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Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy

Department of Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy Welcomes a New Chancellor

May 6, 2013

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Extracted from the Spring FY 2013 Edition of the Federal Acquisition Institute Quarterly Newsletter

Melissa StarinskyThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has named Melissa Starinsky, a member of the Senior Executive Service, to serve as Chancellor of the VA Acquisition Academy (VAAA).

“I am excited to be a part of the team that will address and respond to our acquisition challenges throughout the VA,” said Chancellor Melissa Starinsky.  The strategic and holistic training and development approach offered by the Academy, combined with other Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction initiatives such as but not limited to the establishment of the Strategic Acquisition Center in Virginia, and the Technology Acquisition Centers in New Jersey and Texas, reflects a strong commitment by senior leadership toward improving the Federal acquisition system within the VA organization.

“"Melissa Starinsky is an outstanding fit for the Academy.  She brings a wealth of experience in acquisition, contracting, strategic workforce planning, organizational development, resource allocation, and talent and performance management.  Her passion for developing employees into highly-trained and skilled professionals makes her well-suited for this positionl.”  `Jan R. Frye, VA Deputy Assistant Secretary, Acquisition and Logistics

“The VA Acquisition Academy has an extremely dedicated and competent group of professionals who have strong backgrounds in acquisition operations and program management, and bring deep expertise in instructional systems design methodologies,” noted Starinsky.  “I am honored to have been selected as the Chancellor to lead this best practice operation and work with such incredibly talented people.“

In her new role as chancellor, Starinsky will provide executive direction to the VAAA and reinforce its commitment to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the VA acquisition workforce.  She will oversee five schools at VAAA:

  • Acquisition Internship School
  • Program Management School
  • Contracting Professional School
  • Facilities Management School
  • Supply Chain Management School

“We are particularly proud of our Warriors to Workforce (W2W) Program within the Academy’s Acquisition Internship School that is providing a career development pathway for our returning and wounded Veterans.  These men and women, as well as other Veterans who come through our doors, exemplify the best in courage, commitment, and perseverance,” commented Starinsky.

Starinsky believes that training is an important component of a larger strategy toward developing higher performing organizations.  “I intend to work with others across and within the VA enterprise to refine this strategy and to better understand how our Academy can be more responsive to their operational business needs,” she said.  “Our focus is not on ‘what classes do you need,’ but rather ‘what are your business needs,’ and then designing course content and a curriculum that responds to those business needs.”  In particular, Starinsky believes more attention and support needs to be given to mid-level acquisition personnel through development of an electives curriculum (to satisfy the required 80 hours of continuous learning point credit) that is relevant, meaningful, and helps these critical members of the workforce continue to grow in their careers and position themselves for future leadership opportunities.

She plans to continue pioneering acquisition workforce development for the VA.  Some of her priorities include:

  • Continuing and expanding the Warriors to Workforce Program to include visually impaired or blind warriors
  • Reviewing Academy curriculum and content to ensure it is relevant and current, reflects operational realities, and includes a meaningful electives curriculum based on stakeholder needs
  • Implementing a value measurement methodology to ensure Academy offerings reflect a positive business impact or return on investment
  • Reaching out to all stakeholders to better understand business needs to refine content and curriculum
  • Expanding partnerships with organizations such as the Federal Acquisition Institute, the Defense Acquisition University, and others to enhance performance by the Federal acquisition workforce.

Starinsky previously served as a member of the Senior Executive Service as the Deputy Director of the Office of Acquisition and Grants Management for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services where she was responsible for overseeing the execution of more than $8 billion annually in discretionary contract, grant, and interagency spend.  Prior to that, she served as the first Vice-Chancellor of the VAAA’s Acquisition Internship School, a program aimed at accelerating the learning curve of VA acquisition interns and strengthening the VA acquisition workforce.

“The acquisition field can be challenging and we’ve got some really great people out there that are doing some really great work.  We’ve also got room for improvement.  I have seen that through the lenses of contracting officer, program manager, private sector consultant, and other roles I have held throughout my career,” said Starinsky.  “I have an appreciation of the challenges each member of the acquisition team faces and hope I can contribute toward further developing the workforce by sharing the different perspectives I bring from these prior experiences.

“The VA has clearly recognized that acquisition is a mission critical asset by the investment it is making toward improving the performance of the acquisition workforce.  “I look forward to contributing to the Academy’s training programs as they play a critical role in VA’s succession planning and workforce development strategies to improve and recapitalize the acquisition workforce.”