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Gen. Petraeus: Acquisition workers should receive pre-deployment training
Civilian contracting and procurement officers who are assigned to support military units in combat zones should undergo rigorous pre-deployment training, suggested Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command.

Petraeus discussed the topic in an interview with Frank Anderson, president of Defense Acquisition University. The interview was published in the January-February 2010 issue of DAU's magazine, Defense AT&L.

“I think someone who’s preparing to come out [to a war zone] has to go through sort of a road-to-deployment process just as do our units,” Petraeus said. Units undergo a year-long program that typically starts off with a counterinsurgency seminar for a week, and then they start down the road to deployment, he said. “Along the way, they have other seminars; they have lots of exercises. … They have individual leader and collective and staff training along the way, and ultimately, they put it all together in a mission rehearsal exercise at one of our combat training centers.”

Beyond that, Petraeus said, “I think it’s hugely important to try to understand the circumstances in which what acquisition officers provide is going to be used. That means sort of understanding the irregular warfare battlefield, the areas of operation, local circumstances in different places, recognizing that what works up in regional command east of Afghanistan may not be so suited for regional command south and vice versa.”

Acquisition officials also must understand the need for speed in satisfying equipment needs, Petraeus said. He lauded Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter for his swift actions in making modifications to the all-terrain MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) armored vehicles for units in Afghanistan.
After receiving word from Petraeus several months ago that problems had surfaced with the new all-terrain MRAP vehicle, the next day, Carter went out to the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to handle the situation in person. “They lined up all the MRAP vehicles, he drove them for himself, he agreed with the issues that we had surfaced, and on the spot, he directed changes be made,” Petraeus said. “That’s the kind of approach we need.”

The issues had to do with the size of the windows and the lack of sufficient visibility out of vehicles because of the weight of the ballistic glass, Petraeus said. “There have been some other changes also,” he said. “That’s the kind of rapid acquisition, the rapid processes, the decision making that has to take place. … That sets a wonderful example for the entire community.”

Speaking broadly to all acquisition officials, Petraeus urged them to become better informed about the combat environment in which they will operate. “Program managers have to understand the circumstances as well, and they have to have a sense of what is going on out there; that can only be achieved by going out there themselves, by talking to those who have spent a considerable amount of time out there. … They’ve got to understand irregular warfare, and they have to understand it in specific circumstances where we are carrying out operations.”


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