Defense Department ahead of the game

While some agencies are scrambling to implement training for information technology project and program management, the Defense Department tackled the problem years ago.

For more than a decade, the department has been educating IT management employees through the Defense Acquisition University and the Information Resources Management College. The courses have changed over time, but the training continues to be rigorous and mandatory for managers.

"We're a lot ahead of the game," said Joyce France, acting division director for planning and outreach for DOD's deputy chief information officer. "The civilian agencies are just getting revved up to look at that."

The complexity of the systems in the department generated the need for such training. Program managers must have completed a program management course and have at least eight years of acquisition experience to manage a major program.

"We've been into this longer than the civilian agencies because of the complexity of the systems within the Department of Defense," France said. "If you're not certified, you cannot be evaluated to serve in a position defined as a project or program manager."

The Defense Acquisition University, founded in 1992, coordinates acquisition training to meet the requirements of the department's workers and offers courses such as Fundamentals of Cost Analysis and Systems Acquisition Management.

The Information Resources Management College, created in 1988 and included in a consortium of schools in the university, includes a CIO certification program, which is organized around 11 areas, such as e-government, acquisition and process improvement.

Agencies developing similar programs in the face of losing at-risk projects should first agree on the role's core competencies and the specific requirements for managers, France said.

"What they need to do is say, 'OK, as a minimum, what types of skill sets are needed to do project management?' " she said. "Then, you look at the types of training that are out there to meet those requirements."

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