As the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) works to develop legislation to enhance the acquisition process within the Department of Defense, several trends are emerging that reflect broader realities:

"While the Department has made substantial strides in increasing the size of its acquisition workforce," Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry wrote in a memo to HASC members, "concerns remain across several key career fields. Challenges persist in recruiting, developing and retaining experienced program managers for major defense acquisition programs."

At Project Management Institute (PMI), we refer to this as a talent gap — and it's a subject we've explored extensively. This month, PMI released the findings of an analysis it commissioned from the Anderson Economic Group (AEG). Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017-2027 helps explain why the Department of Defense is in good company in its efforts to identify and hire qualified project management talent. The report is the third assessment conducted by AEG on behalf of PMI on project management employment and industry activity.

The most recent findings reveal that the demand for project and program management professionals is high not only in the United States but in all of the 11 countries it analyzed: the United States as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

The project management profession is expected to grow by 33 percent across the same 11 countries through 2027. The report anticipates nearly 22 million new jobs will be created during the next decade – and that by 2027, employers will need nearly 88 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles.

Within the United States alone, an average of 214,000 new project management jobs will be open each year in project-oriented industries — resulting in 2.1 million new job openings between 2017 and 2027. The analysis indicates employment in project management-oriented occupations from 2017-2027 will increase by 8.5 percent, compared to 6.5 percent for all occupations.

The good news is that millions of positions that pay highly competitive wages will be created for qualified candidates. The downside, of course, is illustrated by the Department of Defense's challenge to find qualified talent to fill the plethora of positions coming open. The analysis found the potential talent shortage puts at risk a total of nearly $208 billion in gross domestic product from 2017-2027 for the 11 countries assessed — and $22.5 billion in the United States alone.

Not surprisingly, inadequate training is a significant factor at play. "Program manager training focuses more on the acquisition process than on technical expertise, business acumen or knowledge of industry operations," Chairman Thornberry wrote. "Program manager progression is impaired by a lack of clear career paths and incentives. Military program managers continue to fall short of tenure requirements due to the military promotion processes."

The broader skills referenced by the Committee report are known within PMI as the Talent Triangle. To be successful in today's marketplace, senior leaders and their organizations need project, program, and portfolio managers who excel not only at technical skills but also leadership and business/strategy acumen.

Some three-quarters of organizations rank project management leadership skills as most important for the successful navigation of complexity in projects, according to our research. Most organizations report that technical skills are the most difficult to find but the easiest to teach. As a result, global organizations are choosing to hire individuals who possess more nuanced skills in such leadership areas as stakeholder communication, negotiation, and collaboration/analysis — and then provide training to develop their technical skills.

Nevertheless, the identification of qualified talent remains a significant challenge for the Department of Defense, civilian agencies and companies alike. On the civilian agency side, passage and early implementation of the Project Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA), signed into law late last year by President Barack Obama, begins to tackle the issue. On the Department of Defense side, as outlined in the HASC report, more needs to be done to tackle the unique challenges and associated complexity in the defense environment — and developing a formal job series and career path for program managers can be a good start. As the number of project-oriented jobs continues to grow in the next decade, this will become increasingly important.

As president and CEO of the Project Management Institute (PMI), Mark A. Langley leads a loyal and dedicated group of more than 700,000 stakeholders who live and work in nearly every country on Earth. The chief spokesperson for PMI's thought leadership and advocacy platform, Mark spends countless hours demonstrating the value of project, program and portfolio management to organization executives, government leaders, and the media.

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