapons system procurements and a reduction in government personnel, the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund was created to increase the size and improve the quality of the acquisition workforce.

The fund has been a critical enabler, helping to create a highly qualified and agile acquisition workforce. It provides funds for the recruitment, training and retention of DoD acquisition personnel. In fiscal year 2017, the 4th Estate used the fund to provide advanced education, Defense Acquisition University training, career-broadening assignments, leadership opportunities and student loan repayments.

How the 4th Estate DACM Supports Personnel

The Director, Acquisition Career Management office provides civilian acquisition professionals with development opportunities through its Leadership and Talent Management Portfolio.These courses aim to develop the individual’s functional, technical and soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Participants often provide feedback that these programs prepare them to become leaders and help them tacklefuture challenges.

Wordle depicts core functions within the DACM office

Being in uniform is not the only way to serve in the DoD – thousands of civilians directly support the warfighter. The DoD has made significant progress toward strengthening workforce capabilities and promoting acquisition workforce professionalism in alignment with the National Defense Strategy. The 4th Estate DACM office is building on this progress.

Let’s take a look at how the 4th Estate DACM office uses its strategic assets to support a motivated, diverse and highly skilled civilian workforce:

  • In fiscal year 2017, it provided Defense Acquisition University training quotas and travel funding to the 4th Estate’s acquisition workforce, resulting in

    • 9,784 DAU classroom graduates
    • 82 onsite courses that did not cost the taxpayer any student travel funding
    • Ensured travelers attended training at the most cost-effective location
  • Developing leaders who are competent in national-level decision-making requires talent management. The Leadership and Talent Management Portfolio offered by the 4th Estate DACM office embodies the DoD mandate to ensure its acquisition workforce is well-trained in a cost-effective manner. More than 1,250 individuals have taken at least one of the courses centrally offered, as extensive survey results have demonstrated positive impacts on individual behaviors and the application of the training within their work environment.

    Some Keynote speakers will be live-streamed on Facebook.

  • The 4th Estate DACM office constantly seeks to leverage best practices but sometimes leads the way by coming up with a joint solution. As the Contracting Officer’s Representative on the new Acquisition Leadership Challenge Program contract, the 4th Estate Team pooled resources and shared responsibility by partnering with the Army and Air Force. When compared to the previous contract, the new contract vehicle provides significant savings to the government.
  • In transitioning to a culture of performance, leadership is critical to a well-trained and agile workforce. In response to the demand signal to create more leadership opportunities for its mid-career workforce, the 4th Estate DACM office is sponsoring its inaugural Leaders Building Leaders event, a leadership and talent management week scheduled for August 27-31. There will be leadership courses, specialized breakout sessions and distinguished speakers who will address leadership and motivational topics. Some of these speakers will be livestreamed on the DACM’s Facebook page. Feel free to share these free leadership sessions on your timeline. 
  • Modernization of key capabilities is not defined solely by hardware; it requires changes to the way we organize our workforce. The Defense Acquisition Talent Management System reflects just that – an innovative system to manage workforce talent. Based on user feedback derived during stakeholder meetings, several modules have been created to ensure a streamlined process for acquisition career management.

In Summary

The 4th Estate defense agencies and field activities continuously evaluate their workforce as part of readiness to strengthen cohesion and meet challenges. Enabling a world-class acquisition workforce underpins all of the 4th Estate DACM office’s efforts to achieve and maintain acquisition excellence.

For more information about acquisition within the 4th Estate, check out the many resources found in the links above.

Follow the Department of Defense on Facebook and Twitter!


Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.


Acquisition Career Management in the 4th Estate