The Department of Homeland Security’s acquisition professionals are responsible for getting mission operators the products and services they need, when they need them, at fair prices while complying with complex laws and policies designed to make the acquisition and contracting process fair and transparent. Acquisition professionals are the business engines of mission enablement. They forge the business arrangements and contracts that connect the government’s mission needs with industry partners who deliver products and services to meet those needs. DHS acquisition careers are challenging, meaningful, and rewarding. Each year, DHS acquisition professionals oversee the responsible obligation of about $20 billion taxpayer dollars between government and industry. DHS strives to recruit, train, develop, and maintain a skilled workforce of about 13,000 certified acquisition professionals.
DHS is supported by products and services delivered by federal contractors. Buying and selling these products and services is called the acquisition process, which includes procurement and contracting. For example, when you go to the airport and a Transportation Security Officer places your suitcase into a scanner, the scanner was procured from the company that built it. A different company may have been contracted to install it, and yet another company may have been contracted to maintain it. Services are also delivered because the government created a contract that governs the terms, conditions, and prices under which a company will deliver the services for DHS. From the ships the U.S. Coast Guard sails to the products and services provided by FEMA following a disaster, industry is critical to mission delivery for each DHS Component, Directorate, and Office.
DHS’s acquisition functions are overseen by the Under Secretary for Management and Chief Acquisition Officer within the Management Directorate, with procurement activity overseen by the Chief Procurement Officer and Senior Procurement Executive. Each DHS Component is supported by a Component Acquisition Executive that oversees the lifecycle planning and costs of major acquisitions and a Head of Contracting Activity that employs contracting officers and specialists who are responsible for forging contracts that bridge mission needs with contractor delivery on contracts of all sizes.
Program officials throughout DHS are responsible for the entire lifecycle of acquisition activity. This includes identifying mission needs, selecting contractors, administering contracts, and overseeing contractor performance. At DHS, acquisition careers are diverse, but generally fall within the following categories:
- Contract Specialist - Contracting Series (1102)
- Program Manager - Management and Program Analysis Series (0343)
- Systems Engineer - General Engineering Series (0801)
- Industrial Engineer/Cost Estimator - Industrial Engineering Series (0896) or Operations Research Series (1515)
- IT Acquisition Specialist - Information Technology Management Series (2210)
- Logistician - Logistics Management Series (0346)
- Program Financial Manager - Financial Administration and Program Series (0501)
- Contracting Officer’s Representative - Various Series
- Ordering Official - Various Series
- Technology Management - Various Series
- Test & Evaluation - Various Series
Note that this listing is for informational purposes only and other sources may define these roles differently. Suggested education suitability is subjective and not an exclusive or exhaustive list of credentials or experience that may prepare one for success in any career field.
- Contract Specialists gather the mission needs and requirements of program customers, solicit proposals from contractors in industry, determine the best value between proposals, and negotiate contracts on behalf of the federal government. They also support administration of contracts after award. This career field is suited for business‑focused majors.
- Acquisition Program/Project Managers are ultimately responsible for the government’s mission needs being met by products or services delivered by contractors, and often with a mix of contractor and federal employee support. They define mission needs and requirements. They help determine the best value between technical aspects of proposals. They oversee the operations of government contractors after award. They ensure that work is being completed on‑time, on‑budget, and within the parameters of contracts. This field can be suited for business or engineering-focused majors or other diverse majors, especially those with majors in the mission space they support. For example, a program manager of aviation projects may have an aviation engineering background whereas a program manager of information technology projects may have an information technology business or engineering background.
- Systems Engineers work with program managers in the day-to-day management of contractor work, acting as technical advisors. They also assist contract specialists in writing highly technical requirements documents and analyzing complex contractor proposals. This career field is suited to engineering majors, especially those with systems engineering degrees or other engineering degrees with majors in the mission space they support.
- Industrial Engineers/Cost Estimators work with program managers to conduct system and subsystem lifecycle cost estimates and analysis simulations using mathematical modeling. They design costing methods, perform research and development of estimating relationships, assess how these affect overall project costs, and make recommendations for improvement. This career field is suited to industrial engineering majors.
- Information Technology Acquisition Specialists provide their technical expertise to program managers in the day-to-day management of contractor work on information technology projects or to contract specialists in the research and negotiation processes of information technology‑related contracts. This career field is suited to computer science and computer engineering majors, as well as other information technology management related concentrations.
- Logisticians work with both acquisition personnel and front‑line operational personnel to properly arrange and execute the lifecycle logistics of a project. They analyze project sustainment needs and costs, such as repair work, replacement part needs, user training, or system disposal costs. They make recommendations to meet systems logistics needs or improve existing arrangements. This career field is suited to business majors, particularly those with logistics or supply chain management concentrations.
- Program Financial Managers apply fiscal policies, procedures, and techniques to manage funds appropriated to specific acquisition programs. They ensure accurate financial data in various budget management and business operations systems. They conduct research and analysis related to the responsible financial management and control of acquisition programs. This career field is suited to business majors, particularly those with finance, accounting, or statistics concentrations.
- Contracting Officer Representatives (COR) are officials designated in writing by the Contracting Officer to perform specific technical or administrative functions. CORs are usually embedded within the program offices and as subject matter experts they are responsible for giving technical direction and oversight of contractors delivering products or performing services in accordance with contracts. CORs may be in any career series or hold other titles. This career designation is suited to various majors. The key is understanding the mission area under one’s purview.
- Ordering Officials are granted authority to process purchase requests for minor supplies against pre‑established ordering mechanisms in accordance with established ordering policies and procedures. They are not warranted Contract Officers. Any federal employee in any career series or title with the proper training and delegated authority may be appointed as an ordering official regardless of educational background. It is typically and ancillary duty of someone in an office.
- Technology Managers are typically scientists and engineers who manage basic research, applied research, or advanced technology development activities. They support acquisition program officials as science, technology, or engineering subject matter experts. They help bridge the technical know-how with the acquisition business function. Technology managers may be in any career series or hold other titles but are typically credentialed in science, technology, or engineering disciplines. The key is understanding the mission area under one’s purview.
- Test & Evaluation Professionals conduct scientific or engineering work to ensure items and systems produced by contractors meet the operational and technical demands of mission operators in accordance with the terms of contracts. Test & Evaluation Professionals may be in any career series or hold other titles but are typically credentialed in science or engineering disciplines and understand the products or systems being tested and evaluated, which may include physical or information technology related products or systems.
The Acquisition Professional Career Program (APCP) is DHS’s premier development program for acquisition talent. The program prepares the next generation of acquisition professionals to excel in mission enablement and lead DHS into the future. For hiring directly into the program, APCP targets recent university graduates via the Recent Graduate Pathways Program authorities and other individuals with diverse work experience via different authorities. APCP also has two ascension pathways – the Warriors‑to‑DHS Pathway (W2DHS) for military veterans transitioning from service and the Student Hire Internship Pathway (SHIP) for current university students.
The Student Hire Internship Pathway (SHIP) for Acquisition Professionals is conducted under the Internship Pathways Program authorities and offers currently enrolled university students a pathway into the Acquisition Professional Career Program (APCP) upon graduation. The internship pathway targets students who can intern during the year before they graduate.
DHS strives to maintain a diverse workforce and values the service of our military community, their spouses, and our veterans. We encourage you to learn more about DHS Veteran and Military Spouse Employment Opportunities.
Each federal agency employs business professionals who acquire/purchase mission critical products and services. These are considered acquisition careers. Like DHS, many of them have entry‑level career programs and post job announcements on USAJOBS. DHS Components, Directorates, or Offices may also offer their own acquisition career opportunities on USAJOBS. If an acquisition career is not for you, but a different career at DHS may be, we encourage you to learn more about Homeland Security careers and focus on opportunities for students and recent graduates or veterans and military spouses if applicable. Most DHS job opportunity announcements are posted on USAJOBS.