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News | Feb. 12, 2020

My DoD FM STARs Program Experience

By Sterling Munro

I am a Supervisory Auditor with the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). I recently returned from a 5-year tour with DCAA European Branch located in Germany. While in Europe I traveled extensively for work and for pleasure, and it had a significant impact on how I view the world. Most significantly, I now approach my career as a grand adventure. Naturally, when the FM STARs Program application process was announced I jumped right in, and to my great pleasure was selected. I’m now on assignment with the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) as a Program Analyst in the Congressional Affairs Directorate. My assignment with MDA began October 21, 2019 and will run through April 4, 2020.

MDA has an annual budget of approximately $10 billion. Its mission is to defend our nation and our allies from ballistic missile attacks “of all ranges and in all phases of flight.” MDA coordinates congressional engagements on Capitol Hill to justify and defend its budget throughout the annual Congressional budget authorization and appropriation process. For me, this assignment provides experience and visibility on two experience gaps: Budget Appropriations and Legislative Liaison. So far in this assignment I’ve studied MDA’s various programs and associated costs and budgets in some depth. I’ve reviewed budget justifications as part of MDA’s “Red Team” process of critiquing MDA’s proposed FY21 budget submission. I’ve reviewed requests for information (RFIs) and the corresponding responses that come in from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC) and House and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense Subcommittees (HAC-D and SAC-D). I’ve couriered classified documents to committee offices on Capitol Hill. Nothing I’ve done with DCAA is remotely similar to these activities.

Without a doubt, the FM STARs Program is a big part of my continuing professional development, and it’s been very instructive. Even the application process is a great learning experience, because it requires you to be introspective on why you want to do this, what you hope to gain, why it’s good for you and good for the Department of Defense. You must also select three desired assignments out of dozens that are described in the program, and this leads you to identify the gaps in your experience that can be filled by an assignment. It’s also an exercise in writing good things about yourself, which is an important skill for career development.

Transitioning to my new role was fascinating. My MDA supervisor briefed me on the organization and its roles and goals. A team member helped me get badged and become familiar with security requirements. The IT (information Technology) group set me up with a computer and various accounts. Team members took me along to briefings and courier assignments. I’ve made trips to the Capitol, various House and Senate office buildings, and the Pentagon. I’ve studied 5-inch-thick budget submissions. Exciting stuff!

My advice to anyone considering the FM STARs Program: apply for it! It’s a grand adventure.

NOTE: This article originally appeared in the DoD FM Connection Winter 2020 Newsletter.