JUN 13, 2023

AIRC to Lead Pilot for Defense Civilian Training Corps

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)) has engaged the Acquisition Innovation Research Center (AIRC) to implement a pilot of the Defense Civilian Training Corps (DCTC), a new initiative to prepare a tech-skilled acquisition workforce for the Department of Defense (DoD). 

DCTC was established to develop a modernized, multi-disciplinary talent pipeline, providing targeted education, development, and experiences required to meet current and future complex demands on the DoD workforce. It aligns with the 2022 National Defense Strategy’s (NDS) focus on “cultivat[ing] our talents, recruiting and training a workforce with the skills, abilities, and diversity we need to creatively solve national security challenges in a complex global environment.” DCTC is designed to meet the NDS’s commitment to streamline hiring practices, fill technology gaps, and work with institutions of higher education to build the workforce of the future.  

In the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed OUSD(A&S) to collaborate with AIRC to implement DCTC in recognition of the research center’s extensive network of universities and expertise in digital technologies and workforce development. “One of our guiding mandates in AIRC is the development of knowledge and skills,” said Executive Director Dr. Dinesh Verma. “In the DCTC initiative, we will cultivate cohorts of talented students who possess technical skills and enthusiasm to make an impact in critical jobs in national security.” 

AIRC Fellows Ms. Karen DaPonte Thornton and Mr. John Willison will lead AIRC efforts in implementing DCTC. “A DCTC that meets its full potential will provide a sustainable pipeline for a curious, interdisciplinary workforce to replace retiring federal acquisition professionals and permeate the defense ecosystem,” Thornton wrote in Defense News. “The DCTC curriculum will develop professionals with portable skills and a holistic approach to career development across organizations. Internships and post-graduation employment will encourage DCTC students to follow developmental opportunities in government, industry, and nonprofits, bringing their skills to each role as a strategic asset and leader. As they transition from each opportunity, they will also share their dedication to national security, innovation, and service.” 

AIRC is piloting DCTC in partnership with four universities, which are undergoing a highly competitive process to select students for scholarships that will cover 100% tuition plus fees and a monthly stipend. DCTC Scholars will be selected from across a wide array of majors including STEM, business, finance, and public policy. As a multi-disciplinary cohort, they will take specialized courses, complete experiential learning projects, and work internships with DoD entities. DCTC Scholars will be on a path to security clearances and have numerous opportunities to engage mentors spanning the government, military, industry, and academia segments of the defense community. Upon graduation, DCTC Scholars will be hired directly into DoD organizations where they will have an immediate impact based on their experiences inside and outside the classroom. 

For the inaugural scholar cohort in the Fall 2023 semester, AIRC made a data-informed selection of four universities from its network: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (an Historically Black College/University), Purdue University, the University of Arizona (a Minority Serving Institute), and Virginia Tech. Each pilot university will select approximately 20 rising juniors for the 2023 cohort, and faculty across multiple disciplines will have exciting opportunities to engage these students in active classroom learning and capstone projects with real-life challenges. Beginning with the 2024 cohort, students will be required to serve one year of employment with the DoD for each year of scholarship they receive.  

During the launch event at the Pentagon on June 8, senior representatives of the four universities met DoD leaders including Ms. Tanya Skeen, Performing the Duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition; Mr. Brynt Parmeter, DoD Chief Talent Management Officer; and Mr. Mark Krzysko, Principal Deputy, Acquisition Data & Analytics. According to Skeen, “DCTC will complement other workforce initiatives, while finding and developing the acquisition talent pipeline that is mission-driven on Day One to increase the DOD’s lethality, readiness and modernization as an enduring advantage over U.S. competitors.” 

The success of the pilot will guide DCTC’s expansion to other universities eager to create new career opportunities for their students. “Purdue is very proud to be one of the university hosts for the DCTC scholarship program,” said Dr. Dan DeLaurentis, who directs the university’s Institute for Global Security. “DCTC is synergistic with other security and defense focused education, training, and talent pipeline enhancement programs at Purdue. Implementing this workforce development program for the nation aligns perfectly with Purdue’s land grant mission and its commitment and support of national security initiatives.”  

Visit the DCTC website for more information and follow DCTC on LinkedIn and AIRC on LinkedIn for updates on this emerging initiative.