The Coast Guard has established a permanent unit to support all aviation acquisitions, a task previously handled by temporary project offices that focused on specific aircraft.
The Aviation Projects Acquisition Center (APAC), which came online at the end of April 2022, is now responsible for transitioning new or upgraded aircraft to their operational units. This means doing everything necessary to ready the aircraft for use – from making it compatible with other Coast Guard assets and systems to acquiring spare parts and ensuring technicians know how to maintain it. Major projects APAC is working on now include providing continued support for the HC-130J long-range surveillance planes, as well as the ongoing integration of MH-60 medium-range helicopters into the fleet.
“Just like the Aviation Logistics Center is focused on sustainment, APAC wants to be the touchpoint for acquisitions,” said Capt. Jerry Krywanczyk, APAC executive officer, who helped develop the new office. “Almost every air station is going through change. We want to be there for them, to give operational commanders a single point of contact.”
What kind of jobs will be available?
The APAC is located with a major Coast Guard aviation hub, Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It currently has a staff of about 102 members – 65 military, 32 contractors, and five civilians - who were primarily with existing billets in procurement, construction and improvements. The unit recently hired a GS-11 logistics manager and will likely have more opportunities for people who want to explore an acquisition career track in the future.
Krywanczyk says the new unit has been doing a lot of briefings to different groups and at conferences for engineering officers. They’re also looking for current and former pilots to come in since it gives them the opportunity to do acquisition of equipment they understand.
Enlisted technicians, maintainers, mechanics, and rescue swimmers are others who might fit well in APAC, although he notes that they don’t take anyone right out of their A-school. “It’s not the place to learn traditional procurement,” he said. “This is more a second tour out of school.”
For civilians, Krywanczyk says, a background as an aeronautical engineer or solid experience in acquisitions is a plus. The most common certification he sees is for acquisition program management; certifications in systems engineering and logistics, or test and evaluation for new assets would also be beneficial.
“I think there are people out there who would enjoy this type of work,” Krywanczyk said. “They just don’t know about it yet.”
To learn more, go to the Acquisition Workforce Management portal or check out the Acquisition Career Guide.
In the past, the Coast Guard would set up an Asset Project Office (APO) for each new type of aircraft purchased, shuttering the unit once the acquisition was complete. Since 1979, there have been six APOs. While these worked well enough during the acquisition phase, Krywanczyk said, “When the APOs closed, we would lose all that expertise as people went to different parts of the service. Then, when the Coast Guard decided to acquire a new asset, we’d have to go through a ramp up or learning period all over again.”
In addition, there were periods like 2008 to 2014 when the Coast Guard had no APOs, such as during acquisition of the HC-144 Ocean Sentry medium-range surveillance aircraft. During such times, it often fell to the Aviation Logistics Center, CG-931, or the operational unit to implement a new capability and transition these assets into use.
Officials acknowledged such a strategy won’t work as the enterprise undergoes its biggest recapitalization in decades. In order to deploy aviation capabilities efficiently and effectively across the fleet, the Coast Guard needs to streamline acquisition operations and have trained and experienced staff, which was the impetus for the change. Already the Surface Assets Logistics Center has undergone a similar change to get in line with best practices. The new APAC was formed out of the APO established to help incorporate the 14 C-27Js into Coast Guard operations.
Coast Guard Aviation Acquisition Programs