UArizona to Pilot New Department of Defense Training Program

The University of Arizona is one of four universities chosen to pilot the Defense Civilian Training Corps program to prepare students for civilian careers in the Department of Defense.  

By Logan Burtch-Buus, University Communications

The University of Arizona is one of four universities chosen to host the U.S. Department of Defense’s new Defense Civilian Training Corps program, designed to prepare college students for civilian careers with the Defense Department in acquisitions – acquiring, implementing and supporting new systems, supplies and services. 

The program will provide students with tuition and fees reimbursement, a $2,000 monthly living stipend, paid summer internship with the Department of Defense and employment with the department upon graduation.

UArizona was chosen alongside Purdue University, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to host pilot programs for the Defense Civilian Training Corps. Across the four universities, the two-year pilot program will consist of approximately 80 students set to graduate in spring 2025.

Larry Head, professor of systems and industrial engineering and principal investigator of the UArizona pilot program, said undergraduate students across all majors can apply, but those studying business, engineering, finance, public policy and computer science will find the most opportunity to apply their schoolwork to the program.

Head said the training corps curriculum will teach students about the structure of Department of Defense and military services, the different processes of acquisition used by the Department of Defense, techniques for project cost estimation and management, technology evaluation, and protected technologies vital to national security. Students will also learn leadership, innovation and entrepreneurial skills.

“The University of Arizona has a very diverse student population, and we want to make sure that they have access to all kinds of career opportunities,” Head said. “This program is a really unique opportunity for students to serve our country in our national security and defense, without being in the military.”

In the summer of 2024, students in the program will be placed in internships with Department of Defense labs and partners, and they will be given real-world scenarios to assess.

“Let’s imagine that we have a business student, a public policy student and an engineering student – they may go to an Air Force base, who would give them a project,” Head said. “The base would tell them, for example, they’re looking to acquire a new software system and ask the students to investigate the requirements of the system, who the providers are, what policies are in effect, what the cost estimate and timeline would be – and then plan out the project.”

Work will take place in a two-unit course over two years, which Head said amounts to roughly six hours of work a week. There will also be planned activities and social events over the course of the program. Students will also earn their own government security clearance, facilitated by the University of Arizona Applied Research Corporation.

A nonprofit affiliated with the university, the University of Arizona Applied Research Corporation was established to leverage the university’s strengths to facilitate mutually beneficial collaborations in the national security environment.

Austin Yamada, president and CEO of the corporation, said the Defense Civilian Training Corps will provide students with the right education and tools to become valuable members of the nation’s civilian defense workforce immediately following graduation. 

“I had a 25-year career as a civilian in the Defense Department, and I can attest that being a civilian in the DOD is an extremely rewarding experience,” Yamada said. “Making that opportunity available to students while they are still in school is remarkable and exactly the direction the country needs to take if we want to compete with our peer-adversaries and make our warfighters the best trained and best equipped out there. That all depends on a very dedicated and competent civilian workforce.”

The Department of Defense announced the launch of the Defense Civilian Training Corps this week. 

“DCTC (the Defense Civilian Training Corps) will complement other workforce initiatives, while finding and developing the acquisition talent pipeline that is mission-driven on day one to increase the DOD’s lethality, readiness and modernization as an enduring advantage over U.S. competitors,” Tanya Skeen, acting assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, said in a statement.

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