Civilian Education System provides for leader development, career path progression

Published Feb. 1, 2016
Chart showing which courses are available at each grade level.

Chart showing which courses are available at each grade level.

Chart showing comparison between military and civilian leader development.

Chart showing comparison between military and civilian leader development.

The Civilian Education System or CES is a progressive and sequential leader development program that provides enhanced educational opportunities for Army Civilians throughout their careers. CES is not the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) nor is it under the guidance of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certification process.

CES provides eight levels of Civilian development courses that are applicable to respective civilian grade levels.

CES essentially is the civilian equivalent of the Army Officer or Enlisted career path professional development defined for one’s civilian career. If you are a retired Army Officer or Noncommissioned Officer, you can submit Army Training records and receive credit up to the “Advance Course.”

After equivalent credit is given, one must register and complete the one week Civilian Education for Senior Leaders (CESL) resident course. Regardless of whether equivalent credit is received, you MUST take the distance learning Foundation Course if you entered the Civilian workforce after 2006.

Initially I was somewhat perturbed to think I was going to have to take the Foundation Course. I thought, are you kidding me? I was a steely eyed warrior, flew Army Aircraft, jumped from airplanes ... I had so many ribbons on my chest when I retired...I had one that read “To Be Continued.” Then I began taking the Foundation Course and had myself a big ole helping of “Humble Pie.” Quickly I realized, somewhat to my chagrin, that I was indeed somewhat ignorant.

The Foundation Course does for the civilian workforce, what basic training does for the new recruit: it strives to instill not only an understanding of the civilian “task, conditions and standards” but the Foundation Course also serves as a means to introduce the civilian workforce to the Army structure and provide a history of “The Army.”

Yes, any retired military member will quickly click through the Army structure courses, but I encourage you to take the time and review the information for this is the very information the new workforce is getting as their basis of knowledge. Soldiers have had the Army history and force structure pounded into us for 20+ years. The new engineer intern or employee has not.

The course I attended was the Civilian Education Senior Leaders Course, or CESL and it is the Leader Development Program within the Civilian Education System taught by the Army Management Staff College (AMSC).

I encourage leaders at every level to add the completion of the Foundation Course to the goals list for employees, interns, summer hires, etc. Like me, initially they will not like it, but in the end will walk away with an appreciation and better understanding. Worse case is you learn nothing, and you can email the Army Management Staff College and provide them feedback on how to improve the course.

Funding. Who is going to pay for me to attend a one-week resident course in a temporary duty (TDY) status? We’re broke. It is often said, if you want to know what one values, take a look at their check book. In this case, the Secretary of the Army has endorsed and voiced the commitment to training the civilian workforce with funding. The lead for this action is the Civilian Training and Leader Development Division of the G-3/5/7 that will centrally fund your TDY for the resident CESL course. Why was this done? Because leadership knows the financial constraints units face, but leadership also knows that we must maintain a trained civilian work force. Without funding the requirement, nothing will happen. Therefore, other than you being absent from the office, CESL is centrally funded and the costs your command nothing for you to participate in the training.

What did I learn? Our guest speakers included Senior Army Leadership that one would never get an official call with if they tried on their own accord. Our guest speakers included, but not limited to the following. Some takeaways follow as well from some speakers.

Vicki Brown, chief, Civilian Training and Leader Development, is a dynamic speaker who is responsible for not only the CESL course but for the Army Career Tracker (ACT) that is being implemented. And yes, ACT very much parallels the Acquisition Corps Record Brief (ACRB). ACT calls it the Civilian Record Brief (CRB) and has an Individual Development Planning (IDP) tool as well as highlighted what training is needed for one to be current and qualified in their respective career field. And yes, it is Brown’s intent that the Acquisition Corps ACRB, IDP and other data will automatically merge into ACT. In fact, the Acquisition Corps career management tools were analyzed and used as a base line to build ACT.

So you are now saying: why do we have ACT and a separate Acquisition Corps online career management tool? Why do we not have one system? Easy, the Acquisition Corps is mandated by Congress to develop and track their workforce career development per the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act or DAWIA Certification process. Will we get to one system? I certainly believe so. Right now the Big Army has the goal of every member of the civilian workforce to be integrated into Army Career Tracker (

We shall eat the elephant one bite at a time. And keep in mind, while we in the Acquisition Corps are familiar with a defined career path for our career fields, many of our civilian counterparts simply have not had any career path mapped out for them until now.

Where is the Army headed with the Army 2020 concept? The Director for Army Capabilities and Integration briefed the plan complete with challenges, concerns and courses of actions being considered.

Want a copy of the most current Headquarters, Department of the Army Organization chart? Contact the Administrative Assistance to the Secretary of the Army at 703-695-2442 or . But this office is far more than about keeping up with the Army’s organizational chart.

Where is the Army and the Civilian workforce headed? Want to know about Senior Leader Management? The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Manpower and Reserve Affairs provided the path ahead.

Every senior leader briefing did not constantly examine their watch as if to say I have more important places to go and bigger people to see. All were genuine and candid in their comments and welcomed the same from the students. For example, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Manpower and Reserve Affairs understands the challenge must be addressed that if we invest the time, energy and effort of sponsoring one to attend a Fellowship, or any developmental assignment, then we owe it to this individual to aid in their follow-on assignment and not merely leave it to them to float their resume to secure a follow-on position once they finish their education or developmental assignment.

In summary, CESL was well worth the investment. The lessons learned, contacts made and collaboration achieved would never have occurred had I not attended this course.

Again, I recommend leadership require any new team member, civilian, contractor support, intern or summer hire to complete the online CES courses. I think we will all be surprised in the return on this small investment, and it costs nothing to complete the distance learning courses and are solely individually paced.

Additional courses offered by the Army Management Staff College include: Action Officers Development Course (AODC), Supervisor Development Course (SDC) and Manager Development Course (MDC). The method of delivery is distributed learning (DL), resident instruction or blended learning, a mixture of both DL and resident instruction.

Interested? Get more information or register for any Army Management Staff College Course at:


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