by Justin Oakes
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
3/27/2015 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- There
are hundreds of different career fields within the Air Force. All have
their roles to play, cumulatively resulting in the aircraft that
dominate the skies, satellites that connect us from space, cyber
defenses that safeguard our networks and many other warfighting systems.
While we often see and hear about the end capability, it's the
behind-the-scenes program manager who is responsible for these assets
from cradle to grave.
Hanscom AFB is an acquisition base and home to more than 300 Battle
Management and Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and
Networks program offices -- programs that total approximately $30
Currently, Hanscom also employs 488 program managers -- commonly
referred to as PMs -- with varying backgrounds, expertise and
experiences. Each is suited for a specific acquisition effort and
"I'm new to defense acquisition, compared to some of the other PMs who
have decades working with high-level initiatives," said Nick Grudziecki,
a PM with three years of experience who currently works within the Next
Generation Identification Friend or Foe program office. "As a PM,
you're responsible for the program's cost, schedule and overall
Grudziecki and the NGIFF team are working to upgrade a system into E-3
Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft that has the capability to
differentiate between hostile and friendly aircraft.
"That's the great thing about working on a smaller program, you have
more responsibility earlier in your career," Grudziecki said. "It helps
you better understand the ins and outs of management."
With time comes experience and the opportunity to lead a larger effort. Take the Global Aircrew Strategic Network Terminal, or Global ASNT, program for example.
Global ASNT is directly tied to the Air Force's nuclear mission, since
they are the ones responsible for developing and acquiring new, nuclear
The result will be secure, survivable ground terminals that have the
ability to receive emergency action messages via advanced extremely high
frequency satellites. Those messages are then relayed to bomber, tanker
and reconnaissance aircrews for action.
However, like any job, being a PM is not without its challenges. Money and requirements are the primary ones.
"Having the right amount of money at the right time is critical; you
also have to ensure that requirements are being met -- that's the number
one job of a PM, and it's not always easy," said Lt. Col. Kenneth
Decker, Global ASNT program manager and 17-year defense acquisition
veteran. "Information is another thing that can be a challenge. There is
a constant flow of information in and out of the program office. How
you effectively manage that flow is extremely important."
To successfully clear such obstacles, the Global ASNT PM emphasized that good communication and trust are needed.
"Being able to trust your team, both government and contractor, is huge.
If there is a high level of trust and communication, then you'll be
able to overcome the inevitable roadblocks that pop up during the
acquisition life cycle," Decker said.
In addition to upgrading systems and acquiring new ones, some Hanscom PMs also focus on foreign military sales.
"The Air Force gains a huge benefit from foreign military sales," said
Col. Niles Cocanour, chief of International AWACS programs, who has
spent a combined 23 years serving as a PM and flight test engineer. "We
approve sales based on strategic goals of the U.S., specifically to help
meet regional security needs that are in our interest and in the
interest of our partner nations.
"Additionally, these sales help maintain a strong military defense
industrial base, and we often partner with nations to reduce our own
development costs. We also benefit from improved integrations and
interoperability with our coalition partners."
For example, the French are upgrading their current fleet of E-3 AWACS
with a mission computing upgrade program that aligns their system with
the new USAF Block 40/45 system. As a mutual benefit to the U.S., the
French have also helped with the integration of the new Mode 5
identification friend or foe system, which in turn aided USAF
Hanscom acquisition teams also support countries such as the United
Kingdom, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea and Australia that fly AWACS
and similar platforms.
They're responsible for not only producing a warfighting capability, but
doing so in a timely manner and while reducing costs where possible.
And for the PMs located at Hanscom AFB, it's no exception.
"Hanscom is the glue that holds the Air Force together -- we make all
the capabilities more effective by connecting the warfighter in ways
that give us significant tactical and operational advantages," said Col.
Alfonso LaPuma, C3I and Networks deputy director. "It takes a special
blend of tenacity, creativity and negotiation savvy to be a PM in
today's Air Force."