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Having the right balance, achieving mission excellence

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --

Coming to AEDC a year ago was definitely a challenge in keeping the right work-life balance. Serving for over 30 years for the Air Force at different locations and obtaining the right experience to support the mission was one of the main reasons I enjoyed my job, but I lacked quality time with my family. The move to AEDC was to ensure the right balance of family and work. As I am sure so many have struggled with this work-life balance at one time or another; for me, it was something that needed continuous attention.

Each week watching professionals work overtime to ensure mission excellence caused me to take notice. I would ponder: Am I focusing on certain tasks enough? Do I need to do more? Should I require more from my team or am I missing something?

Over the many years, I have witnessed others sacrificing their personal time to give to the mission. It is apparent that individuals who work for the DOD have the “servant heart” and put their best foot forward. Mission excellence can be achieved without occupational burnout with a clear understanding of functional areas and how they interrelate.

To be able to have work-life balance and pursue mission excellence is like juggling balls in the air. Upon taking on the Program Management (PM) Office, I started noticing the balance required as program managers put in extra time according to peaks of workload. This was especially true during source selections, quick-turn taskers, and budget and financial planning drills. Then they would return to normal operations while never missing a beat. No matter where I have worked, one thing rings true – “the people are always professional trying to do the right thing.” At AEDC, mission excellence tends to always be at the forefront, while maintaining work-life balance.

To continue pursuit of work-life balance and mission excellence, clear functional lines of roles and responsibility are necessary. Over the past year, I was continually asked “What does the PM office do?”

According to Wikipedia, program management is the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization's performance. In practice and in its aims, program management is often closely related to systems engineering, industrial engineering, change management and business transformation. In the defense sector, it is the dominant approach to managing very large projects. Because major defense programs entail working with contractors, it is often called acquisition management, indicating that the government buyer acquires goods and services by means of contractors.

Defense Acquisition University defines PM as responsibility for and authority to accomplish program objectives for development, production and sustainment to meet the user’s operational needs and shall be accountable for cost, schedule and performance.

This definition demonstrates PM’s emphasis is on improving an organization’s performance utilizing a multi-functional team. DOD professionals utilize the acquisition process to procure goods and services to meet the National Defense Strategy (NDS) priorities. The lifecycle of acquisition outlines some roles and responsibilities of a few functional areas that intertwine. Having a clear understanding of these roles prevents duplication of effort and increases efficiency which assists with work-life balance. These functional areas are identified as follows: Contracting (PZ), Financial Management (FM), Plans and Programs (XP), and PM. While there are many in-depth duties for each functional areas, the comparison to PM is to simplify understanding.

PZ has the authority to enter into a contractual agreement, administer, or terminate and make changes to the contract. Contracting Officers may bind the Government and ensure contracts are in compliance with all laws, executive orders, regulations and all other applicable procedures. The CO is responsible for determining that the price is fair and reasonable and that the acquisition decision is in the best interest of the government.

FM manages accounting systems and records. They are tasked with processing payments for dispersal, determining the amount of available funds and performing financial audits, while keeping a watchful eye on our financial data to ensure that our funds are being utilized responsibly and efficiently. They provide decision support, cost analysis on estimates and various other financial duties.

XP is responsible to the commander for management of complex-wide planning and programming processes, long-range facility planning and engineering, and intelligence integration affecting the Complex’s current and future capabilities.

PM is responsible for the cost, schedule and performance of a program through integration and management of a multi-functional team. They apply current acquisition policy, best practices and support sound program decisions through risk management. They ensure system and industrial engineering processes are used throughout each acquisition phase while evaluating AEDC contracts using earned value analysis and techniques. They support problem solving through qualitative and quantitative tools. PM collaborates with PZ in the role of contracting within the acquisition process and major contractual contributions toward managing program risk. PM is the decision maker on tradeoffs for affordability value on the contract to mission priorities.

The program manager must have a clear understanding of the multi-functional team’s roles and responsibilities and clean lines of demarcation to guard against wasted time and duplication of efforts. There will always be a teaming approach to ensure the support of mission excellence and safeguard work-life balance regardless of the amount of various taskers to be accomplished.