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“A Special Recipe”: Strategic Systems Programs Launches a New On-Boarding Program

08 February 2024

From Shelby Thompson

WASHINGTON NAVY YARD - New employees at Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) Headquarters have a new onboarding and development program to support them in their first year at the command.
SSP Newcomer On-Boarding Workshop (NOW) successfully launched at the end of 2023 and is moving out of the pilot phase. SSP NOW is designed to set the new SSP civilians up for long term success at the command, and is the latest in a series of training and development programs focused on workforce development and retention.

“SSP’s rich history, program culture, and acquisition management process are a lot to take in, and it can take time for people to acclimate,” said Kelly Lee, SSP Plans and Programs Division Director. “SSP NOW is intended to provide that baseline knowledge to enable new employees to understand and contribute to our unique mission and culture.
According to the SSP NOW program objectives, the program provides participants with essential information on the history, culture, technical achievements, and current priorities of the command. New employees gain knowledge across the entire program while developing professional relationships within their assigned cohort. Early exposure to command subject matter outside of their areas of expertise is intended to prevent knowledge “stove piping” early on in their SSP career.

Training and workforce development are top priorities for the Navy, and SSP’s unique sea based strategic deterrence mission requires buy-in from all levels of the organization. Senior leaders within SSP solicited feedback from across the command, and saw the need for a comprehensive acclimation tool to bring new employees into the fold. The result is a program that makes the on-boarding more rewarding and increases the level of knowledge of new employees through hands-on experiences.
SSP NOW is broken into quarterly cycles, and new employees are grouped together into a year-long cohort. Each cohort participates in quarterly seminars that integrate videos on SSP’s history and culture, and include expert-led presentations and discussions.  After the first seminar, cohorts visit SSP’s field activities, are paired with mentors, and attend various command training and development events.

“Transitioning to a new work place can be challenging, especially when joining a command as unique as SSP,” said Delaney Burlingame, SSP NOW Program Manager.  “The yearlong cohort structure is also designed to help participants forge connections with other new hires who can provide support and insight as they grow their careers at SSP together.”
At a recent SSP NOW meeting, participants were asked to consider how they connected to SSP’s mission, and how their work directly impacted sea based strategic deterrence. Drawing a bold line from the everyday work experience to the overarching Navy mission is crucial to empowering personnel and giving them the knowledge to succeed.
“SSP's mission and culture are unique among Department of Defense organizations,” said Lee. “We rely on a special recipe that includes long standing partnerships with our prime contractors, technical discipline, and our relationship with our UK partners.”
So far, that intention is translating to success.

“It opened up my eyes to understanding the entirety of the command, what we do here at headquarters and at the field activities,” said Caroline Magdinec, a program analyst at SSP. Magdinec participated in the SSP NOW pilot program, and is already seeing improvements added to the program to make it more valuable to new employees.

“This second cohort involved the in-person participation of our field activities, so there was an opportunity to make connections with them,” Magdinec said. “The discussion questions within breakout groups is also an addition that cements the idea that we are all working as a team, and it gives you the opportunity to meet people in other divisions you may not have the opportunity to work with on a daily basis.”

Access to training and workforce development have been Navy priorities for many years. In her first major address as Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Lisa Franchetti focused on training and education as crucial elements to America’s “Warfighting Navy.”

“We will build strong warfighting teams, recruiting and retaining talented people from across the rich fabric of America,” she wrote in a 9 Jan. message. “We will provide world-class training and education to our sailors and civilians, honing their skills and giving them every opportunity to succeed.”

Strategic Systems Programs is the Navy command that provides cradle-to-grave lifecycle support for the sea-based leg of the nation’s nuclear triad. This includes training, systems, equipment, facilities and personnel responsible for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of the nation’s Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Trident II (D5LE) Strategic Weapon System.
SLBMs are one leg of the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent Triad that also includes the U.S. Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and nuclear-capable bombers.  Each part of the Triad provides unique capabilities and advantages.
SLBMs make up the majority – approximately 70 percent – of the U.S.’s deployed strategic nuclear deterrent Triad. The SLBM is the most survivable, provides persistent presence, and allows flexible concept of operations.


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