From the FAI Director, Jeff Birch

Jeff Birch Image

Published on Apr 02, 2021

 

1. When did you come to FAI and what positions did you hold prior to Director?

I joined the FAI Team in January 2012 as the Deputy Director and also served as the Acting Director. In December 2017, I was selected as the Director December 2017. Prior to joining FAI, I was the Director Acquisition Career Management (DACM) for the 4th Estate Defense Agencies.

2. What are your goals for accomplishing FAI’s mission and vision?

FAI’s government-wide mission is of critical importance and broad reaching. Since my first day with FAI, my goal has been to elevate the recognition and position of the FAI organization. Additionally, I continue to serve as a consistent champion and voice for providing the acquisition workforce with the learning and career development opportunities necessary to successfully achieve positive acquisition outcomes. With the unwavering support and commitment of our diverse stakeholder community, FAI will continue to successfully support the 200K+ acquisition workforce professionals.

3. What are your top 2021 priorities and initiatives for accomplishing FAI’s vision of becoming the premier institution of acquisition workforce excellence?

First, the FAI Team’s shared priority is to successfully deploy the Cornerstone OnDemand (CSOD) training and workforce management platform. The team’s determination has been amazing in moving this effort forward against a very aggressive deployment schedule of June 2021.

Second, the FAI Team is supporting the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) with their Acquisition Workforce (AWF) 2025 initiative, which will impact FAI and the larger AWF community.

From an operational perspective, my priorities are to shape a more efficient and effective government, reduce duplicative development efforts, and foster a mindset of operating as "One Government". Driving increased collaboration across agency boundaries is the first step in achieving these goals.

4. Tell us about some of FAI’s most recent successes.

Members of the FAI Team bring expertise, passion, and commitment to the workplace every day to enable an innovative and qualified acquisition workforce. For example, FAI successfully deployed the COVID-19 Acquisition Policy (FCL-A-0019) course and, in collaboration with DAU, deployed SEC 889, Prohibition on Telecommunication and Video Equipment (FAC 889) course. Additionally, we deployed the government-wide Contracting Officer's Representative (COR) and Contracting Officers (CO) Toolkits. We have established a more proactive and collaborative communications strategy.

 5. What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing FAI today?

Balancing innovative training solutions with the speed of delivery and government IT integration. Information technology is the most critical enabler in executing the FAI mission.

 6. FAI is transitioning from the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS) to FAI Cornerstone OnDemand (FAI CSOD). What excites you most about this transition? In what way(s) do you feel the civilian acquisition workforce will benefit most by the transition to FAI CSOD?

I am most excited about the level of interagency engagement and collaboration we continue to receive with this transition. We have some exceptional agency change champions. With their positive approaches, they have shared their business process, reengineered with other agencies, and helped them get on the bus. FAITAS was a custom developed platform, which worked well due to the level of agency customization allowed. From a sustainment and availability perspective, FAITAS could not be continued. FAI CSOD offers the opportunity to adopt new processes and capabilities which were recommended by members of the 75 million user community from across the globe from both public and private sectors. As one would expect, transitioning from a customized to a commercial platform requires business process re-engineering which may be challenging at the onset. However, once the platform is deployed and we work together to dive deeper to re-configure some processes, significant efficiencies will be realized.

 7. What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the current acquisition workforce (AWF)? How is FAI addressing those challenges?

During my discussions with AWF professionals, I often hear their workloads are unreasonable. To help them with this challenge, FAI is coordinating with the agency training schools to stay engaged in current and future training and tool development efforts. FAI is also constantly engaging with OFPP to ensure we are ready to respond to government-wide training needs that support the Administration's key goals and priorities. Additionally, FAI is hosting several interagency forums where participants come together to share best practices and work together to increase government-wide efficiencies.

 8. What words of wisdom would you like to share with the acquisition workforce?

I offer a few key take-aways. First, the value of building and nurturing authentic professional relationships is measureless. I stress the importance and strongly encourage all workforce professionals to be intentional in fostering professional relationships. Second, be respectful of all colleagues, regardless of their position or grade level. I share this quote from Maya Angelou, "... people will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Third, have a positive attitude, and always assume positive intent. I believe all workforce professionals come to work to successfully perform their responsibilities to achieve their larger agency's acquisition mission. Stay positive and be resilient. Finally, we are all operating in an unexpected new environment which affords us new opportunities to improve and increase business process efficiencies and to be creative in performing our roles. Be yourself, be different, and be a valued contributor to build a better tomorrow.