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Engineering Workforce

A continuing challenge for the Engineering (ENG) acquisition workforce is that a large portion is nearing retirement age and this workforce embodies the Department’s systems engineering and analyst experience; nearly 45% of the ENG workforce is eligible to retire within the next 10 years. This circumstance is compounded by the fact that the mid-level engineering workforce is the smallest percentage of this workforce. To address this current state, DASD(SE) continues to support workforce development initiatives to build the capabilities and capacity of the ENG workforce.

Maintaining the Technical Edge of the Acquisition Workforce

DASD(SE) has contracted with The Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) to conduct a research study and determine key technological domains as well as emerging specialty engineering fields that are, or will be, particularly important for DoD. These domains and emerging areas highlight where DoD should focus its continuing education and learning efforts for the DoD acquisition engineering workforce. DASD(SE) will continue to use the process developed by CNA to assess the emerging needs of the DoD acquisition engineering workforce on a reoccurring basis.

State of Organic Engineering Workforce (SOEW)

In collaboration with the Military Services, DASD(SE) is proactively managing the Department’s organic engineering capability and resources in order to retain U.S. technological superiority. To this end, the DoD needs to be an informed buyer, and efficiently and effectively engineer and deliver complex, flexible systems that adapt and are resilient to unknown missions and threats for our warfighters. To effectively manage its engineering capability, DASD(SE) established an annual State of Organic Engineering Workforce (SOEW) meeting cadence with the Military Services to assess current and emerging workforce challenges and, where necessary, identify gap-closing strategies. The initial meeting was held in November 2016.

DoD Technical Leadership Development Guidebook

Leveraging the Technical Leadership Framework completed by the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) in November 2016, DASD(SE) is working with the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) to develop a DoD Technical Leadership Development Guidebook that can be used to implement the framework within the DoD workforce. The DoD Guidebook will adapt the SERC’s Framework and assist in growing the Department’s technical workforce throughout each stage of their careers, i.e., junior, mid-level, and senior.

Establishing a Systems Engineering Occupational Series

DASD(SE), in coordination with the Military Services and other Federal Government agencies, is exploring the establishment of a specific, federal occupational series for Systems Engineering. Federal occupational series are managed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and are used to consistently define the key duties and responsibilities assigned to a position. As the Government continues to develop increasingly complex and integrated systems, there is a need for rigorous application of systems engineering technical and technical management processes to ensure a balance between technical cost, schedule, performance and risk. A Systems Engineering Occupational Series will enable both DoD and other Federal Government stakeholders to recruit the right talent as well as track, retain, and grow these critical systems engineers.

Helix. DASD(SE) is sponsoring the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) to conduct the Helix project, a multi-year longitudinal study designed to understand the systems engineering workforce and best leverage the DoD acquisition engineering talent. Helix aims to define what systems engineers do, document their important traits, and understand what makes them more or less effective – this is the “DNA” of systems engineers from which the Helix Project takes its name. The researchers determine who the “real” systems engineers are, what they do, how they are deployed, and what competencies, education, or experiences most impact their effectiveness in the workplace.

Engineering Workforce Completed Initiatives

Experience Accelerator. The Experience Accelerator (EA) project investigated whether simulation technology could be used to put a learner in an experiential, emotional state, and effectively compress the learning time of a systems engineer. By immersing students into simulated job-relevant problems, the EA simulation technology is intended to accelerate learning by creating “scar tissue” in a safe but realistic environment that has programmatic/technical consequences.

Systems Engineering Technical Leadership Project. The Systems Engineering Technical Leadership project explored ways education can support the acceleration of technical leadership skills within the senior DoD technical workforce. The SERC researched, developed, and piloted a three course sequence to provide technical leadership insights at the systems, business, and enterprise levels. Successful results of this effort were transitioned into the curriculum of the Defense Acquisition University (DAU). A systems-focused course was fielded at DAU in the summer of 2015 under the title “Advanced Technical Leadership (TLR-350).”

Systems Engineering Capstone Marketplace. The Systems Engineering Capstone Marketplace was developed to bring together sponsors, who propose challenging projects; students, who volunteer to participate; and faculty, who provide guidance and academic assessment, to research and help solve "real-world", multidisciplinary systems engineering problems. This marketplace hosts undergraduate, multi-disciplinary projects to emphasize and develop SE competencies. The SE Capstone Marketplace is currently active at and is helping to develop the next generation of SE talent for the DoD and defense industry.

Systems Engineering Expert Knowledge (SEEK). The SEEK project developed complex case studies to be used in the DAU ENG curriculum. The case studies captured systems engineering and acquisition lessons learned in the area of Reliability and Maintainability (R&M) and will be used in future R&M courses to help improve acquisition workforce competency.

For additional information about any of these Engineering Workforce initiatives, contact us.