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News | July 13, 2021

Onboarding Then and Now

By DCAA Staff Writer

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles highlighting DCAA's history.

Those who join DCAA today onboard at the Defense Contract Audit Institute (DCAI) in Atlanta, Ga. New employees spend their first two weeks at DCAI where they are issued ID cards, receive laptops, and take their first classes in contract auditing. They then return to their audit offices and have a formal on-the-job-training plan. But it hasn’t always been this way.Memphis Supply Depot building housing DCAI

From the beginning, Agency leaders knew training was essential for effective audits and created DCAI in 1966 at the Defense Depot Memphis. However, the onboarding process as we know it today did not exist. New auditors reported to their audit office, were instructed to read the Contract Audit Manual, all 700+ pages, and learned auditing from other auditors. Sometime within their first six months, they would attend technical indoctrination (TI) at DCAI. TI was two weeks long and covered different types of audits, regulations, cost accounting standards, all things still taught to this day in onboarding.

Those who attended TI in Memphis remember the facility as “nothing to write home about” and “hot.” Memphis in the summer can reach 100 degrees and some of the classrooms had window air conditioning units and some didn’t. The TI  experience is remembered more favorably as a time “to meet auditors from all over the US, tour the city on the weekend, and develop a taste for BBQ.” After TI, auditors would return to their office and learn from others and through experience.

In April of 1983, DCAI moved to a new location on the south campus of Memphis State University (now University of Memphis). This was a vast improvement over the Defense Depot with air conditioning in the entire facility, office space for the instructors, and ample classrooms. Over time, the TI curriculum changed to keep up with the introduction of automation but auditors continued to report to their office first.

It wasn’t until DCAI moved to Atlanta, Ga. in the summer of 2015 that onboarding changed to what it is today. DCAI building in AtlantaAs the location, design, and requirements for the new facility were being development, the needs of onboarding were a key consideration. DCAI’s current location is near public transportation, is a major airline hub city, and has numerous hotels and restaurants nearby. DCAI’s facility in Atlanta has a DoD ID card station and multiple classrooms configured so students can use their laptop as they learn. It was also around this timeframe that DCAI instructors and DCAA’s Talent and Learning Advisory Council developed a formal on-the-job training manual, which formalized the timeline for new hires to learn specific auditing tasks.

While onboarding has changed both locations and methods, some things remained the same. A weekend is still a great time to get out and DCAI’s host city. BBQ, Blues, and Elvis have been replaced by Coca Cola World, professional sports, and The Varsity (I’ll walk a dog with strings).