Improving CBP’s Acquisition Workforce, Pt. 3: Forming the IPT

For those unfamiliar with the term, Integrated Product Teams, commonly called IPT’s, are cross-functional working groups that design a specific product, document, or process. The difference between an IPT and a regular working group is the authority vested in an IPT by its sponsors (usually senior leadership), and that its mission, vision, and goals are officially documented in a formal charter.

Now that our team was tasked with putting together a charter, we had to answer some fundamental questions: first, who would sponsor our IPT? If we were going to create policy and process that would affect the entire acquisition workforce, we would need more than OTIA’s senior leadership to sign our charter. Second, how big should the IPT be, and who would we consider “key members” of the group? Finally, what did we really hope to accomplish at the end of this IPT? What products could we produce to demonstrate success? What outcomes did we hope to achieve by changing the way CBP trains its acquisition workforce?

The first question actually turned out to be the easiest one to solve. Our boss, the XD for OTIA’s acquisition policy, and our Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC, or second in command of a CBP office) had already met with the HCA and had reached a preliminary agreement about forming an IPT. Our senior leadership was also able to convince the DAC at OIT (CBP’s IT office) to sponsor the IPT, which meant that representatives from the CAE, HCA, and CIO had all agreed to sign our charter.

The second question, determining the actual size of the IPT, turned out to be a bit more difficult. Our team figured that there were some acquisition personnel in each of the 16 offices within CBP. Because of the interactions between the three major acquisition offices, we had a decent idea of who we needed on the team from their offices. Because they represented the three major acquisition players, these employees would be the “key members” of the group. For the other 13 offices, we either invited employees who we had interacted with in the past, or contacted the office’s training officers and invited them to our kickoff meeting.

Finally, we had to determine the mission and vision, or what we actually wanted to accomplish, at the conclusion of our IPT. After some thought, we decided that there were three fundamental things that our IPT needed to accomplish:

  1. Centralize and coordinate policy, process, tools, and procedures
  2. Capture “snapshot” of CBP’s acquisition workforce
  3. Coordinate among our sister organizations to achieve CBP-wide buy in

With those broad goals in mind, our team set out to draft our charter and determine what specific, quantifiable goals we would need to achieve.

Next up: we determine the quantifiable goals needed to achieve success, hold our kickoff meeting, and a receive a few words of wisdom from the IPT’s sponsors.

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Rob Barnhill


I am very curious to know how your Acquisition adventure is going and whether or not you have formed your IPT, complete with Charter? If you do not mind me asking, what is the problem that the IPT is trying to solve? I am sure I missed it in the readings. Have you figured out how you plan to professionalize your newly appointed Acquisition Career Field? I understand that it has been several months since your last post and things may have changed, but wanted to see how it is going from your foxhole since you are CBP. Thanks!! Rob

Daniel Crystal

It’s actually gone pretty well. I probably should do a Part 4 on this, since our charter was signed back in April. We managed to get executive-level buy-in from all three major acquisition offices within CBP. We’ve also been successful getting the HR and Training folks on our side, since a lot of what we do is going to need their involvement.

We just finished drafting competencies for all PM-related disciplines. FAI actually did a really good job putting together new competencies; we just added CBP/DHS specific competencies to the model that FAI came up with. We’re also putting together a survey so we can figure out exactly how big our acquisition workforce is (defining the workforce is a huge is a task in itself), and that will probably be complete around the end of CY11.

Right now we’re looking at coming up with some CBP-specific policy and training in FY12, and putting together a pilot mentor program. It’s a lot of work, but I think the payoff will definitely be worth it.

Rob Barnhill


Thank you for the reply. I would agree about the increased effort to get it all started, it is a lot of work, but very worthwhile work. Streamlining the focus of your acquisition workforce and finding efficiencies will certainly save the CBP money and get better products for our agents out in the field.

If you do not mind the discussion, I am curious of a few things.

1) What is your Acquisition Certification process?

2) How do you train your workforce to become certified and stay relevant in your field?

3) Based on your successes, is your newly formed IPT looking at a consolidated CBP program or will your acquisitions focus mainly on your agency’s inner departments?

I have to say that I am deeply fascinated with the development and processes of your agency’s acquisition mission. Having been in US Army acquisition for a while now, I get more interested in how other agencies do it. I think there is a lot to be learned from each other.

I look forward to your reply and future comments.

Many thanks,