The Defense Acquisition University today recognized the first cohort to complete its immersive program designed to provide defense professionals with the tools and insight needed to effectively bridge the gap between the Defense Department and innovative commercial technology providers.   

Four contracting officers from across DOD successfully completed the 12-month Immersive Commercial Acquisition Program, which officially launched in 2022 as part of a collaboration between DAU and the Defense Innovation Unit.   

The two organizations launched ICAP after recognizing the need to keep pace with commercial product cycles and adopt best practices for commercial procurement within DOD.  

DAU President James Woolsey and DIU Director Doug Beck underscored the critical importance of the department’s ability to leverage and scale innovation developed in the commercial sector to meet mission requirements.   

“It’s important that we understand the commercial sector… how they work [and] how we can best work with them,” Woolsey said. “And that’s definitely what this program is about.”   

The graduates include Navy civilian contracting officer Mariluz Chand-Endres, Air Force civilian contracting officer April Davison, Air Force Maj. Shamika Woodruff, and Army Maj. Michael Gerbasi.   

“You were asked to take a bit of risk, to do something different, and to do something important,” Beck said. “You stepped forward to do it.”  

The ICAP curriculum combined virtual classroom with experiential learning through the execution of prototype projects.   

The program was designed with these four goals:  

  • Educate and provide top DOD contracting officers with experience on how to effectively acquire innovative commercial technologies from nontraditional defense contractors.   

  • Provide experience and insight into how the commercial market operates and what drives an organization to do business with the government and DOD.  

  • Empower change agents and arm contracting officers with the relevant tools and knowledge to craft acquisition, contracting and negotiation strategies that can effectively incorporate commercial technology and nontraditional vendors into DOD’s acquisition ecosystem.  

  • Provide organizations with trained contracting officers who can also train others to be fluent in the innovation ecosystem and network with their counterparts in other service components. “When I look at the graduates today, I know we’ve accomplished these goals,” said Cherissa Tamayori, director of DIU’s acquisition directorate and oversees ICAP.  

In addition to recognizing the graduating cohort, Tamayori welcomed a new group of ICAP fellows. The new cohort includes Army civilian contracting and agreements officer Ralph Barnes, DOD civilian transactions chief Shaun Bright, Air Force civilian contract specialist Christine Docker, Air Force civilian procurement analyst Brittney Harris and Navy civilian contracting officers Rebecca Lingenfelter and Tianna Seaman.  

“As new fellows embark on this program, I am eager to build on what this first group has accomplished and in new and more impactful ways,” she said. “I can confidently say that the first cohort has exceeded in providing innovation-fluent contracting officers.”  

Following the graduation ceremony, Woolsey and Beck sat down for a discussion on innovation in DOD as part of the DAU’s “On Acquisition” webinar series.   

As DIU director, Beck serves as the Pentagon’s chief advisor on harnessing technology to solve operational challenges. During the webinar, he further underscored the strategic imperative for leveraging commercial innovation.   

“At the speed of war today — and particularly in the kinds of conflicts that we are now going to have to face — … we aren’t going to have the time between Pearl Harbor and Midway,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready now.”  

“And so, we’ve got to find a way to find that innovation, that imperative, that energy, that sense of purpose and commitment that everyone [has] from the young, enlisted soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, guardian all the way to the extremely experienced acquisition professional on the civilian side,” he said. “We’ve got to take the energy and sense of purpose and drive that those folks have when we’re faced with [extreme circumstances], and we’ve got to bottle that – and do it now.”

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