Acquisition Instructor Course Seeks Applicants for 2024 - Acquisition & Operation Collaboration is Critical Aspect of Curriculum

  • Published
  • By Lisa Sodders, SSC Public Affairs
Being a U.S. Space Force acquisition professional is more than just wielding a checkbook and buying space and weapons systems.

For those professionals at Space Systems Command (SSC) who are looking to dramatically improve their skills and bring back knowledge to make their entire team better, the U.S. Department of the Air Force is currently accepting military and civilian applicants for its highly selective Acquisition Instructor Course (AQIC).

The deadline to apply is Jan. 26 for the next session, Course 24B, which will run from July 8 to Dec. 13, 2024 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Primary and alternate selects will be announced no later than Feb. 29, 2024.

Why is this course so valuable? Traditionally, acquisition professionals haven’t had access to the same levels of training as some other fields – often a matter of weeks as opposed to months, said Maj. Derek Bull of SSC’s Warfighting Integration Office, who noted he had more than six months of training to become an intelligence officer early in his career. “Acquisition is so broad, and your ability to learn acquisition well is so dependent on your day-to-day interactions at your program office,” said Maj. Bull.

AQIC is the DAF’s premier training ground for acquirers, dedicated to producing highly capable leaders and enabling constant collaboration with the operational community. Students gain the skillsets to navigate and exploit acquisition policy in support of warfighter requirements through an intensive series of cross-functional academics, experientials, practical application exercises, and challenging graded events.

The 5 ½-month course is equivalent to the USAF Weapons School and a master’s degree in acquisitions, Bull said. The program is only run twice per year and produces roughly 20 graduates per year.

Acquisition professionals need to have strong project management and effective communication skills, be able to think in terms of life cycle costs, and plan for sustainment and maintenance in budgets. They also need to understand the commercial space industry and be able to work with congress.

The course is rigorous, Bull said, and applicants should expect a lot of late nights. There are more than 20 graded events – exams, briefings, exercises, and a graduate-level research paper based on real-world issues that acquisition leaders are concerned about. Those selected for the course also will work on acquisition case studies and will deliver briefings to senior leaders who will grade those briefings and provide feedback for improvement.

The course is designed to help bridge the gap between acquisition and operators, Bull said. Through the schoolhouse’s strategic partnership with the United States Air Force Weapons School (USAFWS), students will frequently integrate with their operational counterparts for Core academics and Weapons School Integration (WSINT) at Nellis AFB.

“I think the operational community understands their challenge. They can’t make their F-16 better – but what can help them is an acquisition community that works better on their behalf,” Bull said, noting that students from the operations community were very welcoming of the acquisition students.

Selectees will be in TDY (temporary duty) status for the duration of the course and can expect significant travel from WPAFB to various locations, with at least 10 to 11 weeks of travel/integration opportunities and regular intelligence briefs to encourage threat-informed acquisitions.

“I’ve done cyber ops, cyber acquisition, and intelligence at the National Security Agency, but I didn’t do any aircraft or space stuff,” said Bull, who was part of the 21B course. “All of a sudden, I got to see them build F-35s, repair F-16s, go to Los Angeles Air Force Base and hear about how they’re doing space acquisition, go to the SpaceX facility and watch them lift Raptor engines over my head as they’re building them in real time. I got all this exposure to things I never, ever would have seen in 100 years of doing acquisition on a day-to-day basis.”

Graduates become part of a lasting community of professionals, with a network spanning all levels of the DAF. The AQIC schoolhouse and its patch network also serve as a conduit between the acquisition and operations communities, paving the way for warfighter relevance in tomorrow’s increasingly complex battlespace.
Capt. Dakota J. Sawyer, executive officer for SSC’s deputy commander, Col. Michelle Idle, recently completed Class 22B, which ran from July 5 to Dec. 9, 2023.

“I'd recommend the course because it's the singular best acquisition course I've received since coming on active duty,” Sawyer said. “While it is very challenging, the acquisition training you receive as well as the experiences at the weapons school and the traveling you do during the course is second-to-none.”
Sawyer said the course also was invaluable for helping to build connections within the operator community.

“There’s basic acquisitions – buying the kit that we need to operate, where we need to, when we need to do it – but past that, there needs to be an understanding between the operators and the acquisition community so that we buy the right things at the right times to do the right missions,” Sawyer said.

“One of the primary strengths of AQIC is its network,” Sawyer said.  “Upon graduation you are now a member of a large community of graduates - all of whom bounce ideas off each other and provide feedback to make each other better.  Additionally, I’ve got a network of Space Force weapons officers that I can reach out to if I have questions and who can reach out to me as a point of contact on the acquisitions side.”

Following graduation, members will be expected to contribute to the Acquisition community and AQIC schoolhouse by filling specified positions at developmentally appropriate levels throughout the DAF. Graduates earn a Special Experience Identifier and incur a 3-year service commitment.
Baseline Requirements (criteria may be waived within reason):
  • Military: 61X (scientist,) 62E (engineer,) and 63A (program manager), O-3/O-4, (captain to major), with between 7 to 11 years TAFCS (Total Active Federal Commissioned Service) at Course Start Date
  • 64P (contracting officer) and 65F/W (finance/cost analysis officer,) O-3, with between 4 to 8 years TAFCS at Course Start Date
  • Equivalent government civilian career fields 13XX. 08XX, 1101, 1102, 0501, 1515, GS-12/13/NH-03/DR-2 (non-supervisory), with between 5 to 11 years of acquisition-coded experience at Course Start Date
  • Nominees must possess a Final Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) clearance at Course Start Date and must remain valid through Course End Date
  • Nominees will be required to obtain an Operational Support Flyer physical (DD Form 2992); Civilian equivalent FAA Form 8500-9 & Letter of Justification written on agency letterhead and signed by a Commander.
AQIC’s six key graduate attributes (Humble, Approachable, Credible, Creative, Collaborative, Influential) are the cornerstone of its curriculum and graduate pool integrity. Highly desirable applicants have not only a solid record, but also already exhibit these key attributes regularly. Leaders are strongly encouraged to take this into consideration when nominating applicants.

To apply, visit