Trail Boss prepares to visit new territory
- By Kevin Powers
- Sep 01, 1997
"Trail Boss has had a tremendous impact on where we are and where we're headed as
we implement the IT Management Reform Act," said Emory Miller, director of IT
professional development for the General Services Administration's Office of
GSA established the Trail Boss program in 1988 to provide senior IRM officials with
graduate-level training in all aspects of IT acquisition and management. The initial
strategy was to develop a cadre of experienced IT executives who would assume sole
responsibility for acquiring, installing and managing the government's most complex IT
"The Trail Boss management model allows us to respond to the new issues,"
Miller said. "We broke the paradigms for how to manage IT when the program began, and
we have since expanded it."
Under the original Trail Boss management model, IRM officials accepted increased
accountability for greater operational freedom.
The trail bosses worked under special procurement charters that streamlined regulatory
burdens and opened up communications between industry and the government's technical and
"Early on, there was more focus on delivering major systems. Today, we have to
take more of a horizontal perspective," Miller said. "We have to deal more with
the customers and end users. We also have to know how to make the best use of the
smorgasbord of acquisition tools and online government initiatives."
Richard L. Wolfe, Trail Boss program manager, said GSA now is upgrading the curriculum
to reflect technology changes and the new ITMRA mandates for capital planning, performance
measurement and other reforms.
"We're starting to deal with ITMRA, the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act and
the Government Performance and Results Act," he said.
GSA is tailoring the courses to enhance a student's basic acquisition and systems
management skills as well as foster an enterprise management view, Wolfe said.
"When the CIO Council was formed, they said they needed core competencies for
their staffs," he said. "We've done a matrix of those competencies, and about 95
percent are addressed in Trail Boss."
GSA also wants to bolster the program's academic credentials by arranging training
agreements with colleges and universities. The University of Southern California and
Syracuse University have agreed to accept trail boss courses as transfer credits under
their graduate degree programs, and GSA officials are seeking similar agreements.
"We're talking with more universities about developing a professional doctorate
program," said H. William Cooley, GSA's program manager for IT collaborative
education. "We've been able to get graduate level credits for the program with USC
and Syracuse, and over time, I expect others will follow suit."
Miller also said other agencies are looking to incorporate the Trail Boss program into
their own professional development programs.
Agencies want to take advantage of the classroom training and the governmentwide
network of trail boss graduates who share information and help each other solve problems,
"When you attend the annual Trail Boss roundup, you know you're walking out with
an edge. You'll know more than most people because you have the program knowledge and the
network of support," Miller said.
"We expect trail bosses to share lessons learned. When I attended the roundups, I
quickly learned how important it is to network and develop contacts in other